Tailored advertising

This is very much a Mary, Queen of Scots Not Dead Yet posting — it’s been a truly terrible day, but I’m still kicking (though I have no speaking voice and have already slept 13 unhappy hours since going to bed last night).

Random discussion on FB about the odd ‘sponsored’ ads that appear there, one contributor baffled by a flood of products (things she had no interest in) with jokey names. Well, of course, everybody else got different sponsored ads, most of them relatable to items they’d been searching or had actually ordered, but some of them mysterious. The selection of ads is done by algorithm, in ways that simple mortals cannot divine.

And then, as if on cue, I got an ad for this pullover hoodie:

(#1) IT’S A N THING – YOU WOULDN’T UNDERSTAND: available in various patterns, where N is a proper name: either a personal name or a family name, chosen from a large stock of available names — a stock that includes the personal name ARNOLD (see below), but apparently not the rare family name ZWICKY, so that in Google-search fashion, if it can’t find the POUTINE you asked for, it offers you instead something whose name is close in spelling to POUTINE: photographs of people POUTING, or, in this case, the family name WICK

It’s a program, not a person: it has almost no practical knowledge about social life, human goals, and all that good stuff. It could not possibly know that if your name is ZWICKY, WICK wouldn’t do in its place. It is, however, a real whiz at calculating orthographic similarity and searching lists of words. Well, no, there’s no POUTINE ZWICKY (a Québécois distant cousin of mine), but a POUTING WICK is almost as good, right?

In any case, if it’s a WICK THING, I really wouldn’t understand.

Now, the programs that serve the companies that make these garments do know about the personal name ARNOLD, so they’ve been offering me things like the hoodie below, for many months:

(#2) I have speculated aimlessly on just which things are ARNOLD THINGS that you wouldn’t understand; there are certainly a considerable number of ARNOLD THINGS, but then I’ve spent a couple decades and about 10,000 postings explaining them to you, so there really shouldn’t be much mystery left

Note on my daily life: the comatose refrigerator continues to chirp around the clock, awaiting the part that was ordered on 11/29. Some things go bad in the refrigerator (so I’ve been ordering in most of my food, at ruinous expense), but I’ve just discovered that the freezer will, eventually, make ice cubes and keep them frozen. (For the full story, which began on 11/26, see my 11/29 posting “Home front news: the chirping comatose refrigerator”.)

Meanwhile, I’m focused on not despairing.

One Response to “Tailored advertising”

  1. Bill Stewart Says:

    Mystery chirp. When we lived in SF many years ago we started hearing what seemed like random chirping. It really got very annoying. Finally I realized that smoke detectors make that same sound. We searched high and to no avail until we opened one of the kitchen cabinets and found the offender. David was once making pork chops in a grill-bottomed skillet, set off the smoke detector and decided to stick it in the cabinet where it was forgotten until the battery started dying.

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