Working on the Web and delivering products (audio and video in my case) to people, I’ve been bludgeoned to death with the term “recommendation engine”. Every website in my sphere wants to perfect it: what do consumers want, and how do we give it to them so they don’t have to think? (Hmm, saying that reminds me of the cable television model.) Amazon is the founder and reigning champion of the recommendation engine, and it might be that Web consumers are now OK with (from my perspective, still not clamoring for) recommendations based on what they’ve clicked and what they’ve purchased. Recommendation engines are fine for companies on the Web, but for off the Web, not so much — monitoring what your customers are doing might get you slapped with the totalitarian-ish “big brother” tag or with references to 1984.
I’m thinking about this because a Dutch restaurant just opened that will monitor its customers with hidden cameras in order to provide better services in the future. Diners need to sign a consent form before eating at the restaurant.
Do recommendation engines have a place offline? I’m sure we’ll see more and more of this kind of behavior happening. Or even online: yeah, it still weirds me out that Amazon takes what I’ve looked at and ordered and suggests other crap (surprisingly I like most of what they suggest) on my Amazon home page. At work, I generally view recommendation engines as altruistic and not intrusive, but at home, I generally view recommendation engines as freaky and somewhat of a violation of my privacy. Sucks to see both sides of an issue and to be personally conflicted by them. Yow.