The Art of Online Recommendations

Wired profiles Hunch, a company trying to master the art of online recommendations. Hunch participants respond to “Teach Hunch About You” questions, and their answers are fed into a master algorithm, which has already revealed some interesting correlations:?”people who swat flies have a thing for USA Today. People who believe in alien abductions are more likely than nonbelievers to drink Pepsi. People who eat fresh fruit every day are more likely to desire Canon’s pricey EOS 7D camera. And respondents who cut their sandwiches diagonally rather than vertically are more likely to prefer men’s Ray-Ban sunglasses.” There’s evidence the database has some teeth – its “Twitter Predictor” successfully predicted (85 percent of the time) “how anyone would respond to a series of questions using nothing more than a Twitter handle.” (HT: Brady Lyles) [%comments]

Ian Kemmish

The sets "people who respond to online questionnaires" and "people who use Twitter" are probably close to being equivalent, but both are far from universal. (And frankly, I'm surprised that either of them contains much of "people who eat fresh fruit every day"!)


I highly doubt they have a large enough sample of "people who believe in alien abductions" to offer that as a statistically significant result.


this and many other published works point out how much information is collected and discoverable for any given person. It is sort of scary to think how much you can learn about a person just by using some more advanced tools and finding public information online.

With that said, I am waiting for tools which let me find like minded people whom I can have more trust in for their information (such as reviews, purchases, insight) vs sifting through thousands of data points with vastly different objectives and measurement techniques. With such a tool would come abuse where people could game the system and be in your 'circle' by tweeting the right things or friending the right people on facebook.


Since eating fresh fruit every day is a fairly expensive habit, it makes a lot of sense that those people would be more likely to shell out the dough for an expensive camera.

And maybe the correlation between believing in alien abductions and drinking pepsi is a result of the people who believe having paranoid thoughts of coke being an evil corporation trying to take over the world.

Mark Iliff

"...cut their sandwiches diagonally rather than vertically..."


Vertical/horizontal makes sense. So does diagonal/lateral. I guess some you win, some you defibrillate...



I could invent a series of questions that I'd get right at least 85% of the time based on someones twitter handle. For instance, "Do you like chocolate?" to which I'd predict yes no matter what their handle. Win.

Not that Hunch doesn't sound awesome, but that's a fishy statistic.


"Since eating fresh fruit every day is a fairly expensive habit" - really depends where in the world you live, if you have an abundance of fruit trees about it is free.