You can’t tell the chairman of General Foods that he’s an idiot if you were his classmate at Yale.
Posted by Andrew at PM | Comments (12) | Track Back NY Times has a good article on the state of recommender systems: "If You Liked This, Sure to Love That ".
This is a description of one of the problems: But his progress had slowed to a crawl.
[...] Bertoni says it’s partly because of “Napoleon Dynamite,” an indie comedy from 2004 that achieved cult status and went on to become extremely popular on Netflix.
It is, Bertoni and others have discovered, maddeningly hard to determine how much people will like it.
Malcolm Gladwell recounts the story of Sidney Weinberg, a kid who grew up in the slums of Brooklyn around 1900 and rose to become the head of Goldman Sachs and well-connected rich guy extraordinaire. there are so many more poor people than rich people out there. Here's my hypothesis: Multiply these together, and you might find that many extremely successful people have humble backgrounds, but it does not mean that being an outsider is actually an advantage.
Gladwell conjectures that Weinberg's success came not in spite of but because of his impoverished background: It’s one thing to argue that being an outsider can be strategically useful. He believed that poverty provided a better preparation for success than wealth did; that, at root, compensating for disadvantage was more useful, developmentally, than capitalizing on advantage. Here's more from Gladwell's article: Weinberg was decoupled from the business establishment in the same way, and that seems to have been a big part of what drew executives to him.
At some level, there's got to be some truth to this: you learn things from the school of hard knocks that you'll never learn in the Ivy League, and so forth. The chairman of General Foods avowed, “Sidney is the only man I know who could ever say to me in the middle of a board meeting, as he did once, ‘I don’t think you’re very bright,’ and somehow give me the feeling that I’d been paid a compliment.” That Weinberg could make a rebuke seem like a compliment is testament to his charm.
That he felt free to deliver the rebuke in the first place is testament to his sociological position.
When Bertoni runs his algorithms on regular hits like “Lethal Weapon” or “Miss Congeniality” and tries to predict how any given Netflix user will rate them, he’s usually within eight-tenths of a star.