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MIT's "Hot Or Not" Site For Neighborhoods Could Help Shape Cities 103

Daniel_Stuckey writes "When you walk around a city, there are things you can just sense, like if you've wandered into a dodgy neighborhood, or where the new happening spot is. Intuitively, we know that a city's more intangible characteristics, like class or uniqueness, play a big role in what it’s like to live there, but until now there was no way to actually quantify that idea. Researchers from MIT Media Lab may have found a way to measure this 'aesthetic capital' of cities, with their website Place Pulse, a tool to crowdsource people's perception of cities by judging digital snapshots—a sort of 'hot or not' for urban neighborhoods. Some 4,000 geotagged Google Streetview images and 8,000 participants later, the team found that by using digital images and crowdsourced feedback, they can accurately quantify the diverse vibes within a city (pdf), which in turn can help us better understand issues like inequality and safety."
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MIT's "Hot Or Not" Site For Neighborhoods Could Help Shape Cities

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  • I guess the Red Light districts or the Gang Warfare districts won't be "hot" enough...
  • Can I get an overlay of drive by shootings?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TWiTfan ( 2887093 )

      I just judge a neighborhood by the number of black and hispanic people in it.

      And so do you. But YOU won't say it.

      • You must be a joy in the Caribbean.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I judge a neighborhood by a "sameness" factor - if the vast majority of people who live there dress the same, look the same, talk the same and have houses/homes that all look pretty much the same, something is very fucking weird and I get the fuck out. This applies to rich white neighborhoods as much as it does to poor black ones.

      • My black neighbor drives a Mercedes, has a swimming pool, and a nicer lawn than I do.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          My black neighbor drives a Mercedes, has a swimming pool, and a nicer lawn than I do.

          Does he live in a black neighborhood?

          • My black neighbor drives a Mercedes, has a swimming pool, and a nicer lawn than I do.

            Does he live in a black neighborhood?

            I don't think you can argue that it's not a black neighborhood, it's only an argument at what radius from that center point. At d = 1 house, it sounds like it's a 100% black neighborhood.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You're an idiot who is falling for the rich man's war against the poor's tactics. Racism (and you and the folks who modded you up are racists) is a tool to get you and your fellow idiots who are black and hispanic to fight each other so you won't realize that your poverty comes not from the blacks and hispanics "stealing your jobs" but in reality, it's the 1%ers who are keeping you, the black, and the hispanic down.

        You do realise that there are more whites on food stamps than blacks, do you not?

        If you see "

      • by rsborg ( 111459 )

        I just judge a neighborhood by the number of black and hispanic people in it.

        And so do you. But YOU won't say it.

        No, I judge by the following, based on the images I saw and my previous thoughts:

        • Amount of greenery
        • Road wear and graffiti
        • Signs of curation, ie, trimmed hedges, cut lawn, etc
        • Height of buildings divided by population visible for given time of day
        • number and condition of vehicles parked

        If you've read this far, you can probably tell that all of these point to how affluent/rich the area is, but as a non-rich person myself, I find over-opulence off-putting and prefer the more upper-middle-class look. Amazingly, i

      • You're an idiot. I just a neighborhood on how the house quality. A poor neighborhood has poor quality housing (little better than shacks), a rich neighborhood has big houses and expensive apartment buildings.

        Now everyone lives in the USA, and not everyone is a racist.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Any reason that home sales prices compared wouldn't tell us this? Prices are determined largely by lot size and square footage. The other major factor is location, location, location. It should be pretty trivial to figure out how large this location factor plays into price.

    • Re:Um.... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Thursday July 25, 2013 @03:39PM (#44384507)

      That assumes that the "vibe" of a location correlates well with income, which I would consider a highly suspect assumption - we already know that income does not correlate with happiness, honesty, etc. much beyond the point where people can reliably keep a roof over their heads and food in their belly - i.e. very little within the US.

      One example is artist communities - they have a tendency to spring up semi-organically in low-rent areas (the starving artist stereotype having a solid grounding in reality) and transform them into vibrant communities. I've heard firsthand stories of the transformation of Cannery Row in Monterrey - started out with a bunch of hippies moving into the largely abandoned fish-canning district because the rents were cheap, and once you had a bunch of creative, good natured people in one place things just sort of took off. Of course eventually people with money took notice of the new atmosphere and moved in, driving prices up, but for quite a while it was a cheap and desirable place to live, provided you didn't mind the smell of cannabis smoke.

      • Re:Um.... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by icebike ( 68054 ) on Thursday July 25, 2013 @03:56PM (#44384669)

        but for quite a while it was a cheap and desirable place to live

        Cheap and Desirable are like water and oil. You can mix them for a while, but over time they separate.

        Still the project has merit, as long as there were some method of continued crowed sourced voting, because
        things change over time, but street-view images don't change that often.

        There should be an app for this.

      • by cusco ( 717999 )
        When we first moved to Seattle and were house hunting my uncle gave me a really good piece of advice. He said, "Get a copy of 'The Stranger' (a local alternative lifestyle newspaper) and figure out where all the gays are moving to. It will be cheap, and as soon as they start renovating the neighborhood prices will go through the roof." Rosa fell in love with a house somewhere else, but those neighborhoods have quintupled in value.
        • DINKS (Dual Income No Kids) will do that to home values. The GLBT is a close community that places safety and social interaction at the top of their list. They also have more money to spend on housing bidding wars. So ya, 'The Stranger' is good advise. We see the same phenomena happening in Houston as well.

      • I've watched it happen in two medium-sized cities (pop. ~ 200,00 or so) each over a ten-year period. In both, it was an area near or basically in downtown, formerly a mix of business, retail, office, some housing in the upper stories, that had for various reasons gotten run down. Often the process had apparently been accelerated by the combo of suburbs and shopping centres. There's still be some shops, some housing, amidst too many empty storefronts and whole buildings.

        The city might tinker with zoning,

  • Just the other day I told Detroit that I didn't want to ruin my special friendship with her by moving into her while I simultaneously eyebanged the unattainably hot San Francisco and consoled myself with the knowledge that she's high maintenance and her wild living will make her look especially butt ugly fifty years from now.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    How about trailer park trash or poor black areas? Oops, can't make true observations, might upset the PC crowd.

  • by chill ( 34294 )

    Now add that to the navigation software in my GPS and I know what neighborhoods to avoid and where to troll for prostitutes or drug dealers!

    Add that into the GPS in rental cars and you get a major news item -- from a few years ago when this caused outrage in Chicago. I can't find the specific story, but it was big for a few days.

  • I question anything that lists Washington DC as the safest place.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Please identify the hot women with low self esteem everywhere. They are the only girls I can really talk to.

  • by GlobalEcho ( 26240 ) on Thursday July 25, 2013 @03:32PM (#44384435)

    You would think MIT of all places would be able to put together a website capable of withstanding real traffic.

  • Onoz! Look at all those black people! Must be a bad neighborhood!
    Sounds real reliable.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Statisically-speaking they often are. We can't let facts get in the way of our PC beliefs, right?

      • Don't be such a coward AC. I *refuse* to live in a black neighborhood. It's a cultural thing! Nothing to do with race. I will not raise my son in a poor black neighborhood and be exposed to cultural influences of children without fathers. I will not let this corrupt culture of ghetto hold back my son's potential in life. There's not a single person on Slashdot that can argue otherwise (try if you can if just for entertainment). Truth is truth!

        Now Asian and Indian communities, they can be my neighbors. Even

    • I know no one in a hurry to move to a black neighborhood. I can tell by all the Blacks trying to earn enough to move to white ones. Myself I avoid neighborhoods that the people have cars not expensive enough to put in the garage. Lot size smaller than a half acre. Gated with not more than 25 homes. The up side of East Greater Phoenix this is 750,000 or less Now If I could afford this in a place without rattle snakes and scorpions that would be great.
    • Maybe people who are treated worse than other people on account of the color of their skin are more likely to end up in depressed neighborhoods. This doesn't have to be a racist thing.

  • by fazey ( 2806709 ) on Thursday July 25, 2013 @03:39PM (#44384503)
    I see this turning into a lawsuit when real estate prices start to be affected by it.
    • Yes and there will be a spam potential as real estate agents, business owners, and residents of a neighborhood try to artificially increase their rankings.
      • by cusco ( 717999 )
        That actually was the second thing that occurred to me when I RTFS. The first was, "Why do I give a shit about the opinion of a herd of hipster douchebags?"
        • I wonder if they kept browser referrer info from those who did the surveys, to see what might reasonably be gotten by way of info indicating any useful demographic data. Who would learn of the survey site, from where, and who would bother to spend any time going through the images? Would everyone rating image pairs automatically be a hipster douchebag? Or maybe you mean it's the hipster douchebags from MIT who did this.

    • I was recently researching an area where I was going to place an offer on a house. After taking into account square footage and the asking price of other homes in the area along with public tax records and other public records that i was able to find I decided on a house and a price. I offered 15k less than the asking price and they excepted with in 45 minutes. There is already plenty of information available to annoy Realtors.

      • If they accepted your first offer, you paid too much.

        • Could be but I still got it for about $18 less/sq.ft. than they have been selling {not asking} for in that neighborhood.

      • by vux984 ( 928602 )

        After taking into account square footage and the asking price of other homes in the area along with public tax records and other public records that i was able to find I decided on a house and a price. I offered 15k less than the asking price and they excepted with in 45 minutes.

        They were probably just delighted you didn't notice that they had an idiotic floor plan and the carpets all were all covered in shit. I mean, square footage and tax records are great. Two houses can be the same size, same age, and

        • You are correct there were other factors not the least of which was the sellers motivation. All these houses were built at the same time and they were looking to build a neighbor hood for the average family you know 2.5 kid. Most of the houses for sale in the neighborhood are still the first owner and they are looking to downsize.

          I am very familiar with the houses in that neighborhood I have two brothers and a few friends that own houses in that neighborhood. This house has the original floor plan. I have k

  • I think the photo-analysis would be most compelling if it identified bad neighborhoods from pics of shootings, stabbings, drug deals, etc. Everything else is just a proxy.
  • The handwriting is on the wall. Literally, with all the graffiti!

  • I'm no statistician, but I ran quick-and-dirty linear correlations on the rankings from the MIT site [] with Excel (shut up; I'm at work). Oddly, the strongest correlation was a negative one between Safer and Depressing -- stronger even than Wealthier/Safer. Here are my results, if anyone's curious. (Some repeated for readability.)

    Wealthy/Boring: -.32
    Wealthy/Depressing: -.79
    Wealthy/Livelier: .49
    Wealthy/Safer: .79

    Safer/Wealthier: .79
    Safer/Boring: -.15
    Safer/Depressing: -.84
    Safer/Livelier: .24


  • I thought this was called "street smarts" and could only be acquired by people who have actually lived in cities for a while. A neighborhood or area isn't going to have a sign stating so. Digital images can help with guesses, but even though a neighborhood looks badish, it could be quite a friendly place. Vice versa: A nice neighborhood doesn't equate to a safe neighborhood. A nice attempt but ultimately futile.
  • This would be a much more worthy application of his frequently-discussed-here techniques than deciding whether J.K. Rowling would still be popular under a pseudonym.

  • Yes, because we all know, nobody knows what is cool and what is hot better than the students/professors at MIT...

IN MY OPINION anyone interested in improving himself should not rule out becoming pure energy. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.