In the early days of the good old World Wide Web, the emerging anonymity was often summed up with the cartoon “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” published in 1993.
Now, 20 years later, not only does the Internet know you’re a dog, it knows whether you’re a mutt or a purebred; whether you like rawhide or stuffed squirrels; and if Eukanuba ends up in your online cart more often than Iams. Our digital trail is captured on every purchase, every tweet, and every wall post.
Many online services use this history to ‘aide’ me as a consumer. Amazon may have been the first to pioneer a robust recommendation engine based on past purchases. But now services like Netflix, Pandora, Facebook, and even my local newspaper’s site all make attempts to pique my interest based on whatever they know about me.
And quite frankly, they suck at it.
It’s not that they don’t properly analyze the data. It’s that they allow the data to be polluted. And in my world, the biggest polluter of my digital persona is none other than my kindergartner.
I have had a Netflix account since 2008. I have probably watched a few hundred movies and TV episodes. In 2010 I got a Roku, and my Netflix account became more accessible, allowing me to dial up Mythbusters or Top Gear whenever I wanted and watch on my TV. Shortly thereafter, however, a shift occurred. Suddenly, my recommendations started looking like this:
To their credit, Netflix has announced they will be introducing “personalized profiles” in the near future, undoubtedly in response to an endless stream of emails from fathers who, in fact, don’t have an interest in Tinkerbell or Babar they way Netflix thinks they do.
My internet persona is becoming an amalgam of my entire family. We have one Amazon Prime account, under my wife’s email. So as far as Amazon is concerned, she not only likes theology books, but also electronics gear and tech books. Polluted. But why would I pay another $80 a year to have my own Prime account?
We experience the same challenge with our recently purchased iPad. In many ways it is a ‘family’ device, used by mom, dad, and kids alike. But it’s my iTunes account associated with the device, so Apple is left to believe that I like Hay Day and PBS Kids as much as I like Evernote and CNBC.
The problem of ‘householding’ isn’t new. Just ask any direct mail business or non-profit who gets separate donations from husband and wife. But you want to believe that we are getting better in this technological age. Unfortunately, the progress is slow.
While I wait, I guess I’ll enjoy another Feel Good Talking Animal show.