Wednesday, September 30 2015

Adventures in categorizing

The latest version of Amazon’s recommendation page is built around tiles of categories, with one or more items composited as the representative image of the category. I find this less-than-useful, because I generally have no interest in the representative items, making me less likely to click and see what the other recommendations are as I skim across the page.

Also, the categories seem to be based on user-supplied tagging, so that things end up in unusual places. For instance:

Lenses for children

The 7 “children’s books” were: Zelazny’s Madwand, four of Smith’s Lensman novels, Sabatini’s Captain Blood, and some random guy’s Sherlock Holmes story. So, the representative image is something I don’t need to buy (an $8 ebook of a novel first serialized in 1939), the category name is something I don’t want, and the actual search results are mostly things I already own.

My actual wishlist for the Amazon recommendation system is a “less like this” button, so that the first N pages of results won’t be dominated by things related to a single recent purchase, like a watch, a box of coffee pods, or (ghod forbid) a Destroyer novel (seriously; never buy a book in a lengthy series (150!) without marking it “don’t use for recommendations”).