Welcome to the home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Variance and general internet tinkerer. Most of my writing these days is happening over at Why is this interesting?, a daily email full of interesting stuff. This site has been around since 2004. Feel free to get in touch. Good places to get started are my Framework of the Day posts or my favorite books and podcasts. Get in touch.

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Algorithm + Curation

I was struck with the simplicity of this idea on how to make the Hunch + Gifts.com recommendation engine much better.

The real problem, it seems, is that Hunch’s algorithm is more sophisticated than Gifts.com’s stuff selection. The universe of gifts dominates the software’s ability to find good presents within it. To be a little unfair to Gifts.com, it’s like being taken shopping at Spatula City with the world’s most sophisticated personal shopper. At the end of the day, you still end up with a spatula.

As good as an algorithm is, and Hunch’s seems pretty damn good, it’s ultimately a slave to the data (or in this case gifts) it’s working with. As the author notes later, “If you go into a well-curated place like. say, Gravel and Gold in San Francisco, it would take an anti-miracle to purchase something that wasn’t better and more interesting for my girlfriend than a sake set.” I suspect the answer is somewhere in-between.

November 24, 2010