“My TiVo Thinks I’m Gay”

David mentioned seeing this on slashdot a while back, but I just got around to tracking it down– and I’m ever so glad I did. We’ve all had the experience, I’d imagine, of being frustrated by the weird recommendations Amazon or Netflix sometimes turns up– but TiVo kind of takes it to a new level by randomly displaying its perceptions of you to whomever happens to flip channels.

As the WSJ points out in this article (paid registration required, otherwise use this link), having your TV serve up “personalized” content is a different thing altogether.

Suggesting programs is just the first step for this technology. The advertising industry is beginning to understand that such profiling will allow them to segment the market far more effectively than ever, allowing them to promise clients that their ads will be seen only by certain narrowly defined demographic/psycholgraphic groups. What’s more, TiVo data may reveal the existence of obscure segments that nobody would have though to target before– for instance, high-income lesbian republicans who enjoy watching westerns.

The best part of the WSJ article is at the end, when a hairdresser tells how quickly TiVo figured out that he and his partner ARE in fact gay, despite their attempts to trick it. “Mr. Leon believes the box was giving them a message: ‘You’re definitely gay. And you’re watching too much TV.'”

I have spent a fair amount of time cleaning up my Amazon recommendations– for instance, removing from my list things I bought as gifts, and rating the things it recommends that I bought elsewhere. Having done that, the “Just Like You” feature has gotten both interesting and creepy. Based on my suggestions, it finds another customer with similar ratings and then tells me what that person likes that I haven’t rated yet. The really creepy part is that I DO own about half of the stuff listed. So it turns out my supposedly eclectic tastes are a little less unique than I had hoped. If it ever shows me another person whose list includes Pedro the Lion, rugby books, Joan Didion, and the KitchenAid KT2651X Epicurean 475 Watt 6-Quart Stand Mixer in Cobalt Blue, the very foundation of my identity as a complicated consumer will be shaken.

Dastardly Disney Deeds

Apparently the dismal opening weekend box office of Disney’s Treasure Planet has caused the company to restate its quarterly results, amidst news of an SEC probe. Poor Mickey.

But he’s not as bad off as the dead white male responsible for the beloved original whence the dreadful derivative was drained. The Guardian, in its biting roundup of US Thanksgiving releases, compares the experience of watching the film to “watching Robert Louis Stevenson being sodomised by Michael Eisner in front of a class of 10-year-olds.” Luckily, the Guardian liked Solaris— I’d hate to hear what they might have said about George Clooney’s ass otherwise.

A nod to the excellent Media Unspun newsletter for relaying this pithy quote. Unfortunately, it is dying a second death next Friday– the first came last year when parent mag Industry Standard folded. Apparently too many appreciators (myself included) failed to shell out $50 to get the newsletter daily.

Taken, but ever so slowly

In case you missed the advertising blitz, the Sci Fi Channel has taken a massive gamble with its new miniseries Taken, the full title of which is apparently “Steven Spielberg Presents Taken.” It is the geek-centric network’s bid to be taken more seriously by viewers, critics, and of course advertisers. IBM’s sponsorship of the series bodes well for that effort– though I must say David and I found the newest batch of ebusiness spots to be the highlight of Monday’s episode. This is surprising, given my rather rabid personal interest in the subject of alien abduction.
Continue reading “Taken, but ever so slowly”

true state of education

so, i’m in arizona. for thanksgiving with the folks and all. and what happens at every holiday gathering? right, family games. so, it’s trivial pursuit with the parents and their friends. for as much complaining as i hear from them that the “younger generation” has their head up their ass (okay, i’ll conceed that to be partially true) you think they’d be better at the game. more life equals more experiences which should equal more answers right? well, this part of the “younger generation” has served them a nice big fat slice of shut the fuck up pie. winning answers scored by me are; abby hoffman, stephen hawking’s “a brief history in time”, dr.who, mars (as in what was the last planet that nasa has landed on), and hell, even maxim magazine. my friends, the pop culture revolution has begun. wicked.

bob’s blog

I’m filing this under nonfamous nonstrangers because I know my friend Bob will post for us occasionally. Quite coincidentally, he launched his own blog, Imminent Ptomaine, last week.

It is, as he pointed out in its email introduction to me, “darker and more caustic” than f.a.n.s. But then again, Bob is a highly intelligent and amiable Brit who has lived in the States for many years; were he anything other than dark and caustic I’d be all-to-suspicious.

The blog’s title does give me slight pause, as dining Chez Bob et Terri is an unparalleled treat for the senses– where else have I ever enjoyed a whole roast lamb studded with 10 heads of garlic or tawny port older than myself? Nowhere, gentle reader. Now must I fear that these pleasures might cause painful illness and death?

Ah, well. Worth the risk.

Introduction to Australian Heritage

You may not be aware of this, but I am an Australian. In the spirit of international cultural outreach, I offer the reader this introduction to Australian heritage. This classic text is required reading in all Australian primary (elementary) schools. Read this and be the conversational vedette at your next cocktail party with all you need to know about Australian historical figures, events, and cultural locations.

hey there pilgrim

Perry is astounded (and almost offended, I think) by Paulette’s and my participation in the “Slow Food” movement, but he’s going to be eating a “Slow Turkey” with us on Thursday. Apparently a fair number of New Yorkers will be doing the same: Turkeys Similar to What Pilgrims Ate

I’m a little freaked out by the Times’ angle though: I have a hard enough time with my “extinction day” festivities without highlighting my cultural connections to the Pilgrims. I’ll just take my heirloom turkey with an extra helping of white guilt.

Bonsai Kittens

Bonsai Kitten is one of my favourite links to send to the gullible and/or reactionary (the two traits are highly correlated, in my experience). Check out the guestbook for the insightful commentary.

If bonsai kittens were real, I’d have one. Not only are they unique, but if you have more than one they stack easily for space-saving storage.

Slate slaps Bearing Point name

Slate’s Rob Walker has again earned my admiration by pointing out the tragic flaws in the rebranding of KPMG Consulting as Bearning Point. Why is it that consulting firms always choose such bad names? (Remember Monday:, PWC Consulting’s short-lived name before it was snapped up by IBM?) This article rightfully attacks the name as stupid and the brand behind it as utterly generic. To wit:

“What are we? Who are we? What do we stand for? We make things happen. … We integrate and collaborate. We deliver on our promises with an attitude of ‘whatever it takes.’ We measure our success by the success of our clients. … We have a presence, an intensity. … What we have not changed is our mind-set—the desire to get it done. … It’s who we are. We’re fast, nimble, smart, innovative, flexible, responsible, and honest. We know how to think on our feet. And make it happen. Now. … We don’t walk. We run. But with a purpose. A mission. … ”

Whoever did this work (and I’m checking on that) just wrote down whatever jargon the CEO had running through his mind that day, and charged them lots of money for regurgitating it. This is the kind of stuff that makes me embarrassed to do brand strategy.