Questionable Recommendations


h1 October 1st, 2007

I know I haven’t had a blog post in a million years. I’ve even had lots of good ideas for posts over the last few months, but I’ve been busy. Super busy. Mainly, I got married. That takes a lot of time. I’ll tell you all about it someday, but not now. Today is just a bit of sharing of some questionable email.

I get the privacy freaks who get too spooked about companies having too much info. I understand the idea of not wanting too much info in the hands of one company about your spending habits, web-surfing habits, what have you. While I certainly appreciate this, my general feelings are that when it comes to commerce, having so much data on you is almost as anonymizing as having none. With so much data you become no more than a statistical blip on a bottom line that no one really cares. Yes, you can be searched for, but you are also readily lost.

Besides, I figure if I’m going to have to sit through some form of advertisement I’d at least like them to have a chance of being something I might be interested in. Show me loving shots of a sexy new gadget instead of expounding on the virtues of a super absorbent diapers. Tell me about Michel Gondry’s latest movie instead of additional retirement benefits I may not be receiving. If you want me to know that it has wings, you’d better be talking about an airplane. It’s just common sense. It will just work out better for everyone that way.

I know that automated statistical data isn’t always right. Sometimes your Tivo thinks you’re gay or 7-year-olds get offers for gold cards. All in all though, I’ve always liked Amazon’s recommendations and the info they provide. It is helpful to know that 38% of the people who viewed an item bought something else. I like seeing that people in my area are into a particular book. In fact, if there is any problem I have it is that their recommendation engine is too good. I frequently find I have a page full or suggestions for stuff I already own.

Then there is this email.

Questionable Recommendations from Amazon

I love Steve Martin. He’s clever, witty, dry, but with a great sense of heart. I’ve read all of his books and plays (and highly recommend The Zig-Zag Girl from this book). And while he certainly has a keen sense of understanding and insight into human behavior, I don’t quite get what he has to do with Public Services Inspection in the UK. Even if social workers in Britain love Steve for all of his quiet intellectualism wrapped in surreal and metaphorical dressings, I’m going to say they missed the mark.

I think maybe someone needs to tweak the algorithm just a little bit.



2 comments to “Questionable Recommendations”

  1. To be fair, it’s not *impossible* that the Steve Martin who edited this book wrote for Sonny & Cher, plays the banjo and helped transform standup comedy into performance art.

    But it’s unlikely.

    BTW, “Cruel Shoes” is one of my favorite short stories.


  2. Oh, I get it….I leave town and he blogs. Tivo might be getting it’s ideas about your sexual preference from listening to your iPod. I’m just saying.

    Speaking of recommendation algorithms. I hear that netflix prize is still up for grabs, no?