Friday, October 08, 2021

C++ is for Cookie and That's Good Enough for Me

Potbelly, a local sandwich chain, made me an offer I couldn't refuse: change my password and earn a free (and quite tasty) oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. A free cookie is a great motivator, and checking that this wasn't some clever phishing attack, changed my password and got my cookie. Not sure why Potbelly wanted me to change my password but happy to take their cookie.

Potbelly likely didn't make this offer to everyone so what if you want a cookie?

  1. Use an app to get a cookie delivered.
  2. Visit a specialty cookie store.
  3. Go to your local supermarket and pick up a package of Chip's Ahoy.
  4. Buy some pre-made cookie dough and put it in the oven.
  5. Buy some cookie mix, add ingredients and bake.
  6. Find a cookie recipe, buy the ingredients and get cooking
  7. Get fresh ingredients direct from a farm stand
  8. Grow and gather your own ingredients, ala Pancakes Pancakes
In machine learning we seem to be heading into a similar set of choices
  1. Not even realize you are using machine learning, such as recommendations on Netflix or Facebook.
  2. Using ML implicitly, like talking to Alexa
  3. Using pre-trained ML through an app, like Google Translate
  4. Using pre-trained ML through an API
  5. Using a model like GPT-3 with an appropriate prompt
  6. Use an easily trained model like Amazon Fraud Detector
  7. An integrated machine learning environment like Sagemaker
  8. Use pre-built ML tools like TensorFlow or PyTorch
  9. Code up your own ML algorithms in C++
  10. Build your own hardware and software
and probably missing a few options.

When you want cookies or learning, do you buy it prepackaged or do you roll your own? And when people offer it to you for free, how wary should you be?


  1. 1) I'm still curious WHY potbelly wants you to change your password.
    2) Oatmeal-Choc Chip is a great idea since Oatmeal-Raisin looks like Choc Chip but then disapoints. With Oatmeal choc-chip you are not disappointed!

  2. @{fortnow, gasarch}
    1. Well, here's a possibly fictitious version you might like): Potbelly wanted you to change your password because their servers recently got breached (to an unknown degree). They themselves don't know what got breached or stolen. They don't want to spam their customers with statements that aren't 100% accurate such as "Our security got breached but we don't know what we lost .... And your data might have gotten compromised, hence, please change your password."

    As an alternative, the IT guy who studied incentive mechanism design in his senior year, came up with the following clever 'hack': let's make sure that customers change their passwords at least; we have a high degree of success by offering them what they seem to buy most frequently from past data points -- a cookie.

    --- Too far-fetched? Likely.

    1. I find both quite plausible, and here is a third which is a variant: Its an experiment to see if a cookie is enough motivation. If its not they may offer something more. Maybe do a binary search to find the min reward that will encourage (say) over 2/3 of the customers to change their password.