Reward Tracking and Product Recalls

booth branding business buy
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Stores like for us as consumers to give them a customer ID to track what it is that we are buying. Many have phone number or a card or an email address. They use this information to track our purchases and personalize their nudges for us to buy products.  There is one way they might improve customer loyalty: Recall notices.

I pay attention to the news, so I see recalls every week. But, I doubt I am seeing them all. And, I doubt that I can reliably say whether I have the recalled item. But, the store where I bought it probably does.

A couple years ago, I was in a grocery aisle mulling over what to select when a manager came through to take off the shelf something nearby. He had a scanner which told him the information about the recalled item.

What would be really cool is if the system that is telling the stores what to pull from their shelves, looks through the customer purchases and informs the customers. They could pass along the recall notice and let the customer identify the lot number the same as the store. (I knew the manager was working a recall notice because he was talking to himself.)

Thinking maybe this already exists as an opt-in, I checked the stores where we have web site accounts. Nothing. (Given these places tend to go with an opt-out model, I was not surprised.)

Friendship Placebo

Social media plays with our minds in allowing us to stay connected to old friendships. We feel like we are maintaining the relationship. But, it lacks something.

Social media tends to bring out our worst. We portray ourselves at our best. We compare our worst to others’ best. Assumptions, gossip, and negativity abound.

It really isn’t a friendship anymore. But, we still want it to be. So, like a placebo we trick ourselves into thinking it fulfills that hole in our soul.

Personalization modes

hacker screen
Photo by Markus Spiske temporausch.com on Pexels.com

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.

 

 

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: 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.

Trusting a black box

Steven Johnson wrote in Everything Bad Is Good For You about how in video games we have to figure out the rules of the built world. We are not just exploring a virtual space but build a mental map of cause and effect.

The humor of memes about video games having prepared one when finding something random that looks like a glitch in the real world reflects this mental map concept.

Anything built without our controlling the rules works this way. Say I have a car that estimates the range. It says I have 11 miles before it runs out of gas and the fans are on full, so I see the miles dropping faster than they should. I come to doubt really have 11 miles and the gas station I can get $.40 off is 7 miles away. I might get there and I might not. So, I put a gallon in it. The range doesn’t budge.

Do I still have 11 miles? Surely I have more, but how do I know that I do? Can I trust it?

Opaque rules impair causation. See, the whole point of the tool is to allow me to predict when to take action. More gasoline SHOULD cause more actual range which should cause the gauge to show more range. Filling up the tank soon after did show the max range like it should. This event eroded my trust, which makes me worry about whether I can trust the gauge even when it does show there is plenty of gas.

P.S. the gas gauge did not move either.

Facebook Feature Request: External content datestamp

When people post a link, a Facebook bot looks at the content and finds the content of the <title> tag and creates a summary. My modest proposal is that it also locates the post datestamp to include here.

Every Facebook post has the name of the poster with when they posted it. It might be “Just now” to minutes or hours then if more than a day, the date. Then if more than a year, how many.

If Mark posts an article from 2 years ago right now, then it can appear fresh and new. Facebook also scrubs URLs so that if that indicated the publication date, one must click through to know that it is old. And, we all know in general people re-share things without doing such due diligence. This could be part of why missing persons posts get shared years after the person was found as people have no idea that the article is 1-10 years old without clicking through.

Convert Little-endian UTF-16 to ASCII

hacker screen
Photo by Markus Spiske temporausch.com on Pexels.com

I generated some text files working with Get-Acl Powershell, but I did not know how to get Powershell to do some advanced features. (Basically, I wanted to the Select-String to include the next 2 lines and see whether a specific group was in that list. And maybe some exclusions.) So, I copied the files over to my Linux home to check there.

The basic most grep? Nothing.

I used ls -l and confirmed they have data. I used less to confirm I can see it.

I copied a string and did a grep for it. Nothing.

I did a dos2unix. That didn’t fix it. Finally, I did:

file filename.txt

That revealed the files had types of:

  1. Original: Little-endian UTF-16 Unicode text, with CRLF line terminators
  2. dos2unix converted: Little-endian UTF-16 Unicode text

Basically, this told me that the dos2unix fixed one problem but not both. The “with CRLF line terminators” means that Windows and Unix have philosophical differences in how to format text lines.

Little-endian is a geeky homage to Gulliver’s travels. It has to do with which direction one encodes the bits. But, it isn’t really the big problem here. UTF-16 is the problem because apparently, I need it to be UTF-8 for grep to read it. So, the fix is to use an encoding converting:

iconv -f utf-16 -t utf-8 filename.txt > filename_new.txt

The Social Media Evolution

The Make Me Smart Podcast episode 96: Do it for the ‘gram had an interesting quip that Instagram was what the Facebook News Feed was before it got corrupted by ads and political arguments: the trivialities of our daily lives.

Screenshot_20180704-075738_FacebookAll social networks became popular because of trivialities. “What’s on your mind?” THAT is what we want. Users flocked to them because of trivialities. We want gossip, random, and meaningless.

Corporations need to monetize somehow. Ads are how social networks try to do so. Facebook showed that targeting ads by getting numerous attributes about us is the way to make the most money on it. Tumblr, for example, has completely inane ads that only get clicked by accident because ever couple posts presented is an ad. Instagram has almost as many ads as Tumblr but the targeting of Facebook.

Tribe, Friendster, and Myspace died because users left. The triviality was lost, so there was no reason to stay. Something I find fascinating is Facebook survived several of the exodus movements. Not enough people left to kill it.

I wonder if Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc are capable of dying in the modern era. Will enough people leave to cause an exodus movement?

Yes, Google+ was killed, but it died because it never made it into the user consciousness. I suspect that is because Google tried to make it the cornerstone of their ecosystem. It would be like Microsoft creating a social network around Office. Productivity tools do not a social network make.