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Old 02-15-2006, 07:31 PM   #1
kirbylile
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Question "TiVo Thinks I'm Gay" article

Does anyone have the classic Jeffrey Zaslow article in "The Wall Street Journal" from December 2002 entitled "Oh No! My TiVo Thinks I'm Gay" or a link to it somewhere?

I want a friend to read it -- he has had TiVo for 6 months now, and is starting to ask me more serious questions about how to use TiVo -- no longer a newbie and starting to realize what TiVo can do.

Many thanks
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Old 02-15-2006, 07:42 PM   #2
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This one?

http://www.planetdan.net/blog/tivo.html
http://www.public.asu.edu/~risa1410/...profiling.html'


A slightly different version:

Quote:
Posted on Wed, Dec. 04, 2002


Oh no! My TiVo thinks I'm gay

By Jeffrey Zaslow
The Wall Street Journal

Basil Iwanyk is not a neo-Nazi. Lukas Karlsson isn't a shadowy stalker. David S. Cohen is not Korean.

But all of them live with a machine that seems intent on giving them such labels. It's their TiVo, the digital video-recorder that records some programs it just assumes its owner will like, based on shows the viewer has chosen to record. A phone call the machine makes to TiVo in San Jose, Calif., once a day provides key information. As these men learned, when TiVo thinks it has you pegged, there's just one way to change its "mind": outfox it.

Iwanyk, 32, first suspected that his TiVo thought he was gay, because it inexplicably kept recording programs with gay themes. A film studio executive in Los Angeles and the self-described "straightest guy on earth," he tried to tame TiVo's gay fixation by recording war movies and other "guy stuff."

"The problem was, I overcompensated," he says. "It started giving me documentaries on Joseph Goebbels and Adolf Eichmann. It stopped thinking I was gay and decided I was a crazy guy reminiscing about the Third Reich."

He mentioned his TiVo tussle to a friend, who told an executive at CBS' The King of Queens, who then wrote an episode with a My-TiVo-thinks-I'm-gay subplot.

A lot of gadgets and Web sites feature "personalization technologies" that profile consumers by tracking what they watch, listen to or buy. The software, embedded in sites such as Amazon.com and CDNOW.com, then recommends other books, videos and music based on a customer's tastes.

Many consumers appreciate having computers delve into their hearts and heads. But some say it gives them the willies, because the machines either know them too well or make cocksure assumptions about them that are way off base. That's why even TiVo lovers are tempted to hoodwink it -- a phenomenon that was also spoofed this year on another TV show, HBO's The Mind of the Married Man.

Mike Binder, creator and star of that show, had set his home TiVo to record his 1999 movie, The Sex Monster, about a man whose wife becomes bisexual. After that, Binder's TiVo assumed he would enjoy a steady stream of gay programming. Unnerved, he counteracted the onslaught by recording the Playboy Channel and MTV's spring-break bikini coverage. It worked, he says. "My TiVo doesn't look at me funny anymore."

His wife, however, was taken aback when she saw all the half-naked women he was ordering through TiVo. He told her those women meant nothing to him: "I'm just counterprogramming because TiVo thinks I'm gay." She was unamused. The incident inspired an episode of his show.

Though some users contend TiVo has sex on the brain, TiVo's general manager, Brodie Keast, explains that the box is merely "reacting to feedback you give it." Still, the machine employs algorithms -- searching several thousand key details (favorite actors, movie and TV genres) -- that leave some people wondering whether it is judging their predilections.

Karlsson, 26, says he "pre-emptively" found all the religious shows in his TV listings and used the "thumbs down" button on his remote control to tell TiVo he has no interest in them. (Giving three thumbs down is the best way to block a program.) After that, his TiVo recorded movies about creepy homicides. "They all have titles like Murder on Skeleton Isle," says the computer system administrator in Cambridge, Mass.

He uses the "thumbs" button to tell TiVo he hates such films. He also orders cooking shows, which softens TiVo's view of him. "I don't want it thinking I'm an ax murderer," he says.

Cohen, 30, has a TiVo that mysteriously assumed he wanted Korean news programs. The Philadelphia lawyer gave thumbs down to anything Korean, and his TiVo got the message. Sort of. "The next day, it recorded the Chinese news," he says.

TiVo's 500,000 subscribers use the box primarily to record programs they specifically request, and many laud its ability to pause live broadcasts and record a show's entire season. Still, in TiVo-focused online chat-rooms and in secretive admissions to one another, some say they resent being pigeonholed by TiVo's suggestions.

Like TiVo, other techno-profilers run hard with limited information. Ray Everett-Church of Fremont, Calif., who is gay, ordered Queer as Folk videos from Amazon.com. Understandably, the site began suggesting gay-related calendars and books. Then he bought a baby book for a pregnant friend. So for weeks, the site also recommended parenting books. He says it was as if Amazon.com decided he was "a pregnant gay man."

He fought back, he says, "by inundating it with additional data. I searched for other stuff -- on politics, computers -- so it would stop throwing baby books at me. Now it thinks I've abandoned the baby and I'm preparing for a career in politics."

Everett-Church, a privacy consultant for businesses, predicts that as techno-profiling increases, more people will purposely muck up their profiles. They'll fear ordering books on mental illnesses or sexual preferences because they'll wonder if they'll somehow be publicly identified.

All techno-profiling companies contacted for this article said that information gleaned is for the customer's personal use only. Still, even Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos knows the potential mortification factor.

For a live demonstration before an audience of 500 people, Bezos once logged onto Amazon.com to show how it caters to his interests. The top recommendation it gave him? The DVD for Slave Girls From Beyond Infinity. That popped up because he had previously ordered Barbarella, starring Jane Fonda, a spokesman explains.

Some people have given up trying to manipulate personalization technologies. Dino Leon, a hair-salon owner in Birmingham, Mich., says his TiVo quickly figured out that he and his partner were gay. They were OK with that, but just for fun, they tried to confuse the software by punching in "redneck" programs, like Jerry Springer's talk show.

TiVo wasn't fooled, and kept recording gay shows. Leon believes the box was giving them a message: "You're definitely gay. And you're watching too much TV."

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Old 02-15-2006, 09:21 PM   #3
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That's it. Thanks!
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Old 02-15-2006, 10:26 PM   #4
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My TiVo KNOWS I'm not gay.
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Old 02-16-2006, 01:20 AM   #5
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Wasn' t there an episode of "The King Of Queens" that was about this topic?

I'm not gonna mention Leah Remini.
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Old 02-16-2006, 03:10 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MickeS
Wasn' t there an episode of "The King Of Queens" that was about this topic?
Read the 5th paragraph of the article I quoted above.
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Old 02-16-2006, 07:16 AM   #7
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Patton Oswald (who is on KOQ) has a routine about that in his stand-up act as well.
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Old 02-16-2006, 11:15 AM   #8
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Quote:
Read the 5th paragraph of the article I quoted above.
D'oh!
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Old 02-16-2006, 11:24 AM   #9
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My wife's uncle got TiVO and he called me up for help. The funny thing is, he must have gotten a refurb. He doesn't have any SPs set up yet, but he has tons of suggestions recorded of Children's programming, and almost nothing else. I walked him through a "Clear and Delete Everything". It was pretty funny.
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Old 02-16-2006, 11:43 AM   #10
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Old 02-16-2006, 12:02 PM   #11
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I'll recommend "TiVo for Dummies" for your friend. It's a great introduction to how to get the most out of TiVo. I served as technical editor for it, so you can blame any mistakes on me.
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Old 02-16-2006, 03:25 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jlb
My wife's uncle got TiVO and he called me up for help. The funny thing is, he must have gotten a refurb. He doesn't have any SPs set up yet, but he has tons of suggestions recorded of Children's programming, and almost nothing else. I walked him through a "Clear and Delete Everything". It was pretty funny.
Not necessarily a refurb (unless all those suggestions were on the TiVo when he got it) -- TiVo seems to favor children's and family programming with its "default" suggestions, and so if nothing's been given a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, it'll happily keep recording as much of that as possible.
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Old 02-16-2006, 11:01 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trainman
Not necessarily a refurb (unless all those suggestions were on the TiVo when he got it) -- TiVo seems to favor children's and family programming with its "default" suggestions, and so if nothing's been given a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, it'll happily keep recording as much of that as possible.
The last TiVo I got didn't seem to record any suggestions until I rated something.
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Old 02-17-2006, 12:52 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trainman
Not necessarily a refurb (unless all those suggestions were on the TiVo when he got it) -- TiVo seems to favor children's and family programming with its "default" suggestions, and so if nothing's been given a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, it'll happily keep recording as much of that as possible.
My brand-new Humax unit seems to have a FOX-fetish. It likes to record FOX programs of all sorts (The Simpsons, King of the Hill) despite the fact that I don't watch them, nor do I watch anything similar.
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Old 02-17-2006, 11:00 AM   #15
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Before I got 7.2, half or more of my suggestions were preschool kids shows.
Since, it has been Futurama, KOTH, Daily Show, and some PBS DIY stuff (which is SP on my other TiVo). It even recorded a Bob Hope film on its own (I had previously recorded a Hope-Crosby Road picture).
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Old 08-08-2006, 08:08 PM   #16
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Comedian Mark Day emailed me with a new twist on the theory presented via YouTube:
http://www.zatznotfunny.com/2006-08/is-your-tivo-gay/
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Old 08-08-2006, 09:57 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davezatz
Comedian Mark Day emailed me with a new twist on the theory presented via YouTube:
http://www.zatznotfunny.com/2006-08/is-your-tivo-gay/
Hysterical!

(But it probably could have ended around the 1:45 mark!)
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Old 08-08-2006, 10:13 PM   #18
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Who needs this crap (unless they enjoy it)?

Personally, I'll never tell!
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Old 08-09-2006, 01:37 AM   #19
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Ha! Personally I long ago shut off suggestions. They're just not useful to me. I already know what I like, and I DON'T want repeats of stuff I've already watched.

Theoretically I'd like it, but honestly a human being would have a hard time picking out suggestions for me. I guess family members could do a decent job (I get a call from my mom from time to time asking if I know about a show, and usually set it up to record)-but a machine?

EDIT: Also, because I record a couple of what are technically children's shows, it would record all this other junk for me. It did occasionally grab something good-like the News Hour on PBS, but then I don't watch it because of time (even though in an ideal world I'd watch it every day)...so, basically worthless.
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Old 08-13-2006, 07:00 PM   #20
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My TiVo thinks I'm its prior owner.
!
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Old 08-14-2006, 01:30 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Puppy76
Ha! Personally I long ago shut off suggestions. They're just not useful to me. I already know what I like, and I DON'T want repeats of stuff I've already watched.
I keep suggestions on so I know how much space I have left.
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Old 08-14-2006, 01:34 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Havana Brown
I keep suggestions on so I know how much space I have left.
+1
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Old 08-14-2006, 01:42 PM   #23
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Don't need to anymore, since we've got deleted items.
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Old 08-14-2006, 02:18 PM   #24
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Weird Al's parody of Eminem's song Lose Yourself also has the line,

"But I only watched "Will And Grace" one time one day
Wish I hadn't 'cause TiVo now thinks I'm gay"
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