Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Six Degrees of Recommendation Algorithm Separation

Stumbling to the computer the other morning morning with my first cup of coffee, I saw that a friend had posted a rather striking status update on Facebook:
So, Amazon seems to think that my 8 year old daughter who has some Warriors books (cats with a human wizards and warriors society) loaded onto the kindle should try Wesley Morrison’s “Let No False Angels.”
We both had a good laugh over this, even if mine involved some painful snorts of coffee through my nose. And it was a great reminder about how parents need to monitor the advertising their children see, and which books their children are reading. Like my mom did when I was an 8-year-old and she glanced over my shoulder at the Larry Niven paperback in my hands, didn’t like what she saw, and took it from me to be replaced with a Tom Corbett, SpaceCadet novel.

I’m also the first person to admit that Let No False Angels is not for an 8-year-old. The second person would be my sister. Like when her then-very-young daughter plopped into my lap and asked me to read her one of my own stories instead of a book from the pile around us and my sister came tearing into the room shouting “You will not read my daughter one of your stories!

Even better, this may be the first time I’ve actually understood how one of Amazon’s algorithms work. How could a very dark, very adult novel like mine end up being recommended to an 8-year-old with a Kindle full of warrior cat stories? I’m pretty sure it went something like this:

Step One: I publish Let No False Angels.

Step Two: I write a blog post crediting James Lileks and his Kindle novel Graveyard Special with inspiring me to finally pull the trigger on self-publishing my own book.

Step Three: James Lileks writes blog posts about his daughter, who also really enjoys those warrior cat books.

Step Four: My friend’s 8-year-old fills a Kindle full of said warrior cat books.

Step Five: Amazon puts all the dots together and recommends Let No False Angels to my friend’s 8-year-old who loves warrior cat bookss.

Step Six: Kevin Bacon sees this blog post, gets James Cameron to read my novel, a film adaptation ensues, and my wife and I finally buy our dream house.

Okay, I made that last one up, but you get the picture. At least until the next Amazon algorithm adventure, which will probably leave us all completely confused again.

(Cross-posted from the writing blog.)