Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Bad Recommendations

I'm still battling those 'recommendations' You Tube keeps making me.  There's less porn, baby and breast feeding videos, (I think my continued dismissal of such suggestions might finally be convincing them that I'm really not interested in watching You Tube videos about such things), but now the weird suggestions go beyond the 'Recently Uploaded and Recommended for You' videos.  Now I get row after row of recommended channels full of weird and esoteric shit.  Right now, I'm about to dismiss Fox News as a recommended channel, (that's one suggestion which is truly offensive).  Previously, I've dismissed all manner of channels about crackpot conspiracy theories, right wing paranoia and  reactionary 'news'.  Trust me, You Tube, I don't want to watch videos of Nigel Farage, Alex Jones and sundry other fruit-loops.  I don't want to watch bile-filled pro Donald Trump bollocks, denouncing Hillary Clinton as the anti-Christ.  Surely my viewing history makes this clear?

The problem, of course, lies with the algorithm which You Tube is using to make these recommendations - it is clearly far too crude to be able to 'read' your viewing history correctly.  It rather reminds me of those relatives you rarely see who give you birthday and Christmas presents based upon some vague memory of what they thought you liked twenty years ago.  Or, worse, based on what your mother has told them she thinks you are interested in.  You know what I mean - they vaguely recall that you like films, so you end up with a Julie Andrews Box Set, including The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins, when what you'd rather have is the complete Russ Meyer collection.  (I hasten to add that this scenario has never actually happened to me).  Similarly, You Tube's algorithm seems to make the most cursory examination of your viewing history and makes the most simplistic of connections with its library of uploaded videos: if you've watched a clip of, say, Paul Robeson singing 'Old Man River' in Showboat, then you must be interested in musicals, so you get served up lots of clips from random musicals as viewing recommendations. 

Which is why, having watched a couple of episodes of Hancock's Half Hour on You Tube, I now have channel after channel of vintage British TV sitcoms recommended to me.  It seems obsessed with the the fact, presumably because I've watched quite a lot of vintage movie trailers, that I want to watch channels devoted to movie trailers.  Which I might, if they weren't all current and upcoming films, rather than the fifties, sixties and seventies movie trailers I actually watch.  Similarly, because I've watched episodes of various news satire series on You Tube, I get recommendations for lots of stuff the algorithm 'thinks' are similar.  Unfortunately, it seems to conflate news satire with crackpot conspiracies and right wing propaganda.  Right now, because I've been watching some 1960s British newsreels, often concerning stuff like the then new road-building programme, I'm suddenly being recommended all manner of transport-related channels, full of videos about buses in Birmingham.  As I said, the algorithm is just not sophisticated enough to provide any kind of useful recommendations.  Not that this bothers You Tube - they just want the clicks and the advertising revenue they generate. Still, at least the breast-feeding videos seem to have stoped at last.

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