Friday, November 30, 2007

Uranium Ore to G-Strings: Recommendations Gone Bad

Amazon's recommendation engine, I believe, relies heavily on collaborative filtering. The theory behind collaborative filtering reads something like: I will tend to like things that people like me like, where "people like me" is defined to be: people that perform similar actions, like buy the books I buy, or rate movies they way I do. Now, take a moment to go the Amazon page for the Uranium Ore product located at:

and check out the "Customers that bought this item also bought ..." section. So after laughing for about 5 minutes, I started to think of why this might happen.

Here's a theory I had: there exists a group of users that like to spoof Amazon's engine for laughs. So they go out and provide a bunch of recommendations on goofy products, like those appearing as a recommendation for Uranium Ore. Then, they comb Amazon for products that don't have a lot of purchase transactions. Since Amazon's recommendation engine relies more heavily on purchase data to determine similar users to then pivot into recommendations, in the absence of this data, I reasoned, it probably relies more heavily on user provided ratings. So, without having to spend any money, the spoofers can simply rate the product well, and voila, out pop the G-String recommendations.

Well I don't think this explanation cuts it. I went through and followed recommendations made by a bunch of users w/ comments like: This is the best strawberry jam I've ever tasted. It works well with toast AND English muffins, and these users certainly did not make recommendations of the G-String kind. So, what gives?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving at Fox Farm in Plain

We've been having a fun Thanksgiving up here at Fox Farm in Plain, Washington. Fox farm is an old, well, fox farm, as in raising foxes for furs. The fox raising has long since stopped, and now its mostly a piece of land owned by a playful family that rents out a little cabin. The land is about 15 acres set in a beautiful valley near Lake Wenatchee in the Cascade mountains. The kids have been having a blast; the farm has chickens, goats and horses among other critters. The father of the family works up at Stevens Pass and collects all kinds of contraptions on the property, like old ski lifts, World War I vehicles, really old snow CATs, and more. Its pretty interesting just wandering the farm and running across things. We've also been enjoying having a nice campfire at night. Even in 20 degree weather, there's nothing like a campfire to stay cozy.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Nayan's Birthday Party

We had a blast the other day celebrating Nayan's 6th birthday. We went down to Sunset Bowl in Ballard. The kids had a hoot. The older kids were seeking order and civility in the bowling process. The younger kids just wanted to grab a ball and throw it down the lane. The younger kids eventually won out, so we settled for pure chaos with the names of random party goers appearing on the who's-to-bowl-next bowling monitors. After some initial discomfort with the anarchy, everyone had a great time, including the birthday boy.

Slurpies at the Science Center

We were at the science center the other day and I had a dying urge for a slurpy. Here's a quick clip of the kids savoring theirs. My appologies for the gunfire audio, but Blogger's video upload is a bit buggy.

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