Jul 212010
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Time Magazine a few weeks ago had a very good article on “recommendation engines”. In case you are not familiar with them, it is the bit of software which tracks what you look at on a Web site, and then recommends other things you might like based on what you look at. It is that little paragraph down at the bottom of your Amazon page which says people who looked at the things you looked at, also bought these things.

I tried Netflix a few months ago, and they drive their engine by asking you to rank your interest in about a hundred movies. Based on your answers they start sending you a list of movies they think you might like. It worked some, about a five out of ten in my humble opinion. In fact, the Time Magazine article said that Netflix offered a prize of a million dollars cash to anybody who could improve efficiency of their engine by I believe ten per cent. That is a pretty good indication of how important that kind of thing is to internet sales. Somebody won the prize by the way.

Before I bought my Triton Router at the High, I checked reviews on Amazon to see if anybody had a bad thing to say about it. People get pretty frank in the reviews so if there is something that doesn’t work, you will find out about it. I suppose I looked at two or three alternatives while I was there and the recommendation engine caught on and now about twice a week I get an email from them giving me a list of the best routers available on Amazon. That confirms Time’s conclusion that once you look at something you tend to get categorized and you never get other good recommendations. Too bad they don’t have a way for me to tell them I already bought one. The engines are not very good at extrapolating outside the interest you actually demonstrate. That is why Netflix was so anxious to improve theirs and exactly the same reason your Mama didn’t want you going steady too early in high school. And if you think about it, when is the last time you tried something different in your woodworking skills? We all get in a rut and recommendation engines do not help us.

All but one, of course. Highland has a recommendation engine which is better than any I have run into. The name of it is:

www.MeandChrisandBlairandBenandTerryandSidneyandPhilandMikeand SharonandBillandSabihaandSamandGeorgeandEd.com.

(Bet nobody has used that site name before.)

Call the store and ask somebody on the staff – there are years of woodworking experience and background easily available to you. And if you like our recommendation engine, send a note to the Boss – we’re going for the improvement bonus.

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