Netflix knows I am just a sheep

Never have I felt as much like a sheep, a follower, an automaton, a mindless drone, a bundle of predictable synapses, as when I read this paragraph:

For almost a year, Netflix executives have told us that their detailed knowledge of Netflix subscriber viewing preferences clinched their decision to license a remake of the popular and critically well regarded 1990 BBC miniseries. Netflix’s data indicated that the same subscribers who loved the original BBC production also gobbled down movies starring Kevin Spacey or directed by David Fincher. Therefore, concluded Netflix executives, a remake of the BBC drama with Spacey and Fincher attached was a no-brainer, to the point that the company committed $100 million for two 13-episode seasons.

Yep. That’s me. God, I am so predictable that people are making a lot of money mining my honed, considered and long thought through preferences (that just happen to be exactly the same as millions of others).

I feel slightly humiliated. And yet, I am still looking forward to watching more episodes of House of Cards this week. A lot of the time, we choose to be manipulated, so long as we are entertained.

Later in the article, Andrew Leonard sounds a note of caution:

If Netflix perfects the job of giving us exactly what we want, when and how will we be exposed to things that are new and different, the movies and TV shows we would never imagine we might like unless given the chance? Can the auteur survive in an age when computer algorithms are the ultimate focus group? And just how many political dramas starring Kevin Spacey can we stand, anyway?

Tut Tut Tut, Looks Like Rain

While all manner of scandal engulfs politics and the media, and while the British Twittersphere gets angry about abortion, I’m considering the weather. Or at least, two competing attitudes to those who predict it.

First, a fascinating extract from Nate Silver’s book The Signal An The Noise looks at the art of weather forecasting, and the psychologies at play.

Catering to the demands of viewers can mean intentionally running the risk of making forecasts less accurate. For many years, the Weather Channel avoided forecasting an exact 50 percent chance of rain, which might seem wishy-washy to consumers. Instead, it rounded up to 60 or down to 40. In what may be the worst-kept secret in the business, numerous commercial weather forecasts are also biased toward forecasting more precipitation than will actually occur. (In the business, this is known as the wet bias.) For years, when the Weather Channel said there was a 20 percent chance of rain, it actually rained only about 5 percent of the time.

People don’t mind when a forecaster predicts rain and it turns out to be a nice day. But if it rains when it isn’t supposed to, they curse the weatherman for ruining their picnic. “If the forecast was objective, if it has zero bias in precipitation,” Bruce Rose, a former vice president for the Weather Channel, said, “we’d probably be in trouble.”

Continue reading “Tut Tut Tut, Looks Like Rain”