Wednesday, February 11, 2004

research note

BACKGROUND: A reader in Sheboygan, WI suggested that I take a proper scientific approach to Question 8 on the What to Rent site [see immediately preceding post], by filling out the personality profile exactly the same except for changing my answer to that question. This way, we could see exactly what kind of difference the question made for the What To Rent secret algorithm's judgments about one's cinematic tastes. "Brilliant!," I thought. So I immediately created new accounts with the usernames SCIENCE1, SCIENCE2, and SCIENCE3, and filled them out with the answers I would normally give--exactly the same in all cases--except I selected three different answers to Question 8.

RESULTS: Here are the recommendations I received:
Wouldn't Do It: 1. Rocky, 2. The Royal Tennenbaums, 3. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, 4. Chasing Amy, 5. The Shawshank Redemption

Have Such Monetary Desperation, Short-Sightedness, or Low Self-Regard That I Would Strap on an Ugly Fanny Pack for Life for $1000: 1. 25th Hour, 2. Reservoir Dogs, 3. Dirty Harry, 4. Lost in Translation, 5. Boogie Nights

Have Such Severe Monetary Desperation, Short-Sightedness, or Low Self-Regard That I Would Strap on an Ugly Fanny Pack for Life for $100: 1. Rushmore, 2. The Hustler, 3. The Insider, 4. Igby Goes Down, 5. Punch Drunk Love

DISCUSSION: If there is any pattern here, either in terms of the similarity of suggestions made within any scenario or to the differences between scenarios, I have no idea what it is. Still, I feel good for having just done some real science.

* The seemingly straightforward of doing this would be to select opposite answers to the question and see what happens. However, as another Crime of Surveying** that I didn't bother mentioning in my last post, the survey actually has you respond using this continuous slider that allows you to select any intervening point between adjacent categories. In the present case, the categories are listed in the order I presented them: "Wouldn't Do It," "$100," "$500," "$1000." Little contemplation is required to see the problem: the person who wouldn't wear the fanny pack forever even if offered $1000 is more like the person who would do it if offered $1000 than the person who would do it if offered $100. So the ordering of categories should be "$100", "$500," "$1000," and "Wouldn't Do It."

** More accurately, it's a Crime of Ordinality. As far as I know, I have not hitherto discussed on the weblog that subcategory of rationalthoughtcrimes that I refer to as Crimes of Ordinality, but this is a fairly crude example. Crimes of Ordinality are numerous, take a subtle variety of forms, are something that I have spent a surprising amount of time thinking about, and could be the object of a 50,000+ word, thoroughly abstruse post that would convince all but the most faithful JFW readers that I had lost it completely.

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