As a child, I would often ask my parents to take me to the library. Leisurely browsing the aisles and pulling books off the shelves to stack up and take home was always an adventure. I would start in children’s fiction, partly because I enjoyed fiction, partly because it made sense. Starting there allowed me to investigate each aisle, systematically working my way towards the other side of the library. It gave me a sense of completion and helped ensure nothing of interest was overlooked. My take-home stack always included at least one book from fiction and one from science, but every section had potential. I enjoyed biographies about George Custer and Mohammed Ali just as much as a book about Mars.
One time my parents took me to an independent children’s bookstore where I overheard the nice old lady who rang up our purchase explain to my mother that she would keep a record of my name and the book I chose so that when I came back next time she could recommend something else I might like.
This idea to me seemed a bit off.
I was only buying one book that day, and I was pretty sure the old lady, nice though she was, had no idea how many different books I would take home if I’d had more money. Although I could not articulate it at the time, as an adult I would say that my choice that day, The Cricket In Times Square, did not necessarily mean that upon my return I would want more books about crickets, or subways.
So perhaps it’s just me, but I would like you, Internet, to stop doing what that nice old lady was trying to do. I’m quite certain that the home page on your website Yahoo! is putting way more articles on baseball to my attention than it would a stranger. I do understand I’ve clicked on my share of baseball articles, that you’ve identified this as an interest of mine, and are thus feeding me more. That’s not what I want.
You also have this neat little online magazine app called Zite, which was fascinating to me at first. I told my wife that I couldn’t break away from it one day because absolutely every article was captivating. And yes, I am still interested in Poland. My grandparents immigrated from there. I lived there for a year. But when I want to find out more about a topic, I can use your search engines. The fact that I read something on Zite does not mean that every time I come back to Zite I want more of that thing from last time and less of everything else. In fact, isn’t that what those “give me more like this” buttons are for? I have stayed away from those for this very reason.
I feel you’re being too pushy, Internet. I mean that literally.
Here’s a perfect example. As I was writing this post, the recommendations widget suggested this picture of zite pasta.
I know you’re trying to help, but you don’t quite get me.