Yahoo! labs has unveiled Predictalot for combining user rules that don’t explicitly rely on math for predicting tournament winners, although there is a lot of complexity in the game. Predictalot is a #P-Hard game that uses combinatorial prediction market methodologies for combining human input and high-performance computing for making better tournament predictions.
Predictalot limits users to a pretty restricted set of rules. The rules focus on more aggregate or simple outcomes that are easy to count (like the sum of the seeds in a given round, rather than the mix of individual seeds). This isn’t too bad for beta version 1.0, but I still found it frustrating. For example, when predicting which seed range advances to what round, I am unable to create a rule that indicates that a single five seed or worse will make it to the final four. I can only create a rule about all final four team seeds. I also wanted to create a rule about how many Final Four teams would be from the Big Ten conference. The only two conference rules allowed: (1) predicting the winner and (2) predicting if a conference will have more or fewer wins than another conference.
It is also not clear that “better than a 4 seed” is strictly-better-than or better-than-or-equal-to. Accuracy is important to me. For example, I was unable to create a rule that a one seed would win the tournament (see image below). This is something that can easily be fixed.
Still, Predictalot looks pretty good for a beta version, and it will be interesting to see how it works, both in terms of predicting a winner and harnessing the power of social networking.