After trying it out, I have a good feeling about Hunch

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I am an extremely indecisive person. This sometimes frustrates other people, but it frustrates me even more because I absolutely hate wasting time. And being indecisive means I sit there thinking about decisions for far too long. Hunch, a new startup that helps you make decisions, offers a potential solution.

While the idea of a startup that helps you make decisions may sound either boring or completely too complicated to actually work, I’ve been playing with the early build, and I’m happy to say that it’s compelling.

For example, I kind of want to buy a new video game, but have no idea which one of thousands of possibilities to get. Luckily, there’s a “Which video game is right for me?” question on Hunch. Clicking on it, takes you step by step through a series of smaller questions, such as what system you want to buy the game for and which genre you want. After a few of these, it spits out a few ranked results as to what it thinks you will like. And the results are solid, because they are crowd-sourced, based both on people like you (which is based on other questions you answered) and on the Hunch community as a whole.

But a consumer purchase recommendation is relatively simple. Hunch also has more complicated questions such as “Do I have a normal family?” The first sub-question for that asks, “When your whole family sits down to dinner, what is it like?” And you’re given options such as “It’s like the Jerry Springer Show” or “It is dead silent,” among other options. Another sub-question asks, “Does you family ever break out into song?” Luckily, mine doesn’t — my family was judged to be about 79 percent normal. Seems about right.

It may sound silly, but I’ve followed my way through dozens of these questions already, and I’ve been happy with the results. And if you’re not happy with the results, there’s a button at the end to let Hunch know that. But you also can take matters into your own hands and edit things Wikipedia-style.

You can also create new topics (the large questions), and have other Hunch users help you build it out. And you can bookmark things that you can to save for later and earn badges for certain actions. Hunch keeps track of everything you do on the site, and puts in on your profile page. In a way, that turns it into a game of sorts — which is always a good model for a service to spur usage.

The service also features seemingly random questions on its main page to teach Hunch more about you. This helps it recommend not only answers, but also questions that you might be interested in. These brief questions work well for the same reason that the site as a whole does: It keeps things simple. For example, a question it asks you may simply involve selecting a picture of an actress that you are most attracted to.

Hunch is the new project from Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake. And it seems like that experience has helped her position Hunch well. As she writes on her blog, “One of the reasons I love working on this is because I anticipate users will surprise us by doing things with the software that we don’t expect. When we started Flickr it was hard to classify — was it a social network? a platform? a hosting service? blog software? It turned out to be a lot of things we’re still trying to get our heads around.”

The same can be said for a lot of popular web services — Twitter comes to mind –and Fake is wise to embrace that. Maybe Hunch will become the ultimate tool for making product purchasing decisions. Or maybe it will be the way users figure out if they should see a doctor about a problem. Or maybe both.

But what surprises me the most about Hunch is just how solid it feels for a product that is in the “super early stage,” by Fake’s own estimation. Sure, it needs more topics, but it has been running for only a short period of time in a very limited beta. With user-generated content being such a key for the service, I really didn’t expect it to function as well as it is.

Fake says that Hunch will launch a public beta in the coming months, but right now it is slowly sending out invitations to people who request them.


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