Paul McKellar

WUT. SVAngel. Square founding team. Programmer.

YO Bits

Marc Andreessen recently posted that YO represent one bit of information sent to a user through an app.

But as Claude Shannon famously said, “Marc, if I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times: Information is the negative reciprocal value of probability.”

YO is at least two bytes.

I have 1000 friends on Facebook. So at minimum just the name of which friend sent me a YO is an index in to an array which has 1000. 2^10 is 1024, so 10 bits.

The day has 24 hours or 1500 minutes. Forget seconds. I can see down to the minute when you sent me a YO. Now 1:23 is pretty close to 1:24 but even if you only have a resolution of 20 minutes, you have 1500/20 => 75 chunks. Minimum 6 bits of information.

Some time slots are way more meaningful than others. If i YO you 5 minutes after a meeting starts, it means something. If I YO you at 1am, I’m probably thinking something else entirely.

Choosing not to send an email or text is information. I’m forcing you to do work to reply. And I’m suggesting I have no textual information to send. 2 more bits sounds about right.

And as Marc points out, the ABSENCE of a YO is also information. And the absence of a YO is different types of information throughout the day. Absence at 10am is different than absence at 8pm. So instead of being 1 bit, I’m going to put that at at least 3 bits. Because as anyone knows, waiting for an important phone call is a big deal.

Also, in the case of the people calling each other and hanging up. Being not willing to spend money on you via text messages or phone minutes is also more signal. 1 bit.

All in all, I figure YO is about 2 BYTES. Minimum.

Social actually has a lot of small details to it. Those details start to add up.

Claude Shannon was the father of information theory if you want to read more.