27 November, 2011

My Amazon Profile Thinks I’m Five

It’s the best part of a decade since Jeffrey Zaslow wrote the famous My TiVo Thinks I’m Gay article in the Wall Street Journal about how to combat profiling algorithms when they get the wrong end of the stick about your behaviour. I was thinking about this the other day when I saw Amazon.co.uk’s recommendations for me

The fact is, I can’t complain. That is generally the kind of stuff I buy. It might not project my aspirational self-image of a well-dressed, cosmopolitan executive-come-stuntman in the prime of his life, but that’s only because it’s based on actual “data” and “facts”. There’s not a lot of money spent on exciting items for me these days. At least not pre-emptively online - my wardrobe is pretty healthy, but that’s largely populated by items purchased from the shops near my office just after I arrive at work having not noticed that the morning’s child readying & deployment activities have left my garments streaked with milk/face-paint/porridge/vomit/other.

How money gets spent isn’t the only area where electronic data sources tell a story of offspring influence. Use of leisure tools has evidently also been skewed their way.
Here’s a representative sample of items on our Sky+ planner…

[2 parts kids to 1 part me]

And here’s what YouTube thinks I’d like to watch…

[3 parts kids to 2 parts me]

Obviously this is all to be expected. I can’t really complain. It's no surprise that the children dominate most areas of life. It’d just be nice if data profiling recognised when I’m clicking for me and when I’m acting on behalf of the little people who share my account, then gave me the choice of looking at recommendations for me or recommendations for my kids.
Until then, if I want to see recommendations that certainly aren't for the kids, there’s always my spam email folder. Admittedly their targetting still seems a little off* - I don't currently have erectile dysfunction, or want a hair transplant, or fancy looking over the Financial Proposal from Mr Ahmed Hassan, or need to know the real truth about which penis enlargement pills work best - but if I ever do, I know those guys are there for me.

Learned Wisdoms
#32: If you're looking to update your CV and the only potential new Other Skills & Experiences entry that comes to mind is "Finally developed the knack of brushing knots out of small girls' hair without inducing horrific screams", then it's probably best to just leave it as-is

* honest

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