Is Tivo Getting Preachy?
Ah, the Tivo - what a wonderful invention. TV on your schedule, TV on demand. The downside is that even though you pay a $13 per month service fee (or a one time $300 fee) Tivo still peppers the little Tivo menu with constantly changing paid advertisements each time the box connects to the Tivo program information service.
The Tivo also has a feature called "suggestions" where it records shows that it thinks you might like, based on the shows that it knows you do like. It's not a very advanced feature - it only "knows" what you like or dislike when you give a show a "thumbs up" or a "thumbs down," and even then, it only keys to genres. So if I give "Law and Order" a thumbs-up, it thinks "oh, he likes genres 'drama' and 'crime,' and then sets out to record all kids of programs in each of those categories.
Given how simple this system is, I have to wonder why my Tivo took it upon itself to record a 30 minute paid advertisement for "Feed the Children." After all, I have "Paid Programming" marked as three-thumbs-down (translation: "I hate Paid Programming"), and I have never in my life given the blasted machine any indication that I prefer shows in the "Fundraiser" genre. Is this a simple case of my Tivo being delightfully incompetent, or did someone at Tivo-central think this was a worthy cause and send out a command causing millions upon millions of Tivos across the country to record this garbage?
Is this a great Save-The-Children-Tivo conspiracy? Is the Tivo just that bad at picking out shows to record? I don't know. It could just as easily be either.
But I do know one thing - I can handle bad suggestions from the Tivo. I'll even tolerate the ads. But what I won't stand for is my Tivo becoming a political soapbox, shilling for whatever cause-du-jour the Tivo Execs deem worthy.
Save the Children? "No thanks." "Not today." "I gave at the office."
Three thumbs down.
Posted by jkhat at January 24, 2006 11:12 AM
The trackback entry for this page is : http://www.inthehat.com/mt/mt-tb.cgi/1228
|# January 24th, 2006 2:26 PM megazone|
|TiVo thumb ratings impact more than just genre - they influence genre, actors, directors, writers, etc. So it could be that some actor, etc, from a show you've rated highly was involved with the special. It doesn't have to have anything to do with the genre of the show.
TiVo has no central control over the specific recommendations. The aggregate data comes from the mothership, but the actually engine performs the calculations on the TiVo itself, using the ratings on that box.
I'd also be sparing with three thumbs down. One thumb down is all it takes to prevent a show from ever being recorded as a Suggestion. Because thumb ratings touch so many aspects of the data, three down can be strong poison that spreads through many shows - the whole 'six degrees of separation' thing. Writers, actors, directors, etc, get around a lot.
|# January 24th, 2006 2:45 PM kris|
|I was going to say that I thought that the recommendation engine that megazone described seemed a little broad, but then I tried to think of examples that make it sound ridiculous and I couldn't come up with any, particularly around actors. I guess actors tend to work in the same genres. For example, if you like Melrose Place you probably would want to record Desperate Housewives (with Marcia Cross as the common denominator). Likewise, it's not a stretch to think that someone who likes the West Wing would want to check out some MASH repeats.
Can you give specific actors a three thumbs down rating? Because I can wholeheartedly declare that I will never want to see a show that stars either Tyne Daly or Kellie Martin.
|# January 24th, 2006 4:26 PM JohnTant|
|As a TiVOer I can report that I did not have a "Feed the Children" special recorded for me in my suggestions. I'm thinking Cindy Sheehan probably breaks into your house, James, and watches all kinds of stuff while you are away. |
|# January 24th, 2006 6:07 PM james|
|heh. she's probably the one who keeps drinking all my beer, too. ;-) |
|# January 24th, 2006 8:27 PM megazone|
I'm a TiVo geek. (Enough that I regularly abuse Google Blog Search looking for TiVo issues in blogs to comment on - which is how I popped in here. ;-) ) I've been a user for about 4 years, and I chat with some of the folks who work at TiVo. (And run TiVoLovers.com.) It is how the thumbs work - but since the data is part of a pool, and your data is used in a calculation with the aggregate, it isn't as black and white as giving a show a positive rating means any other shows with the same actor(s) will be recorded - just that they're more likely to be. However, other things could make the same show less likely to be recorded, or some other program may be even more likely to be, so it wins, etc.
As for being able to edit the ratings by actor - there used to be. Back in the 2.0 TiVo software there was a backdoor into an incomplete feature called Teach TiVo. Teach TiVo allowed you to tweak the ratings for any actor, director, show, etc, by hand. It was incomplete (which is why it was behind a backdoor and not officially supported) but functional, and I used to play with it. However, for some reason TiVo decided not to release it, and in subsequent releases the backdoor stopped working and Teach TiVo became a thing of legend and myth. :-)
Actually, I can understand why it was dropped - it didn't really fit with TiVo's KISS philosophy, and I expect it probably didn't test well with the average user. You really had to understand the heuristics of the system to make effective tweaks.
Still, I've filed an RFE for something like it - though at this point I think it'd be better either as a feature of TiVo Central Online (on the TiVo website), and/or a local XML web service (which is how TiVoToGo is implemented) that would allow 3rd parties to write tools to use and modify the data.
|# January 24th, 2006 9:40 PM kris|
|The whole recommendation thing is one of the things that turns me off about Tivo. I'm just not a fan of recommendation engines in general. At least ones that work off of some sophisticated algorithim or something. I get annoyed when, after I buy a gift on Amazon, my front page is filled with a bunch of outdoor survival or XBox 360 stuff. It irritates me that I have to go into their recommendations engine and delete that kind of stuff rather than it being the other way around.
On the other hand, on the retail site I work on, the recommendations are all made by a human merchandiser. I'm sure it's less efficient, but I do think the results tend to make more sense.
I'm sure one of these days I'll get Tivo and fall in love with it too, but for now I'm just kind of mystified by it and the devotion it receives.
|# January 24th, 2006 10:37 PM james|
|kris, if it bugs you that much, you can turn off the tivo suggestion feature. it's really more of an auxiliary feature anyway. but there's really no point in turning it off - there is no reason that you'd have to delete errant recommendations, since the shows that you specifically ask the tivo to record always have priority, in both time slots and disk space.