I hate lines. Not the geometric figure, but line-ups where all you do is wait. Anyone who has hung out with me sufficiently long will know how much I can't "stand" queues (haha, excuse lame pun attempt). Queues are the bane of our society's existence.
Anyways, I think of really weird stuff when I'm forced to wait in lines. On Friday, I was forced to wait in line to return my rental modem to Comcast Internet. And I started wondering how I instinctively classify girls when I meet them for the first time and am interested in continuing a conversation with them. And after much introspection, here's what I discovered about how I do it.
There are the girls that I meet for the first time and I'm interested in carrying on a conversation with them online on IM. And I ask them if they're on MSN.
Then there are the girls that I meet for the first time and I'm interested in carrying on a conversation with them online on IM. But with this bunch, I ask them if they're on GTalk.
Prejudiced as it may be, I'm mostly interested in the 2nd bunch. Not just because they use GTalk, but girls who use and prefer GTalk over MSN on their own accord and not just because someone close to them is also using it, or someone forced them into using it, tend to have some very interesting characteristics that I consider really cool. These girls think about the technologies they use, and don't just go with whatever their friends are using.
I hadn't even fully recovered from my first realization when I also realized this is a more general kind of classification I tend to do pretty frequently with the blink of an eye. Given a population P, come up with a qualifier X that partitions the population into two buckets: one bucket containing people that meet the qualifier and the other bucket containing the rest of the population. Most importantly, the cardinality (i.e. the size of the set) of P1 must be much smaller than P2, close to the ratio of 1:10 or smaller.
In my example above, P is the set of all girls I meet everyday at school, at work, at airports, in the plane, on the bus, while walking on the streets, random facebook private messaging, etc. The qualifier X is if the girl prefers GTalk over MSN. Clearly in this case the subset of girls for who the qualifier X holds true is much smaller than the complementary subset of girls for who the qualifier X does not hold true.
This is actually a pretty general problem. It's a problem we encounter so frequently that we all have very fast heuristics to sub-consciously come up with the qualifier to quickly compartmentalize our sets. We always only want to deal with the cream of the crop, and filter out all cruft. So our brains are always looking for ways to rapidly split the population into 2 subsets, one much smaller than the other. Farmers call this process winnowing.
Then there are the girls that I meet and want to ask them if they use Yahoo IM, or much worse, AOL IM (AIM). Thankfully, I've never had to deal with this bunch yet. I hope I never will.