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Social Optimisation.

09 April 201006:08AMessayscience

You know how when you spend a whole day doing that maths homework sheet your teacher set you for the holidays, and then your brain won't stop thinking in maths? Yeah, I hate that.

Given the large numbers of events that tend to pile up in the holidays (these ones seem to be an exception), and inspired by this xkcd, I've decided that there needs to be some kind of formula to decide the relative merits of various group events. Yes, it's nerdy, shut up and sit down.

Let's start off by looking at what people want in an event:

First off, there's the biggun: Other people. After all, there's no point going to a social thingy with no people now, is there? According to the well known saying, "The more the merrier.", the greater the number of people, the greater the enjoyment. This appears to be a straightforward linear relationship, so lets put that down:

M = P

where; M is the relative merit of an event, and P is the number of attendees ("People")

Okay, good start. What else do people look forward to in an event? I would say duration is a large factor - hanging around for 10 minutes isn't nearly as fun as, say, a 48-hour movie marathon (although your tastes may vary- let's just accept for now that longer = better :P ). But is this additive, or multiplicative? Well, spending a very long time with one person is a little odd, whereas spending a long time with a lot of people is much better. Similarly, spending even a short amount of time (say, the pitiful 25 minutes of recess at school) with a bunch of your friends is definitely worthwhile. I think we can say that this is multiplicative, which gives us:

M = Pt

where t = time (I'll deal with units in a bit- it plays a part in how I'd like to calibrate the scale)

So you have a bunch of people spending a sufficiently long time together. What other factors play into your decision? Well, are snacks provided? Snacks are always a plus, so lets add a snack bonus, s

M = Pt + s

Great! So now we have a bunch of people, together for a while, with snacks... what about entertainment? There's a huge difference between 'just hanging out' and having a planned activity, like a movie, games, or something totally off the wall. Clearly, this requires a modifier to the equation, like so:

M = Pt + s + e

Again, we'll decide on a scale later.

That pretty much covers it as far as positives go... what about negatives? Probably the biggest one that comes to mind is price - free is good - but P is taken, so we'll use C for cost.

There's one more thing to be taken into account, which is any special gear you need to bring. For a LAN party, it's a computer, for Movie making days its cameras and costumes, and for D&D it's lots and lots of dice.This extra gear is another hassle, but not quite covered by cost, so whee, let's add another term:

(g for gear, y'see?)

Ok, that looks pretty good. Now for scaling. I originally thought about calibrating the scale around something widely regarded as a standard form of entertainment, like movies, but then I'd have to make cost into some kind of increments of, say, $20, which just gets messy. So Cost is in dollars, People is in... people, Time is in hours, Gear is the number of extra things you need to take, and Snacks is the number of snacks provided.

Entertainment is a flat +10 if there is something planned to do, and 0 if there isn't.

Gear we have to assume is initialised to 1, for two reasons- firstly the fact that you always have to bring yourself, which is technically a thing (ie, not forgetting to go, which I have done sometimes...) and for the slightly more practical reason that we need something on the bottom so that we're not dividing by zero.

Now, some examples:

Movie: 5 People x 3 hours (1:40 for the movie, plus meeting up/hanging out time after) + 2 (popcorn and a drink) + 10 (the gigantic movie over there / $20 (ticket + snacks) + 1 (yourself)

= 1.285

LAN Party: 10 People x 6 hours (or longer!) + 4 (just a guess, from experience- chips, chocolates, mi goreng and nachos) + 10 (Games, duh.) / $0 (no cash for participants) + 2 (You + computer + cables and stuff to make the computer go, because you need more than just a box and screen)

= 24.6

Thus demonstrating that a LAN party is many times better than the movies. (On a side note, you never realise how much you've come to depend on a scientific calculator where you can queue up all your sums and stuff, until you have to use a regular calculator again. shudder)

One more, even nerdier (although it'd be difficult for this post to get much more nerdy at this point): A D&D session:

7 People x 4 hours + 2 (Mountain Dew and Chips, unless it's James', in which case you get Mountain Dew flavoured jelly and some kind of chocolate slab cake) +10 (game, duh) / 0 + 4 (Dice, character sheets, laptop and you)

= 10

Well crap... the scale seems to have standardised around Dungeons and Dragons. I assure you, this is totally unintentional and unexpected, but pretty damn cool. So that's about that for this. I expect all event invitations from now on to have a predicted Standardised Event Merit Score in order for me to more easily decide what to do with my already precious time.

Thank you and goodnight.

< Posting for the sake of posting... Doctor Who! And a rant. >