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What Kind of Friend are YOU? The 13 Types on Facebook

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When it comes to parties, I tend to arrive late. With Facebook, one of the centuries biggest parties, I made no exception. To be completely honest, I created an account many moons ago, but only to play Scrabble with a friend back East. He was my one and only friend. But when it came time a couple months ago to create the How Did You Know? fan page (have you joined yet?), I started spending quality time on Facebook, and eventually changed my fake Scrabble name to my real name, added a photo to my profile, and fleshed out some of the info.

So I'm a month into the party now, and I'm starting to see clear trends. Some friends fall into category A, while others B. What about you all? What kind of friend are you? Here's the category breakdown (and drop a comment if you think I've missed any):

A) The Overzealous Updater

This is the friend who can't go half a day without sharing What's On His Mind. Honestly people. We really don't need to know that you've just had your second shower of the day. For that matter, we didn't need to hear about the first one either.

B) The Link-bot

This is the friend who does nothing but share links all day. Links to articles he's read that he thinks the whole world should be reading, links to movie reviews, links to new games coming on the market, links to his Twitter page where he's gone and posted 10 more links. There needs to be a limit. Some links are good, especially when they send people to this blog. But let's impose a 2-link-max rule per day, what do you say?

C) The Groupie

This is the friend who has joined more groups than Marcia Brady did that one year in high school when she was overcommitted and frazzled. Asian Americans in Israel who Support Diplomacy with Iran? Really?

D) I Am My Kids

This is the friend who only uses Facebook to post photos of the little ones, or updates that read: "Tommy didn't feel well today, so he stayed home from school." Might as well not even have your own profile, just create one for the kid(s), no?

E) Spies (who used to) Like Us

This is the Ex who only friends you so s/he can spy on you and make sure you have fewer friends that s/he does, and that your new significant other is less attractive than s/he was.

F) The Wanna-Be

This is the person who friends someone with the great hope of becoming friends with that person in real life, be it a minor celeb, or just someone the Wanna-Be really admires from a slight distance.

G) The Two-facer

This is the friend who accepts your friend request just to be polite, but then Hides your updates immediately. Unfortunately, you have no idea who the two-facers are.

H) The Networker

This is the friend whose main purpose on Facebook is to build a list he can tap when he needs to for work/career. You know these friends because they only message you with e-mails that read "So you still over at Viacom?"

I) The OverPoker

No need to explain this one, right?

J) The Get-A-Lifer

This is the hardcore friend who has nothing better to do but subscribe and follow you via SMS.

K) The Attention Seeker*

This is the friend who posts status updates that are purposely vague, and therefore beg for a comment. Their status is all about getting you to respond, getting attention, getting sympathy. "Lori is scared, but hopes everything works out..." [*sent to me by my friend Dawn, who is definitely an M... see below]

L) The Over Suggester

Just stop. Okay? Let me figure out who I want to be friends with, okay? Honestly.

M) The Good Friend

This is the friend who mercifully doesn't fit in any of the above categories and is, hopefully, just one of many normal, average facebookers you've friended. Let's hear it for the Good Friend!

{Honorable mention: The Foodie -- this is the friend who's always posting updates with photos of plates of food}

{Favorite quote overheard when a friend of a Friend got a new Friend on FB -- "Ah man, I'm now friends with my dad... Jesus."}

If you aren't a Fan of the mentalfloss Facebook page yet, be sure to go do that now.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Name the Author Based on the Character
May 23, 2017
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