Everything is Good Enough

The thing I like best about internet shopping is the little side-widget that most of the larger companies have that give you ideas on what else you might like.  I remember going to Tower Records in East Lansing when I was 18 and shopping for hours in order to get the best CD I possibly could for $13.  Often I would go in there with just an idea like, “I want something that sounds better than Pearl Jam, but not as good as Soundgarden” and would walk out with something I would listen to for years.  More often, though, I would walk out, after having spent $13 that I somehow scraped together after paying for school and apartment and car and food, disappointed.  A clerk would suggest Mudhoney or Guster.  “You like Nirvana?  Well, here’s the Nirvana of country: The Gourds!”

Since music stores are all but extinct, I enjoy going to iTunes or Amazon and looking at the suggestions they have for me.  Often they’re dead-on; if they’re not, they usually have something like, “People who like what you like also like this” which is also dead-on.

(as a side-note, I have a number of friends who won’t shop online for this very reason.  “You know what they could do with all that information?  They could steal my identity!  They could commit crimes and I could go to jail for it!  I don’t need them knowing my email address.”  Apparently, a company using the knowledge that you bought one Spice Girls song to try and sell you an Indigo Girls song is akin to check fraud and anal rape)

Lately more and more sites have been attempting something like this.  Instead of having acres of servers with exebites of information stored, these companies are using online surveys.  In theory it sounds like it would work: people vote for their favorite things (movies, music, coffee, porn, etc.) and after a while the public is able to see exactly what is the best based on the standards of the website and what is not.

But it never works like that.

Take a look at the picture to the left.  This is from an iPhone app called Fandango; it’s based on a movie website.  Fandango has always had critic reviews right next to fan reviews, which is great considering that sometimes critics have their heads up their own asses (see almost any arthouse film) and sometimes fans are fans of the specific genre and not nessesarily that particular movie (see almost every comic book film).  Well, over the last few weeks they’ve implemented a little system based on viewer votes.  If you look at all the places I’ve circled, every movie out right now is just as good; Fandango is recommending that I see every movie available.  I am Number Four is just as good as Rango which is just as good as the Justin Beiber movie.

Because this system says that every movie is good, this system is useless.

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