Sunday, July 19, 2009

Hive mind vision care

Here's another datapoint on search engines, even less rigorously obtained.

As I write this, the image on the screen is nice and sharp, but my eyes are telling me that the left side of my monitor is maybe 10% taller than the right side. They're also telling me that horizontal surfaces slope significantly downward to the left (the opposite of what perspective would suggest for such a trapezoid -- odd).

In other words, I'm astigmatic and I just got a new eyeglass prescription.

It's been a while since I last had my prescription updated. I don't recall the effect being so dramatic last time and the optometrist had said my prescription hadn't changed much. So I googled for astygmatism[sic -- I was sure there was a 'y' in it somewhere] new presecription [that's just a typo -- I was looking at my fingers because the screen was all wonky] tilt.

Despite that dodgy spelling, I found a helpful page from Ask MetaFilter. Granted, it said what I was thinking anyway (some degree of tiltiness for a few days is normal, but don't be shy about consulting the optometrist). Still it was still nice to get some kind of confirmation.

Ask MetaFilter is a "hive mind" site that lets you ask questions of the crowd and which gathers the answers together. I speculated previously that there are probably some sorts of question a hive mind query service would do well on. This seems like one of them. It's a common problem, and the experiences of others in the same situation are useful. Of course, this is one cherry-picked data point. See also confirmation bias.

Did MetaFilter outperform Google? Well, I found the MetaFilter page through Google. It was the second hit. The first was from some random eye doctor in DC, with roughly the same advice.

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