Personalization modes

hacker screen
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In shopping for Mother’s Day the algorithms now think I am female. Obviously, they took the items I looked at for this quest and incorporated them into my profile’s records and are basing new recommendations on them. They are fresher. And they have left over inventory they want to move. So, I get it.

This shopping for another persona has to be a relative common phenomenon since personalization became a buzzword, so I don’t get why this hasn’t been solved over a decade later. People shop for others’ birthdays all the time. And maybe my solution below doesn’t exist because people impulse buy for themselves and others based on getting things suggested later. And, one can go into the recommendations and delete off items to restore them to normalness.

This other persona influence to recommendation must have happen so much that I am surprised that such companies that use it have not created shopping modes.

  1. Allow users to say they are shopping for another person. Associate the personalization that that profile. Based on what is bought for that person, the suggestions can get better.
  2. With some sort of confirmation from the person being shopped for, they might make recommendations based on their wishlists. Although mine are sorely out of date.
  3. If the user is looking for things that seem… uh… out of character or in character for the subject of an upcoming holiday like mother’s day or father’s day, then prompt the user if they ought to change modes.

 

 

Superiority of visual notifications

razer white and black corded headphones
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A sound is a terrible way to get my attention. I mostly live in some kind of background noise. So, there is a strong possibility that I will miss a notification through listening to music or podcasts.

Worse, even if I do hear it, I have no clue what weird thing is trying to get my attention. Some sounds I recognize due to hearing them frequently until the product changes it. At which point, I no longer have a clue what is trying to get my attention. The only way a phone call style works for me is that it is a sustained noise that last long enough for me to check the source and see that indeed it is still active and a phone call. (This kind of thing for everything coming out of a computer would be highly annoying.)

Toaster notifications, those little windows in the corner of the screen, or even phone icons at the top of the screen are far, far, far superior. True, I tend not to immediately notice them. So, it might be minutes (an hour) before I consume them. However, that is great for my ability to focus on work or others then circle back to handle a notification.

 

Terminology

This guy won the Internet for a while.

“I love learning the words that their generation comes up with — both the unique ones as well as the ones where they take an existing word and give it a completely different meaning.”

One of my favorite web sites is Urban Dictionary because people apply new meanings to words and phrases faster than official dictionaries track.

I first became cognizant of this in my teens. My mother had acquired a document from her school principal describing the symbols and words used by children indoctrinated into Satanic cults. To me, they mostly seemed benign things I associated with my friends into heavy metal music. And, of course, Dungeons & Dragons which I played at the time. Teenagers seek ways of communicating where parents are clueless.

Later, my second employer subscribed to various IT industry magazines. As I often stayed after close on Friday afternoon, he would engage me about things he read. I ended up getting free subscriptions to be able to better converse. The more I read, the more I understood jargon in IT mainly coopted existing terms for new things.

I also learned about how these new terms were poorly defined and understood at first. Only as they became super popular and everyone talked about them did their meaning get solidified into something real.

Finally, there is something unsettling at how African Americans continually are the bleeding edge of culture in the US. The music, clothing, and even terminology is sometimes adopted up by the overall culture. At the same time it is reviled as dangerous and feared for how those expressing it are doomed to go to Hell.

Explainer

Geeking out for me takes the form of the explainer. I take what someone knows about something and describe how it works and why I find it interesting. My reading takes me all over the place, but I particularly of late enjoy nonfiction on interesting topics.

People find my reading about things like quantum mechanics for entertainment surprising. And my willingness to geek out about it even more so.

Occasionally people remark that I ought to be a teacher. Probably.

Doctor Freelove has a nice ring to it. Unfortunately, a career in academia is more focused on research than teaching. And K-12 teachers get stuck doing too much administrivia and not enough teaching.

My times in front of a classroom were entertaining for me. As campus webmaster at Valdosta State, I would guest teach students how to start their websites for several faculty members. I also taught faculty members how to use WebCT and web design and random of IT topics. In college, one class had me working with 2nd graders and a couple times I taught the whole class about something unprepared off the top of my head. And my mother had me talk about my IT work for career day to several classes.

Opportunities to teach like this are something I miss being in a more administrative position.

Spoiling others on Facebook

Like Stamp 1Dear Facebook, it would be awesome if you would create a spoilers option for posts where the poster could say what it contains.

  1. You get users feeding you data about engagement with media useful for advertisers.
  2. Nice people could contain the damage of spoilers.

As it is, I saw several people created a post and put the spoiler in the comment which Facebook showed to me in the preview. So, people get spoiled inadvertently by people not intending to do so. A person trying to not spoil others has to create a post that says the content contains spoilers, create a spoiler-free comment on it, and reply to that comment with what contains the spoilers. Pretty cumbersome and other commenters might not get it and accidentally put a spoiler comment by not replying to the spoiler-free one.

Another approach Facebook might be to do is something similar to Twitter which has “muted keywords.”. The person seeking to avoid them can enter what they are trying to avoid and anything with that gets disappeared. There is a Tumblr XKit browser extension that operates similarly by collapsing the post into a message that says it is hidden because it contains the keyword. The XKit method is nice for TV shows because I do not have to add and remove each week.

It boggles the mind that we are in 2019 and this has not yet been solved by the social media giants such that we are still relying on 3rd party products that try to help. These are Facebook versions of XKit that work on desktop browsers and are no help inside the Facebook app.

You have to have the forethought to have the correct terms screened. In other words,

  • you probably are not protected from an image
  • you are not protected from esoteric terms, so someone could craft a spoilery hashtag with a reference you can tell is a spoiler without a contextual term the screener will catch.

Basically, use Facebook at your own risk. Maybe unfriend people who get a kick out of spoiling others. Definitely, unfriend people who get a kick out of fake spoiling others.

TED Talk: The story of ‘Oumuamua, the first visitor from another star system | Karen J. Meech

In October 2017, astrobiologist Karen J. Meech got the call every astronomer waits for: NASA had spotted the very first visitor from another star system. The interstellar comet — a half-mile-long object eventually named `Oumuamua, from the Hawaiian for “scout” or “messenger” — raised intriguing questions: Was it a chunk of rocky debris from a new star system, shredded material from a supernova explosion, evidence of alien technology or something else altogether? In this riveting talk, Meech tells the story of how her team raced against the clock to find answers about this unexpected gift from afar.

TED Talk: How to take a picture of a black hole | Katie Bouman

A talk on how the process would work presented a couple years ago. Interesting how closely the actual image matches the reconstruction before they did it.

At the heart of the Milky Way, there’s a supermassive black hole that feeds off a spinning disk of hot gas, sucking up anything that ventures too close — even light. We can’t see it, but its event horizon casts a shadow, and an image of that shadow could help answer some important questions about the universe. Scientists used to think that making such an image would require a telescope the size of Earth — until Katie Bouman and a team of astronomers came up with a clever alternative. Bouman explains how we can take a picture of the ultimate dark using the Event Horizon Telescope.

What I’ve learned over the past year

A friend asked me this last night and my unprepared answer was all over the place, but I think in retrospect there was a theme. I was aware that being a parent changes the brain in the abstract. I was unprepared for the experience for how hard it hits.

Think the stepson being only a few years from being an adult gave me false expectations. He wants to be treated as a responsible adult, so I try to both hold him accountable for his behavior while explaining a big part of being an adult is sacrificing whim and short-term fun for long-term gain.

Being the father of a tiny helpless human is completely different. And her transition into taking agency and navigating how to balance them has me constantly on my toes. It has completely shifted my world view in places. And I am sure that some decisions over the past year have been completely different due to this shift.

So, this past year has been a lesson on how psychology textbooks are not completely full of abstract bullshit.

Shortcuts: Rules

(I should have recognized this in my Shortcuts series of posts. Intro > 1. Illusions > 2. Labeling > 3. Math > 4. Multitasking > 5. Rules)

Rules exist to help reduce the friction of society so that we can more easily work with strangers. Without rules, we need to have potentially damaging interactions with individuals, establish a series of data points about them to decide what kind of person they are to know how to handle them in the future. Instead, we create laws, policies, and traditions to define how we interact with each other. This frees our brains from Dunbar’s Number such that we can have larger social groups over that about 150 person limit.

We also have an instinctive bias to when others break the rules. People who severely or habitually do so need to be punished. We will claim it to be that others see that society will not tolerate the behavior, but really it is so we feel better that a rule breaker did not get away with it this time.

I started thinking about this because I had a conversation with a coworker about an odd claim about a rule. One problem with rules is there are too many for any individual to understand them all. We have specializations, so experts in an area are expected to know the rules for that knowledge domain.

People are human and may inform us about things that are less true and more desires of the way things ought to be. Traditions can sometimes fall into the latter. Sometimes when properly challenged, traditions find their way into being codified as laws or policies so that people properly behave.

Hammurabi almost 4,000 years ago solved this misunderstanding about what the rules are by writing them down. It really is a good way to handle it. One can read the rules oneself to check to see if how it was explained is correct or missing an important distinction.

And then, there is intentional rule breaking. Do you drive faster than the speed limit? Read all the terms for using a website? Criminals are deemed people who break the rules intentionally. Most of us are breaking some rules several times a day. Some intentionally, some by ignorance. Some because we were set up for failure. Some because the likelihood of being caught and punished are so low the wasted effort at complying is not worth it.