The Netflix Effect: An Article I Can’t Stop Thinking About

You may have seen this article on computerized suggestions for students about classes they might want to take in The Chronicle–it’s been on top of the “most read” list for a while now. When I first heard of Netflix, most of the talk revolved around their amazing recommendation service. I never thought about using the kinds of algorithms used for advertising on web sites and recommending newspaper articles to readers to drive traffic for student advising. I’m intrigued.

When I read about that Netflix advising, I thought that I’d probably hate it; typically I bristle at any suggestions–following Emerson (in “Gifts”) and Dostoevsky (Underground), I find them to be insulting because of the predictability they imply (I’d rather be almost anything than be predictable, which, ironically, makes me predictable (sigh)). Not so. I don’t always follow it, and I sometimes look at things (or sign up for movies) that I’m really not interested in to try to confound the programming (how dumb is that?), but more often than not, I end up pleased that I was encouraged to see something that I would not have chosen for myself (most often because of a lack of awareness of it). I think I’d like to see it. Am I goofy?