June 17, 2013 at 11:00 AM ET
While Hell Is Other People is described as "partially a satire" by its creator, the Web app might be a blessing to those who just want to feel alone in a crowd.
The app looks at your Foursquare friends' recent check-ins, calculates "optimal locations for avoiding them," and slaps everything onto a nice Google Maps interface. Follow its guidance while strolling through a city and you should be able to avoid familiar faces.
Using the app is significantly more painless than trying to analyze the line in French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre's play "No Exit" after which it is named. All you need to do is head to the Hell Is Other People site, connect it to your Foursquare account, and study the "safe zones" it points out.
On his project's site, Hell Is Other People creator Scott Garner explains that the magic behind it all is that "locations given to avoid other users are calculated by generating a Voronoi diagram with user check-ins as seeds." Of course, all of this cleverness is moot if the people you want to avoid aren't your "friends" on Foursquare or if they fail to check into locations promptly. If those issues come up, you can just ignore people the old-fashioned way — by never leaving your home.
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