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See Similar Recommendation Engines:

The new music sites say, “tell us what you like, we’ll tell you some music that sounds the same.” Why would I want that? Here’s a look at recommendation engines, and how to improve upon them.

Plenty of taste-based businesses want to sell you more or keep you happy with what you’re getting.  So far that’s mostly meant the media industry, but establishments like grocery stores and restaurants will probably join in before long.  They set up recommendation engines.

I am curious why, though, because every one I’ve tried worked thus:

  1. You either input something you like, or they extrapolate it based on the data they gather on you
  2. Their application looks for similar things
  3. It tells you those similar things, possibly with a sample

These bug me, because if I’m resorting to trying a recommendation engine, it almost always means I want something different.  I don’t want something similar, because then I would go to the one I already had or knew.

But it’s the easier problem to solve, to build a system that can determine similarities, than it is to actually elicit and provide the work or the taste to fit the person (and the person’s mood).

The latter would actually go something more like:

  1. Provide a random sample, preferably one that the user hadn’t encountered before
  2. The user provides feedback (too heavy, not enough color, overcooked)
  3. The system then provides new samples based on the feedback
  4. Repeat until satisfied

Note that step two needn’t be formal feedback, and could be accomplished through split sampling.  In that case, the user experiences two random offerings, and picks the one that’s a better match.

I sincerely hope that better recommendations come forward.  Every time I’ve used such a system I am utterly frustrated.

Examples are worth the time.  If you go on to Google Blogger and click the “Next blog” link at the top, you are typically forwarded to a similar blog.  That means (real example) if you were on a blog about digital scrapbooking written in Bulgarian, the next one will likely be another blog written in Bulgarian, and it will probably have a craft theme.  There’s no escape hatch that says, “oops, not Bulgarian, don’t speak it, sorry,” or “well digital scrapbooking isn’t my bag.”

The thing is, Bulgarian digital scrapbookers do really neat work.  But after I’ve looked at one, I didn’t click next because I got the wrong one.  I clicked next to see something completely different.  As there isn’t an alternative link for that, I feel stranded, so I return to the homepage, and go next from there.  That leads me down a similar path, but this time with middle class Christian blogs from Canada.  Again, once I’ve read one, I want to move on, and not to another one of the same type.

The other example comes from music.  The new music sites say, “tell us what you like, we’ll tell you some music that sounds the same.”  Why would I want that?  For gods sakes, I’m not trying to hear the same thing over and over.  Variety is the spice of life, after all.

There are other ways to implement my suggested alternative, though.  I might be equally happy to see, “last 10 shown to people that are not you,” or such.  It’s less overwhelming than the sites that let you browse others’ profiles and see what their entire taste is like, since you only get a single instance per each person (at least initially), and you do get more variety (provided they are chosen randomly enough to prevent spammers from trying to game them).

Do you feel differently?  Do you like the recommendation to give you things similar to what you already like?

Just what is this ‘Chocolate Rain?’

My personal explication of the hit-meme and song ‘Chocolate Rain’ by TayZonday

First I’ll let you a link to the YouTube video if you’re not familiar. It’s here.

I’m keeping myself from posting the lyrics and trying to do a line-by-line interpretation, but I’ll do some quoting which I’ll separate for clarity.

And now I’ll press play and start. Thanks to TayZonday [site still under development, redirects to his YouTube account] for this song. People may criticize it for the repetition of the title lyric, but I think that it’s such a broad concept and its perpetual inclusion between the content lyrics just drives down what it’s really about.

Okay. Chocolate Rain is very much like the so-called American Dream. It’s this drive of nations and men toward wealth and power despite the consequences. Now here’s some of the lyric to back that up:

Some stay dry and others feel the pain
Build a tent and say the world is dry
Zoom the camera out and see the lie
Seldom mentioned on the radio
Its the fear your leaders call control
Worse than swearing worse than calling names
Say it publicly and you’re insane
Dirty secrets of economy
Turns that body into GDP
The bell curve blames the baby’s DNA
But test scores are how much the parents make
Which part do you think you’re ‘livin in?
More than ‘marchin more than passing law
Remake how we got to where we are.

Those are hopefully in order. Those were some of the major lines that brought me to the conclusion of ‘what is Chocolate Rain?’

It’s especially apparent in lines like Build a tent and say the world is dry. The implication being that most people focus mostly on themselves and if they are okay the world is okay. That’s a fair accusation, I think.

The chocolate rain that falls and we try to catch it is the other big clue here. Imagine you are in a field with 1,000 people and chocolate rain, or maybe a little more effective for my case, $100 bill rain, begins to fall. Look at the parade scene in the first Batman movie. People would start trampling each other for the value that is all around, even if, maybe especially if, there’s enough for everyone.

And that seems to be the nut of this song as far as I can tell. People I know and the internet I normally come across doesn’t especially discuss the meaning behind songs or works that much so I’d be interested in hearing your take on what this song means.



Happy Mothers’ Day

And in the spirit of mothers’ day (?!) here’s some links to some youtube videos…

And in the spirit of mothers’ day (?!) here’s some links to some youtube videos…

The Day Today – Satire on political campaign coverage

Bill Hicks – Gays in the military

Rev. Eman Laerton – Before a John Mayer concert

Thom Yorke – Pretending he’s a clock (?!)

I could go on, but rest assured, I will. Just later.