Serendipity and LinkedIn

 

I was checking my emails this morning when I noticed I had a recommendation of four groups those nice people (badly programmed algorithm) at Linked In thought I might like to join.

One was a management institute (just possible), one a military history group (probable) another an ancient history group (okay) and the last one was UKIP! Now I make no comments about UKIP itself but I wonder how the algorithm that thought that Nigel and I were a match made in heaven works. I was somewhat taken aback. I went through my profile on Linked In, nothing obvious there. I considered my recent past online in general. Nothing I could think of. I’m very pro-Europe, I think the whole idea of not pulling in different directions is an excellent thing. Call me old fashioned but much as WWI and WWII were great fun, you can have too much of a good thing and perhaps having straight bananas is a small price (especially an imaginary price) to pay for 68 years of peace in the EU. I even like the European Court (nothing to do with the EU by the way). They can be a pain but so can transient British governments pandering to tabloid yowling about non-existent law and order problems. Having a basic idea of human rights enshrined in and above English law is a nice check on populist stupidity.

 

And I’m not particularly reticent about saying this online. So how come Linked In thought I was a natural bedfellow for a party which, although growing in policies outwith the anti-EU stance that bore it, is principally associated with an idea I think, at best, odd? I can’t recall ever being on a UKIP related website. I can’t remember even ever mentioning UKIP anywhere. I can remember writing about the EU and the European Court and why they are good things. Maybe Linked In thinks I need to broaden my outlook? Challenge my opinions? I’m all for that. It would be a sad thing if I sat here and remained in an opinionated rut (I generally do but I can recognise that it is sad) despite the evidence. But you know I don’t think that algorithm works like that. I think its stochastic loops are just way off and its heuristics are making some way too big leaps for accuracy. But I don’t want them to change a thing. One of the things I hate, and I mean hate, about the web now is all the analysis and predictive marketing that goes on. When I type a search term into an engine I don’t want it to look at my past searches and try and second guess what I want. I want the same results every time I type in rabbit whether the searcher has previously looked for fluffy bunnies or evil vampire rabbits. I want to decide which variant I am interested in this time. I know the web is exponentially bigger than when I started surfing. But I like serendipity. I don’t want to be patted gently on the head, given cocoa and fed the same things I’ve always had. I want new experience, an open mind. I want to explore the byways I’ve never taken.  Yes, I even want to know what Nigel Farage thinks. But I still would like to know how they worked it out.

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