You’ll think this is weird, but for three years now I’ve taken what might be described as a “data-driven” approach to my social life. Specifically, I’ve been maintaining a gigantic spreadsheet of friends and business contacts, updated with columns such as “Hotness Index,” “Income,” and “Strategic Value.” And I spend about four hours a week keeping it up to date.
Why? Well, it’s not because I’m east London’s answer to Patrick Bateman. At least, that’s not the only reason. No, the spreadsheet is simply the best tool I’ve developed so far for managing an ever-increasing contact list of interesting people I am anxious to introduce to one another, or with whom I want to spend more time.
Of course, not everyone makes the cut. As I write this, there are only 746 people in the database out of a possible 4,500 entries in my address book. Included and assessed on a variety of metrics are A-list celebrities, board members of multinational corporations, investors in my previous ventures, and people I went to school with. And, yeah, a few randoms from 2009 I sort of maybe might consider calling at 2am.
Present and past relationships appear in the database, as do family members and work colleagues; these days, most of us have heavily overlapping constituencies of work and play.
I won’t pretend I don’t get a frisson of childish amusement from “shorting” the “stock” of people who show up late for an appointment (I’m hoping to commission a mobile app so I can do that on the fly) or even demoting those who have annoyed me in some way.
But the primary objective of maintaining this information is to enable me to quickly and easily filter and rank contacts before I send out invitations for parties and suppers.
The image above gives you an indication of what the spreadsheet looks like. I rank pretty much everyone I meet that I might want to see again in a number of different ways: subjective cultural assessments, estimates of income and intelligence, how much they like to party, how much trouble they like to get into, and obviously, how physically attractive they are.
The scores are normalised across the whole group. This enables me quickly and easily to drill down and generate lists from which I can craft the perfect party. I can even engineer how the photos will look, since I have a column that covers personal style. Politics is covered by a simple “Pass” or “Fail.”
I’ve made some interesting discoveries about my social life. For example, people ranked closer to me (with a “Tier” of A or B) are more physically attractive, and have politics that align with mine. But there’s no correlation between a person’s income and how highly I value our relationship, unless there’s been romantic interest.
My close friends (Tier A) tend to have high IQs, but their partying, troublemaking, and strategic values don’t follow any patterns. All of which implies that I am attracted to pretty, smart people with sound politics, but I don’t particularly care whether or not they are wealthy or like to party.
Look, I know all this is a bit odd. And it must sound terribly calculating. I suppose there’s a reason I’m writing a book called The Sociopaths of Silicon Valley. Perhaps it’s what jacket blurbs refer to as “unique insight.” But the truth is, this is simply the best tool I have developed to help me navigate a complex environment.
Since I hinted at what I was up to on Facebook recently, I’ve been inundated with requests for my spreadsheet template. So it’s not just me who wants to get a bit more strategic about managing their address book.
You may laugh, but I reckon this is how we’ll all be managing our relationships in the future. Like it or not, after a decade of social media and “big data,” the logical next step is for our relationships to be ranked, commoditised… and mined for trends and unseen opportunities. It’s not so much “quantified self” as quantified everyone.
By the way, did I mention that friends I made prior to 2008 were 77 percent more likely to be politically sound but 92 percent more likely to rank medium or below on income?
Days into the relaunch of FiveThirtyEight.com, celebrated data hack Nate Silver made space in his pages for Roger Pielke Jr., a professor whose very name sends the climate change establishment into a frenzy. And boy did Pielke put the cat among the pigeons, explaining why global warming is not to blame for the spiralling financial toll of natural disasters.
The furore has lost Silver a number of well-placed friends, which begs the question: Why did he take such a massive risk at such a delicate time, unless he was trying to send a message?
I’ve got a theory: Silver’s a closet climate sceptic. Granted, the evidence is spotty so far. But even Michael Mann, inventor of the notorious “hockey stick” graph, was muttering darkly last week about his “worst fears” being confirmed.
Silver famously hates op-ed writers because he thinks that facts speak for themselves. Have the facts spoken to him on climate change?
I’m really disappointed by the resignation of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich. Eich was the victim of witch-hunts and boycotts since it emerged he supported Proposition 8 with a $1,000 donation in 2008. He hasn’t recanted his position on gay marriage nor, say the outraged, adequately apologised. But why should he? Plenty of respectable people don’t believe gay marriage should be endorsed by the state.
Sources close to the company tell me it was Eich’s idea to step down, and that he wasn’t being pressured to do so internally. I wish his colleagues had persuaded him to stay: Eich was ruthlessly pummelled by the left-wing media. Considering how marginalised the gay community has been in the past, I’m ashamed of how hypocritical and bullying it so often now is.
There’s only one thing worse than the insensitivity of people who abruptly disappear after hooking up for sex or a few dates via a dating app—a habit known as “ghosting”—and that’s the abject whining of the ghostee. I hate to be unkind, but if you find yourself taking to the internet to pen a 500-word blog post about a man you met on an iPhone app not returning your DMs, do you really need to ask why you’re still single?
If there’s one group of people I desperately want to be disintermediated by technology, it’s estate and letting agents. I’ve just put my flat on the market and my stomach is turned on a daily basis by the procession of slimy, boastful gits in cheap suits telling me what they think I want to hear.
As it happens, I was interviewed on just this subject on Tuesday, on a new British TV channel called London Live. Afterwards, George Spencer, chief executive of a startup called Rentify, got in touch. His company has 100,000 landlords on file and is adding 10,000 new ones a month.
One to watch, and I wish them all the best. If more businesses like Rentify take off, perhaps we’ll all be spared any more gruesome estate agent spectacles, such as a flat viewing I attended recently, during which an obviously unfinished bathroom was described, by a panicking young agent, as a bold example of “prison chic.”
Worshipped by politicians and Silicon Valley executives—at least on the quiet—Niccolò Machiavelli’s name is synonymous with deceit, manipulation, and cruelty.
But we’ve got that all wrong. At least, that’s what Nick Clark, arts correspondent of the Independent, reckons. Clark gave a talk on Sunday at London’s Hospital Club in which he attempted to rehabilitate the Italian politician’s reputation for, well, being Machiavelli.
The most humanising revelation was how much of a playboy old Niccolò was. Clark supplies the following quote, which pertains to a night the frisky old scoundrel spent having sex with a prostitute whose face he had neglected to investigate beforehand.
“Having done the deed, and wanting to check out the merchandise, I took a burning ember from the hearth in the room … I nearly dropped dead right then and there, the women was so hideous. I stake my berth in heaven that as long as I am in Lombardy I’ll be damned if I think I shall get horny again.”
Milo Yiannopoulos is the founder and former Editor-in-Chief of The Kernel. His first book, The Sociopaths of Silicon Valley, will be published in 2015