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Preferences Explorer


This essay does not describe an existing computer program, just one that should exist. This essay is about a suggested student project in Java programming. This essay gives a rough overview of how it might work. I have no source, object, specifications, file layouts or anything else useful to implementing this project. Everything I have prepared to help you is right here.

This project outline is not like the artificial, tidy little problems you are spoon-fed in school, when all the facts you need are included, nothing extraneous is mentioned, the answer is fully specified, along with hints to nudge you toward a single expected canonical solution. This project is much more like the real world of messy problems where it is up to you to fully the define the end point, or a series of ever more difficult versions of this project and research the information yourself to solve them.

Everything I have to say to help you with this project is written below. I am not prepared to help you implement it; or give you any additional materials. I have too many other projects of my own.

Though I am a programmer by profession, I don’t do people’s homework for them. That just robs them of an education.

You have my full permission to implement this project in any way you please and to keep all the profits from your endeavour.

Please do not email me about this project without reading the disclaimer above.


I have always been curious about human preferences. For example, what does it mean when you say someone is your type? What is it you are measuring? What are the acceptable boundaries? How elastic are they? How could you score them? Why do you have this type? Is it part of your genes or did you learn it?

Why do you like some proposed baby names and detest others, even when you know of no person with that name? What accounts for taste in art and music? To what extent does having preferences in common with another person imply you will match up on others?

The purpose of this project is to develop some tools to help you explore these sorts of questions. The tools you create will help you collect and validate data and analyse that data in various ways. Ideally, your tools could also be used by someone without computer experience.

The results of such exploration may be of high financial value to corporations trying to sell something.

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