Upgrades are the best

I love being upgraded on flights. I don’t know what the real monetary value of these upgrades are but I love them.

Thanks Delta – I was a bit under the weather and that upgrade made my day.

If Netflix uses machine learning why are the recommendations so bad

A fine post by Tren Griffin this morning about Netflix’ Reed Hastings. A very important quote:

“We are investing heavily in [machine learning] because we want it to be: you turn on Netflix and there’s a row, there’s like four choices, and you just want to watch them all. To get to that consistent view is where we are targeting.”

If this is true, and I believe that Netflix (and Amazon) are using machine learning, why are the recommendations always terrible?

I’ve seen a stat that shows people spend more than 20 minutes daily looking for things to watch. Anecdotally no one has ever told me they liked the Netflix (or Amazon) searching or browsing ability. And of course if you add in a mix of people e.g. Mom, Dad, Kid 1, Kid 2, then the matrix of options and bad choices appears infinite.

A few thoughts on why these brilliant minds and powerful machines are failing:

  1. The tools being used seem to believe that because you liked or bought one thing, you probably want another. How often do you buy something from Amazon, e.g. a broom, only for the rest of the Internet to scream “you probably need a second, maybe third, maybe fourth broom!!!” And you know what? I never do. If I bought something, it was fairly unique. And I won’t need it again for another many years. The same goes for movies – if I watched a RomCom, odds are good I will watch something different next time.
  2. Sample size is small, cost of making a choice is high. I might watch one or two shows a week on Netflix. I simply don’t have 4+ hours available. So each movie I select is a big deal – it can’t suck. Contrast this with YouTube which has a ton of content and the “buy in” is very small. If I select a bad 8-minute clip it won’t matter much. And I can select 10 of these things (and thereby provide 10 signals to Google) vs. 1 to Netflix.
  3. For some strange reason Netflix doesn’t seem to take abandonment into account. “Hey, you watched Vikings, I bet you want some more Norse-y stuff”. Well no, I started ‘The Vikings’ and found it unwatchable.

I’m sure Netflix and Amazon are both working hard on this – I wonder sometimes if they ever leave the office and just watch how people really interact with content. Book recommendations are even worse if that’s possible so this isn’t a unique issue.

10 Years Ago – Gosh I love British Airways | Bricin

This is overall a marginal rant. Overall my flight was fine, the staff at BA was good, etc etc. But flying home yesterday… The flight from Seattle to London went without a hitch. We landed an…

Source: Gosh I love British Airways | Bricin

Ten years goes by awfully fast! We were living in Zurich at the time and for some reason I needed to fly back to Seattle for some set of meetings or another. At the time I didn’t know enough about Microsoft flight policies to simply book a business class flight and not worry about any of the details. Later I flew 600k miles on BA from Paris to Seattle.

Another day, another flight

Flew home on a Delta flight – it feels weird flying Delta after being with Alaska for so long. But in the final analysis Alaska simply doesn’t have enough international partners and it looks like I’ll need that for the next few years.

Interesting the difference between ~Oregon on the flight vs. Seattle.

12 years ago – Scandinavian Airlines Christmas Day 4: Warsaw

Scandinavian Airlines Warsaw! Who wants to go to Warsaw! Okay, given, Tom took his family to Warsaw and said it was great. But I have two things against Warsaw: It’s cold. How cold is it, che…

Source: Scandinavian Airlines Christmas Day 4: Warsaw | Bricin

For several years Scandinavian Airlines had this awesome nativity calendar. Each day in December you’d jump online, open the little door, and out would pop some ridiculous flight deal to somewhere in Europe. At the time SAS flew from Seattle so these deals could be amazing.

I miss that calendar. I watched it daily and bought several flights.

The funniest part about this post is noting a possible trip to Paris but that it might be rough on the kids. We moved to Paris two years later!


I love kebabs. There, I said it. And not US kebabs which are never the right thing. European ones. I first had a kebab back in ’88 in Bremen. Had never heard of such a thing but as drunk food goes it might be the best. When we lived in Europe the kebab was my guilty pleasure. This is a fine example of a kebab in Graz. Not as good as the Parisian version, better than Zürich’s though.