“You might like this”

So, today, I am to share my thoughts about one of the things that can be useful, but can also cause you to facepalm hard. recommendation systems. What made me wonder about this more the last days? YouTube.

I was watching metal covers of game and film soundtracks, so as good as it could be, it recommended things to watch next. Since I have some other related things in my watch history (like best-of scenes or videos showing making game/film weapon replicas) it went quite well on pointing me to what I might know. Heck, I found some really good stuff there. Since I was in the rare mood when I felt like actually giving a thumbs up, I was logged in for all of the time.

Fast forward three days. I watch one of those things again. And that’s when the hilarity kicks in. Many of those were in the recommendation with the usual text “you might like this” (in my language). You don’t say? (I was so tempted to insert the Nicolas Cage meme…) Of course I might like this, I played it 10 times in a row the other day…

As someone who likes to find new books, I use Goodreads’ lists and recommendations to look for things here and there. Not so much now when my list of potential reads is enough for a few years, but the point stands. If there’s something I’d like these recommendations to have, it’s language filter. There was this book that it tried to recommend me, but it was in French and without English translation, which was quite wasted effort as my French begins and ends with ‘bon apetit’. I would probably do a bit better in German where I could be able to ask for directions when visiting a city, but that’s it, definitely not enough for reading a book.

And lastly comes Amazon’s recommendation engine. It’s believed to be one of the best for using purchase history to recommend similar books, and by my experiences it works decently with the small history I have (bought Kindle in 3/2016 and maybe 50 books since). But, it has some flaws as well: sequels.

First, it could use some ordering on the “kindle daily/monthly/whatever deals” and sort them to put books that are first in series to the front. I might be interested in something, and discount could surely make me consider buying it, but when I see “book 6 of 25” you can guess how fast is my interest gone. And when there’s 10 pages of books in discount, of which 90% are sequels, I am not likely to fish through them in hopes of finding the starter and hoping it sounds good…

There’s similar problem with the mailed recommendations. Actually, two main problems I see. One of them is same as above, recommending book deep in series (the last one was recommending book 12 and 13 from series I did not hear about yet, not even in the past mails).

Second is when you read book by some author, and they send you a mail pointing to that author’s other works. I understand that it probably does chronologically, but again, it helps nowhere to recommend book 7 in one series, book 5 in second and book 4 in third when I’d be more interested in book one in those same series. So then I have a mail with 10-ish books, when most of them are more than halfway through. Sure, if I liked the author’s stuff, I’ll might look at his/her other books, but surprisingly, from book one…

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