Open Thread: Netflix Is Watching You Back

Break out the tinfoil. Here’s Andrew Leonard, at Salon:

I hit the pause button roughly one-third of the way through the first episode of “House of Cards,” the political drama premiering on Netflix Feb. 1. By doing so, I created what is known in the world of Big Data as an “event” — a discrete action that could be logged, recorded and analyzed. Every single day, Netflix, by far the largest provider of commercial streaming video programming in the United States, registers hundreds of millions of such events. As a consequence, the company knows more about our viewing habits than many of us realize. Netflix doesn’t know merely what we’re watching, but when, where and with what kind of device we’re watching. It keeps a record of every time we pause the action — or rewind, or fast-forward — and how many of us abandon a show entirely after watching for a few minutes.

Netflix might not know exactly why I personally hit the pause button — I was checking on my sick son, home from school with the flu — but if enough people pause or rewind or fast-forward at the same place during the same show, the data crunchers can start to make some inferences. Perhaps the action slowed down too much to hold viewer interest — bored now! — or maybe the plot became too convoluted. Or maybe that sex scene was just so hot it had to be watched again. If enough of us never end up restarting the show after taking a break, the inference could be even stronger: maybe the show just sucked.

In 2012, for the first time ever, Americans watched more movies legally delivered via the Internet than on physical formats like Blu-Ray discs or DVDs. The shift signified more than a simple switch in formats; it also marked a major difference in how much information the providers of online programming can gather about our viewing habits. Netflix is at the forefront of this sea change, a pioneer straddling the intersection where Big Data and entertainment media intersect. With “House of Cards,” we’re getting our first real glimpse at what this new world will look like…

For years Netflix has been analyzing what we watched last night to suggest movies or TV shows that we might like to watch tomorrow. Now it is using the same formula to prefabricate its own programming to fit what it thinks we will like. Isn’t the inevitable result of this that the creative impulse gets channeled into a pre-built canal?…

167 replies
  1. 1
    redshirt says:

    Also Asteroids. :)

  2. 2
    PeakVT says:

    I’ve heard ereader vendors are doing much the same with their devices.

  3. 3

    This gives me the mehs. I refuse to get worried about this. So Netflix will create content based on the data it collects when we all hit the pause button at the same time? Please I’ve got more important shit to worry about.

  4. 4
    cmorenc says:

    Booksellers always knew what kinds of books sold what numbers. Television always had the Nielson survey ratings to determine who watched what in what amounts. Movies always had daily/weekly box office numbers to tell how many folks watched what and over how much time. The only difference in what Netflix is doing is the richness, amount, and accuracy of information, rather than the nature of the effort they are undertaking.

    However, the media have ALWAYS tried to steer future content to what they think we’ll like, based on what they think has been sold or been watched before. IMHO what Netfix is doing will create no more of a straightjacket than media beancounters have always tried to impose over content. The feedback cycle between numbers and results may be a bit more nimble, but the overall process won’t really change in nature. Some more creative/daring/novel content will always succeed in finding enough of a niche to take off, while too much content will always seem like stupid dreck. We remember the classic good stuff from earlier decades of TV/movies, and forget the much huger volume of drab or barely watchable banal crap that was around at the same time in any given era. The same applies to books.

  5. 5
    redshirt says:

    Real mind reading is in our near future. Using MRI’s we can “see” what parts of the brain activate regarding whatever stimuli. This can be predicted and information can be extracted, such that it is already possible to “read” someone’s mind – to literally see what they are seeing.

    Also too: Typo in the Title, Anne, or internetism?

  6. 6
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    sn’t the inevitable result of this that the creative impulse gets channeled into a pre-built canal?…

    Their first two major productions are a remake of a British show, and a revival of a network show. Netflix is a business like the networks and the studios. They will probably have hits and misses, some originality and some retreads.

    As to the rest, am I supposed to be afraid because Netflix knows how I use Netfilx?

  7. 7
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    So that’s why Netflix added “Crap That Only You Would Watch” to my selection menu.

  8. 8
    Xantar says:


    Indeed, I am SHOCKED to hear that Netflix will be creating content based on what it thinks we will like based on survey data. Why, this means we’ll probably have executives stifling the freedom of the writers and directors, telling them there needs to be a black character or there needs to be an action scene at this point or someone’s voice needs to be higher. How I long for the freedom of television!

  9. 9
    Pinkamena Panic says:

    Selective paranoia. Business as usual on the Internet.

  10. 10
    Roger Moore says:

    Isn’t the inevitable result of this that the creative impulse gets channeled into a pre-built canal?

    Yeah, and Shakespeare shouldn’t have been allowed to watch the audience of his plays because it gave him too much information about what parts they liked. Explain to me again why it’s bad for writers to know their audience.

  11. 11
    Chet says:

    Well, if hitting the “Pause” button didn’t generate an event, it wouldn’t do anything, and your movie wouldn’t pause. These are event-driven interfaces because it’s no longer 19-fucking-60 and the days when software did one thing, one thing only, and stopped when it did it are gone. Well, except for tar.

    Still, though, pirate it and you own it forever, and nobody’s watching to see if you rewind to watch the boobs in Spartacus again.

  12. 12
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    This is why I don’t like streaming. People twice my age have called me nuts for it. I don’t care. No, they’re probably not doing anything nefarious with it. Is not wanting to be watched by someone you don’t know not a good reason for something anymore? Yes, companies have always done this sort of research and now it’s more intensive due to more powerful technology. Similarly, watching someone’s house from across the street and rooting through their closet are the same basic thing, one is just more intensive. Why would anyone be concerned over the difference?

    I like buying physical things, and I like storing those physical things and watching them on my own, without anyone else peering over my shoulder. Yes, it makes me an anachronistic crank. So what?

  13. 13
    Pinkamena Panic says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: Here’s a free tip: THEY TRACK YOU WHEN YOU BUY THOSE PHYSICAL THINGS.

    Selective paranoia.

  14. 14
    Roger Moore says:


    Well, if hitting the “Pause” button didn’t generate an event, it wouldn’t do anything, and your movie wouldn’t pause.

    Yes, they have to get the events because it’s a streaming service and they don’t want to keep streaming when you’ve given up on the show. But that doesn’t mean they have to track the events and data mine them.

    These are event-driven interfaces because it’s no longer 19-fucking-60 and the days when software did one thing, one thing only, and stopped when it did it are gone. Well, except for tar.

    Obviously not a user of GNU tar.

  15. 15
    sb says:

    Happy to be convinced otherwise but I got no problem with Netflix providing options I might like based on my viewing habits.

    I just binged through all 13 episodes of House of Games and got recommended West Wing (see it) and some movie about an boxer risking lifelong damage if he fights one more time (wtf?).

    Love Netflix. Love it.

  16. 16
    Joel says:

    @redshirt: Considering that nMRIs require enormous magnets, highly tuned pulse programs and sensitive decoupling and receiving coils, it’s not about to become an undetectable process anytime soon.

  17. 17
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: I sometimes worry about doing business– banking, shopping, bill paying– on line, but I still do it. OTOH, I wouldn’t go near Facebook if Zuckerberg paid me. Well, he could probably meet my price, but wouldn’t want to.

    Couldn’t Cole be selling all our email addresses to the RNC? Or Amway?

  18. 18
    Roger Moore says:

    @Pinkamena Panic:


    Not if you pay cash and don’t use a club card. And they sure as hell can’t track usage of those physical things the same way they can track on-line usage. Even if a retailer knows what I’ve bought, they don’t know what I’ve done with my physical purchases after I’ve received them. They don’t know every time I watch a movie, and they don’t even know if I keep them, give them as gifts, or throw them away.

  19. 19
    RSR says:

    Yup, and so does TiVo and DirecTV and Dish and TWC and anyone providing a DVR. Think Microsoft & Google/Youtube aren’t cataloging and mining all that data.

    The clear answer is a privacy policy law that, akin to a copyright or trademark, makes that info about you, yours. Any use of that data without your, um, express written consent (it is big Sunday game weekend that we can’t mention, right..?) a violation of your rights.

    Of course, then some people might use privacy to get abortions and crap, so that’s not gonna work. Oh, and the oligarchs that own our government won’t allow it either.

  20. 20
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    @Pinkamena Panic:

    Yes, if I go to a store and buy a used CD (for example), the store owner puts some device in it that tracks how much I listen to it, when I listen to it, what other CDs I listen to it with, and other people I know who have listened to it. It’s exactly the fucking same!

    Selective my ass.

  21. 21
    Jeff Spender says:

    Meh. This is just a cost/benefit scenario. Think of it as the economy of information. What information are you willing to trade for a service?

    Netflix gives you unlimited streaming for a relatively low monthly fee.

    Facebook gives you a social networking platform.

    If you derive any utility from either of them, information covers some of the cost.

  22. 22
    Hal says:

    Speaking of Netflix, I am amazed at how shitty their user interface is. I find movies all the time that I did not know were even available through streaming, or as rentals I had forgotten were now on DVD. I wish google would buy them off, and make a fantastic search engine. I also noticed the search feature on PS3 is better than Roku, which surprises me since Roku’s only function is streaming.

    Oh, and was Crash really the number 1 rental on Netflix for like 3+ years?

  23. 23
    Pinkamena Panic says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: So I take it every purchase you make is made with cash sourced anonymously, at stores with no cameras anywhere nearby, reached by walking, where nobody knows you.

    Selective. And you’re a rude little shit, too. I suggest you watch your mouth.

  24. 24
    The Dangerman says:

    Put me down as a “meh, don’t care”. More data means better information which means better products. Rinse, repeat.

    BTW, did anyone take one for the team and go see Movie 43? I had hopes for a modern day Kentucky Fried Movie, but, from all appearances, M43 failed miserably. How the fuck did they get all that talent to do that drek?

    ETA: Also, someplace, right now, is a list of who REALLY likes boobs.

  25. 25
    Pinkamena Panic says:

    By the way, for the tinfoil hatters: Ghostery has pointed out no less than seven tracking elements on this very page.

    Selective paranoia.

  26. 26
    Corner Stone says:

    @Southern Beale:

    Please I’ve got more important shit to worry about.

    Such as?

  27. 27
    Roger Moore says:

    Yeah, I understand the whole “it must be crap if it’s popular” side of things. I’m just pointing out that knowing your audience is a vital part of creating great art. The point of art is to get its audience to react, and that simply isn’t possible if the artist doesn’t know his audience and how they’ll respond.

  28. 28
    Corner Stone says:

    @Spaghetti Lee:

    This is why I don’t like streaming. People twice my age have called me nuts for it

    When will you start to listen to your 26 yr old betters?

  29. 29
    Corner Stone says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    Couldn’t Cole be selling all our email addresses to the RNC? Or Amway?

    Cole probably can’t even be bothered to find a clean bathrobe to put on.

  30. 30
    Corner Stone says:

    @Roger Moore:

    Not if you pay cash and don’t use a club card.

    Ear ID. No one thinks to disguise the shape of their ears. And it’s unique.
    They know who you are, Mr. “Strawberry Shortcake and Pals visit the Homeless Shelter”.

  31. 31
    Corner Stone says:


    Speaking of Netflix, I am amazed at how shitty their user interface is.

    No shit. The day I worry about the completely incompetent buffoons running Netflix figuring out how to stick me in an internment camp for watching Rose McGowan films is the day I…well, shit. Boobs.

  32. 32
    Groucho48 says:

    Isn’t personal information stripped out of the data?

  33. 33
    NotMax says:

    If I ever hit the $$ jackpot, would hire a small cohort of at-home temps to hit pause on everything at precise intervals. In fact, shouldn’t be all that difficult to work up software that punches pause on its own, activated by a timer.

    Love to see what is produced when the data that many are pausing every 3 minutes and 11 seconds is worked into the recipe.

  34. 34
    The Dangerman says:

    All this talk of lady parts and I’m still getting ads for VoIP? Consider me incredibly disappointed.

  35. 35
    redshirt says:

    @Joel: I predict within our collective lifetimes on this website (20-130) there will be common place mind reading tech. Like a scalp cap the police put on you when they ask you questions. It’ll work.

  36. 36
    Jeff Spender says:


    Have you ever heard of transcranial magnetic stimulation?

  37. 37
    RSR says:

    There’s more than the pure privacy issue here. We’re all being commoditized–but in more excruciating detail than ever before–with little knowledge and even less compensation.

    We should have more control over the specific data about us that is being sold.

    I’m not really sure how to phrase what I feel about this issue. But I know I’m getting shafted, and that most of our elected officials see nothing wrong with the situation.

  38. 38
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Pinkamena Panic: Jesus. WTF?

  39. 39
    Corner Stone says:

    @RSR: How would you suggest we monetize that info, those predilections, as individuals?

  40. 40
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    @Corner Stone: lolz

  41. 41
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    @Pinkamena Panic:

    Yes, I’m a ‘tinfoil hatter’. Because I don’t agree with you, I’m crazy. I’m a lunatic. I should just be laughed at and ignored.

    Huh. And you called me rude.

    I also love your false dichotomy. If you don’t want all your purchases monitored then you have to do all those things or else you’re a hypocrite? Is there something wrong with trying to minimize the intrusion, as much is as possible? Or with not using previous intrustion as a justification for more intrusion? Or having any opinion on the issue between the black-or-white dichotomy you set up?

    Yes, I confess, I do some things online because I don’t live within walking distance of everything I want. So? That gives anyone who wants it the right to root through my personal information? If internet commerce really is no different from regular commerce, why do online providers have these presumed rights that real-world providers don’t? And I’ll ask again-what happened to privacy as a general principle? Just not liking the idea of being spied on, even if nothing bad will come of it? Yes, it’s harder to maintain these days, and will probably be next to impossible pretty soon. Why am I the lunatic for trying to maintain it?

  42. 42
    Roger Moore says:

    @Pinkamena Panic:
    Actually, a really interesting point about the ease of on-line vs. physical purchase tracking is people’s behavior when buying porn. It is widely accepted* that people buy much more porn online than they did back when it required going to a bricks-and-mortar store, and that a big chunk of that is because they were worried about people knowing what they were buying. They were more worried about people they knew finding out they were buying porn than some faceless business somewhere. So it’s not just how much information is being collected but also who is collecting it. Given that a big worry in the instance of porn is about information sharing, businesses collecting that information is probably less of a worry; that information is valuable, proprietary business information, and the businesses that collect it have selfish reasons to want to keep it secret.

    *Yes, I realize this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true, but in this case I think it probably is

  43. 43
  44. 44
    Xantar says:

    @Spaghetti Lee:

    Get real for a second. As an individual, you aren’t very interesting and no company is going to bother singling out your particular user file and figuring out your viewing habits, if they even have the technical capability to do that. What they are doing is taking data from you and aggregating it with data from thousands upon millions of other people in order to generate statistical models of what people similar to you might like. And then they will tailor their ads or viewing suggestions accordingly which you are free to ignore. The comparison to rooting through your closet is completely inapt.

  45. 45
    jheartney says:

    When I started watching Netflix streaming it was glaringly obvious that this was the future of video. No commercials, complete user control over the watching experience, and no physical media to be produced, warehoused, sold and eventually, disposed of. Just data sent over a connection.

    There are complaints that the image quality doesn’t match the best of physical media, and that’s true – for now. As available bandwidth rises (and it will) then it’ll be possible to achieve as much quality as you want. And given that each streaming connection is customized, streaming video providers aren’t locked into a codec (unlike DVD, Blu-Ray or broadcast). They can support legacy hardware with legacy content, while simultaneously offering new codecs, and whatever features those codecs make possible, to new hardware. (Consider American digital broadcast, which is stuck with the aging MPEG-2 codec, unless someone wants to obsolete all the existing DTV receivers out there.)

    Since we installed Netflix on most of our TV’s, we’ve only bought a handful of DVD’s. We’ve got a fair number from the library (though fewer than we used to) and a smaller number from Redbox. But compared to streaming, the older content formats are quickly losing out. Further, I now can barely tolerate commercial interruptions on broadcast, and the same goes for my kids, who are being trained at an early age that commercials are optional.

    The studios are as clueless about all this as they have been about the internet all along – witness the attempt to keep “Game of Thrones” off streaming, and to force people to buy HBO in order to see it. That won’t last; “House of Cards” is demonstrating that this level of content can work in a streaming ecosystem. Once that lesson gets learned, there’s no going back.

  46. 46
    Pinkamena Panic says:

    @Roger Moore: Waitwaitwaitwaitwait…

    …people buy porn?

  47. 47
    MikeJ says:


    As available bandwidth rises (and it will)

    Maybe if you live in Yurp. For usians, not so much,.

  48. 48
    wasabi gasp says:

    The most uniform event triggered across the Netflix users I know is the cancel service event.

  49. 49
    Corner Stone says:

    @Xantar: IOW, I may not realize it, but there are an untold million others who also like to watch Japanese short films featuring Furries vs US Civil War re-enactors wearing bikinis and battling it out in 2 foot pools of chocolate pudding while singing Viking poetry.

    That’s not just me, right?

  50. 50
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Corner Stone: Chanting, not singing.

    ETA: And butterscotch, not chocolate. Weirdo.

  51. 51
    The Dangerman says:


    When I started watching Netflix streaming it was glaringly obvious that this was the future of video.

    Of quality scripted video, anyway. There is precious little scripted TV of any quality these days (and this point assumes that “reality” TV isn’t scripted, which we know isn’t so, but ya know what I mean). Person of Interest has been quite interesting, but most standard TV is such crap.

  52. 52
    MikeJ says:

    Jesuss. Just home from the airport, and I put too much lemon in my honey and bourbon, and it’s better than I thought it owuld be. Tangy, even. Oh shit I’ve turned into snagglepuss.

    No mater how much you think you;re doing to anonymise yourself, you can be tracked by the very action of trying to anonymise yourself. You might not know it, but some people make their living off noticing what one person does and then trying to find a class of people who do the samwe.

  53. 53
    mdblanche says:

    There have always been hacks, there have always been starving artists, and there have always been people in between. Netflix giving new data to hacks who would take advantage of it isn’t going to change anything.

    On the other hand, I would be lying if I didn’t say I found the fact that all the ads I’m seeing on this thread are for Netflix or Hulu at least a little creepy.

  54. 54
    Roger Moore says:

    There is some fairly creepy stuff they can do by mining the aggregated data and comparing the patterns they identify with your personal shopping habits. The most famous example is that Target decided that pregnant women and new mothers are a valuable market, so it would be good to figure out when women are pregnant based on their shopping habits. Their predictions are apparently eerily good; they can estimate a woman’s due date to within a couple of weeks based only on her shopping habits. Maybe you’re OK with that, but I can understand why people aren’t happy with the idea of the store they shop at knowing that kind of personal detail (and potentially revealing it accidentally).

  55. 55
    Corner Stone says:


    You might not know it, but some people make their living off noticing what one person does and then trying to find a class of people who do the samwe.

    Such as?

  56. 56
    MikeJ says:

    @Corner Stone: Beats the fuckoutame.

  57. 57
    jheartney says:

    @MikeJ: Maybe not right away, but it’ll eventually come. Google is laying fiber to residences in Kansas City, and there are some wireless possibilities. The dinosaurs won’t continue forever.

    Fifteen years ago few had broadband. Now it’s almost everywhere. These things change.

  58. 58
    Roger Moore says:

    @Pinkamena Panic:

    people buy porn?

    Yes, they do. People are actually willing to pay for stuff that has high production values and/or caters to unusual kinks.

  59. 59
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Corner Stone: Marketing majors.

  60. 60
    The Dangerman says:

    More cowbell boob talk, dammit, as everything IS either Netflix or Hulu now.

  61. 61
    handsmile says:

    @Pinkamena Panic:

    I see you got there first, but that’s certainly what crossed my mind. Well, maybe in Utah…

  62. 62
    Corner Stone says:

    @Roger Moore:

    People are actually willing to pay for stuff that has high production values and/or caters to unusual kinks.

    High production values? Excuse me while I larf until I pass out.

  63. 63
    jheartney says:

    @The Dangerman: A lot of what’s on Netflix is network TV shows. I imagine broadcast has years still to run, but eventually it’ll be a ghetto for whoever doesn’t have 100+mbs.

  64. 64
    NotMax says:

    @Corner Stone

    Everything’s better with Klingon opera.

  65. 65
    MikeJ says:

    @jheartney: When you’re a star, I know you’ll fix everything

  66. 66
    Corner Stone says:

    @MikeJ: Well, if I may not know it. And you may not know it. Then how the fuck do we know people are making a living doing it?

  67. 67
    Corner Stone says:

    @NotMax: Strangely, I agree with you 100%.

  68. 68
    Donut says:

    I like boobies.

  69. 69
    Anne Laurie says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: I’ll admit I sometimes wonder if this whole blogsite isn’t a shell by Professor Cole for his marketing undergrads to mine for data on liberal-leaning internet addicts. It would explain some of his, ah, unexpected FP choices, not to mention the peculiar rhythm of his own posting…

  70. 70
    The Dangerman says:


    A lot of what’s on Netflix is network TV shows.

    True and much of it old; my Parents are hooked on old Adam 12, Emergency, and McMillan and Wife. I’d be fascinated on how the residuals on those old shows work in light of this new distribution channel. I assume the old actors still get jack.

  71. 71
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Donut: Wrong thread. Wait, no. It works here too.

  72. 72
    Corner Stone says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: I have known many Marketing peeps, my friend.
    They could not, in Voltron combination mode, all together design a coherent plan to make use of gathered information.
    Now, could they come up with a plan to stay employed changing branding, slogans or logos every 18 to 24 months?
    Yes, they are absolute geniuses at making that outcome happen.

  73. 73
    burnspbesq says:

    @Roger Moore:

    Sorry, you’re kidding yourself. They may not know what you, Roger Moore, bought, but they know in the aggregate what everybody who shopped at that store bought, and they’ll have a pretty good idea where in the store it was picked up. If they really want to get granular, they can look at security camera video to see what ages, genders, and ethnicities are buying which products. And the next time you go to that store, those data will have influenced what is displayed where.

    If you don’t want to be an input to a marketing algorithm, paying cash isn’t nearly good enough. You can never shop at the same store twice, and you shouldn’t consistently shop on the same day or at the same time.

    You can’t win. The only question is how much you want to inconvenience yourself while losing.

  74. 74
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Anne Laurie: If you still think that this blog is run by anyone but Tunch, you are more naive than I suspected. Just saying.

  75. 75
    jheartney says:

    @Donut: Who doesn’t like boobies?

  76. 76
    Corner Stone says:

    @Anne Laurie:

    for his marketing undergrads to mine for data on liberal-leaning internet addicts

    Not really a good ROI to mine info on like 12 or less commenters.

  77. 77
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Corner Stone: The original comment was talking about people “trying” to use this data. It didn’t say they were successfully doing it.

  78. 78
    jheartney says:

    @The Dangerman:

    I assume the old actors still get jack.

    I think you’re right.

  79. 79
    MikeJ says:

    @Corner Stone: Perhaps even they don’t know it. LIke when SOnic Youth started recording for DGC. My first pro gig was running live sound for a guy who eng’ed Washing Machine. So you never know what will happen.

  80. 80
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Corner Stone:

    Not really a good ROI to mine info on like 12 or less or fewer commenters.

  81. 81
    Roger Moore says:


    If you don’t want to be an input to a marketing algorithm, paying cash isn’t nearly good enough.

    I don’t particularly care about whether or not I’m part of a marketing algorithm. I do care if people are able to use my shopping patterns to infer personal details of my life that I don’t necessarily want to share. The example of Target wanting to know when women are pregnant and when they’re due is an example of that kind of creepy inference of personal details that I’d really rather not have companies doing.

  82. 82
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    u bitchez is wack

  83. 83
    Corner Stone says:

    @Roger Moore: Make sure you don’t look directly at the billboards when you exit the subway.

  84. 84
    Xantar says:

    @Roger Moore:

    That’s fair enough. I confess I didn’t think of your Target example although I still am not really bothered by it since Target still has no personal interest in an individual woman. If the fear is that they will accidentally reveal that personal information to other people who shouldn’t know, then we can talk about legislation to make the corporation criminally or civilly liable in those cases. But the mere fact that some database connects my user number with a particular other class? Honestly, that’s not what concerns me. As long as there is data out there, someone will be collecting it. What we should be worrying about is what people do with it, and that’s worth debating.

    With regard to Netflix, I just don’t see what they could glean from my viewing habits that would disturb me. Famous last words, I know, but I take the standpoint that they just don’t care about most of my personal life.

  85. 85
    Corner Stone says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: If you meant to redirect me down a rabbit hole with your proposed correction, consider it done.

  86. 86
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Corner Stone: Nah, I was just being a dick.

  87. 87
    danielx says:


    Pay cash. That nasty smelly stuff that businesses and governments alike hate. That’s an excellent reason for using it.

    Saturday Night Random Dozen from the the IPod device –

    One Short Night – Grace Potter and the Nocturnals
    Have A Heart – Bonnie Raitt
    Heartbreak Hotel – Elvis Presley
    Blackbirds – Erin KcKeown
    Heroes – Adrian Belew and Martha Wainwright
    Cruel Mistress – Flogging Molly
    Ball and Chain – Van Morrison
    Oh Bess, Where’s My Bess (Porgy and Bess) – George Gershwin
    Can’t Get Away From You – Nicolette Larson
    Bears – Lyle Lovett
    Lonesome Road – Madeleine Peyroux
    Accidentally Like A Martyr – (the irreplaceable) Warren Zevon

    Also, too, because I can’t count…

    Uninhabited Man – Richard Thompson

  88. 88
    Corner Stone says:


    Pay cash. That nasty smelly stuff that businesses and governments alike hate. That’s an excellent reason for using it.

    What is the excellent reason?

  89. 89
    danielx says:

    @Corner Stone:

    Businesses and governments hate cash – good enough for me.

  90. 90
    MikeJ says:


    Radiation Vibe – Fountains of Wayne
    Little GTO – Alex Chilton
    Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me [live] – U2
    Rock Me (In The Cradle Of Love) – Deborah Allen
    Kizza Me – Big Star
    Tramp – Otis Redding & Carla Thomas
    Chocolate City – Parliament
    The Evil Eye – Joe Jackson
    April Fool – Patti Smith
    How She Lied By Living – The Posies

  91. 91
    Corner Stone says:

    @danielx: Ha! Government loves you using fiat money. Big Banksters may not but Uncle Sugar is more than happy for you to hoard and transfer paper cash money just as much as you like.

  92. 92
    Jon H says:

    Famed SEAL sniper one of two killed at a gun range in N. Texas

    Shooter was another veteran.

    Sheesh, if SEAL snipers at gun ranges aren’t safe, who is?

  93. 93
    wyliecoat says:

    “Isn’t the inevitable result of this that the creative impulse gets channeled into a pre-built canal?”

    One of the few moments I am grateful for my PDD son who follows no social conventions when he creates.

  94. 94
    The Dangerman says:

    I thought businesses love cash; hell, one of my mechanics gives me a monster discount for using cash. I’m sure he declares the income. ;-)

  95. 95
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @efgoldman: Also too, guns are designed to reach out and touch someone from a distance. One can only be aware of so much – no matter how talented and well trained.

  96. 96
    Alison says:

    @danielx: (Cheating and using today’s “recently played”, since I’m watching a movie)

    1. Leipzig – Client
    2. Still Life – Covenant
    3. Why Can’t You Be Nicer To Me – The White Stripes
    4. Strange Attraction – The Cure
    5. Love Is A Place – Metric
    6. Glass – Ingrid Michaelson
    7. Ashes to Ashes – David Bowie
    8. Push Downstairs – Underworld
    9. Say It To Me Now – Glen Hansard
    10. Your Cloud – Tori Amos
    11. He Wants You – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
    12. Call Your Girlfriend – Robyn

    We have slightly different iTunes libraries :)

  97. 97
    Anne Laurie says:

    @Corner Stone:

    Not really a good ROI to mine info on like 12 or less commenters.

    Y’know, I wonder — not kidding, this time — how much info could be gathered just from all the ‘invisible’ non-commenting clickers on a site like this? I assume the servers keep track of how many clicks from which ISPs each individual post garners, but I’m not tech-savvy enough to know whether that info can be read by the admin, or Cole, or the DHS…

  98. 98
    Jon H says:

    @efgoldman: “A highly trained, professional shooter will always have his weapon trained downrange, or unloaded and cleared. He would not be on alert for a crazy bastard on his side of the targets.”

    Perhaps, but the SEAL doesn’t appear to have been the primary target of the shooter, and there would have been plenty of other armed people around, at the very least a range safety officer.

    And in Texas, people at the range or nearby might well be carrying weapons other than the one they’re going to be firing – packing a pistol, visiting the range to sight in a rifle.

    Point is, we’re often told that targets are chosen because they’re in gun-free zones, etc. This, a military-oriented charity event at a Texas gun range is pretty much the farthest thing from a gun-free zone that would be a soft target.

    Yet, it was. The gunman wasn’t gunned down, he successfully left the scene and was arrested elsewhere.

  99. 99
    mdblanche says:

    @burnspbesq: If you don’t want to be part of any marketing algorithm, then these days you’re probably going to have to do something like what this family did.

  100. 100
    NotMax says:

    Supermarket cards bug me a lot.

    Because eventually insurance companies are going to demand access to who is buying all that alcohol, all those chips and cookies and all that red meat, and how much and how often each person in buying.

    I get the cards under a phony name, and always pay cash at the register.

    Yes, I know it is possible to use facial recognition tech to identify me at the checkout, but one has to be realistic about the scale and utility of such massive individually targeted surveillance for consumer purposes, and also realize that if we pass that sort of Big Brother tipping point, grocery purchases are among the least of our worries.

  101. 101
    Roger Moore says:


    What we should be worrying about is what people do with it, and that’s worth debating.

    I’m most worried about information leakage. I honestly don’t care too much that companies are tracking my purchases in the hopes of using that information to market things to me more effectively. I rather like the idea of businesses trying to sell me things that I might actually want and use, especially if I don’t know about them already, rather than random crap that I have no interest in whatsoever. What I am worried about is that businesses will share the information they’ve gathered about me with others who I don’t want them to share it with or, worse, secure it improperly and let it get into the hands of criminals who will do who knows what with it.

  102. 102
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    @Jon H:

    Sheesh, if SEAL snipers at gun ranges aren’t safe, who is?

    Look at the comments. They’ve figured out we’re hunting them.

  103. 103
    Chris says:


    Further, I now can barely tolerate commercial interruptions on broadcast, and the same goes for my kids, who are being trained at an early age that commercials are optional.

    I remember growing up in Europe where one commercial break happened in the middle of a regular two hour movie. The contrast with American television took some getting used to after moving to DC. Netflix has spoiled me back to my childhood self, though. Commercials. Bleargh.

  104. 104
    Just Some Fuckhead says:


    A highly trained, professional shooter will always have his weapon trained downrange, or unloaded and cleared, and even then pointed downrange. He would not be on alert for a crazy bastard on his side of the targets.

    Unlike the balding, overweight idiot down at Home Depot who is going to prevent a shooting with his barely concealed pistol while he’s shopping for paint.

  105. 105
    MikeJ says:


    3-I’d rather not
    0-fuck no

    The very fact there were 0 fuck no’s is good. I’d hang. I think I’d like danielx’s mix better, but your mix, my mix, and his mix are pretty varied.

    They still call it the White House but that’s a temporary condition, too.

  106. 106
    Roger Moore says:


    Businesses and governments hate cash – good enough for me.

    Businesses hate cash because it’s a pain to deal with. It’s an attractive target for employee theft, so they have to have all kinds of intrusive security procedures to make sure the cashiers aren’t stealing from the till. It’s also an attractive target for robbery, so they have to have even more elaborate security precautions to protect against armed robbery.

  107. 107
    Alison says:

    @MikeJ: Variety is, as they say, the spice of life. And my musical tastes are fairly wide-ranging and encompass a lot of stuff that’s not in my iTunes, too. I was raised by music-loving hippies :)

  108. 108
    Or something like that.Suffern Ace says:

    My fear, I guess, is that they’ll eventually use this data to stream advertisements to me that are so compelling that Ill never have the opportunity to get up to pee during a commercial break ever again.

  109. 109
    Suzanne says:

    How nefarious. With all that data, companies might try to make products we like. Horror.

    My allergies are making me miserable. And I cant have any chicken wings tomorrow.

  110. 110
    MikeJ says:

    @Alison: My random ran into overtime. Duran Duran’s Rio just came on. Pity it wasn’t hungry like teh wolf, the song that was playing the first time I got to touch a hoohah.

  111. 111
    Corner Stone says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Nah, I was just being a dick.

    Too late.
    I killed the headlights and put it in neutral.

  112. 112
    mdblanche says:

    Richard Tisei will not run for Senate. Who does that leave for the Repubs?

  113. 113
    Alison says:

    @MikeJ: LOL, how apropos :P

  114. 114
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Suzanne: It is one side of a surveillance society. The other side is “if you haven’t done anything wrong, why do you care if they are monitoring you?” Privacy has a purpose.

  115. 115
    Corner Stone says:

    @Anne Laurie: Well, actually, I was more riffing off the mining of “liberal leaning” commenters here.
    But yes. Cole should be able to see what sites we click from to here and where we click to after here, etc.
    So any data mining tool the ISP (or et al) is using will know if I came from my local bank site and then surf for 10 minutes and leave to peruse lingerie at a really great site I found recently when I was told about…uh..yeah, and then come back to complain about no open thread for football.

  116. 116
    NotMax says:


    Tagg Romney.

    /gag reflex

  117. 117
    Corner Stone says:


    And I cant have any chicken wings tomorrow.

    Why not?

  118. 118
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Corner Stone: Well, there is always someone who comes sayin’ I’m insane to complain
    about a shotgun wedding and a stain on my shirt.

  119. 119
    xian says:

    @Roger Moore:

    But that doesn’t mean they have to track the events and data mine them.

    well, no. but they’d be stupid not to.

    i work in the software biz and i say instrument the shit out of everything.

  120. 120
    scav says:

    @efgoldman: Funny how the highly armed peak of ‘mercanness prepared manhood™ can be so easily defeated by the spineless soft on crime liberals. In the heart of a gun range in the heart of Texas no less. Does it get more heart of hearty than that?

    They’ve really abandoned any pretext of logical coherence.

  121. 121
    danielx says:


    Got that right – I’ve got a shit ton of music on vinyl, and it’s one of those never-ending projects to get it into digital form. Amazingly enough, you have to listen to it to get it recorded.

  122. 122
    Suzanne says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: It seems strange to me to have the expectation if information asymmetry in a transaction. The consumer knows (or has the right to know) what they’re buying and from whom. Does it not follow that the seller has a similar right?

  123. 123
    Corner Stone says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Get crazy with the cheese whiz?

    I used to not mind Beck so much until every living music star God at the time told me how he was the future of music.
    Meh, not so much seems like.

  124. 124
    Suzanne says:

    @Corner Stone: I’m vegetarian. If I ate any, my internal organs would, ahem, protest.

  125. 125
    MikeJ says:

    For tomorrow if you need a snack here is what you should eat:

    Smoked salmon. Not that lox like paper thin stuff[1], but a filet of salmon, nice big chunks that break up nicely with a fork. Some tortilla chips. Splatter some bbq sauce on them, then flake the salmon over them. They’re salty and smokey and give you an excuse to drink more beer. If you eat anything else you’re just missing out.

    [1] which is loverly, but that’s what you eat while doing the Times xword.

  126. 126
    Corner Stone says:


    i work in the software biz and i say instrument the shit out of everything.

    String, brass or woodwind?

  127. 127
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Corner Stone:

    Well, actually, I was more riffing off the mining of “liberal leaning” commenters here.

    Define liberal leaning. Goals or methods? Internationalist or isolationist? Is the government a force for good or evil? Or is it capable of both at the same time? I could go on…

  128. 128
    Corner Stone says:

    @Suzanne: You’re a vegetarian?
    I’ve long dreamed of sweeping you off your feet and elaborately serving you my delicious soy/honey/cayenne marinated grilled beef fajitas.
    Sigh. I guess another dream has died tonight.

  129. 129
    NotMax says:

    @Omnes Omnibus

    Fairly cries out for an “On Liberalness” podcast link.

  130. 130
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Corner Stone: I saw Beck in concert in the mid-90s. His stage presence was that of a completely self-absorbed asshole. I lost interest in him from that point on.

  131. 131
    xian says:

    @mdblanche: but that’s due to the most impersonal bland matching of all, based on keywords.

  132. 132
    Corner Stone says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Define liberal leaning.

    Ask Elon James White.

  133. 133
    xian says:

    @Corner Stone: exactly

    also, i admire your belief that you are immune to marketing.

  134. 134
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Haha, I had a similar experience with Beck.

  135. 135
    Yutsano says:

    @MikeJ: That paper-thin stuff you eat on bagels with cream cheese and onions and capers. Pacific-style smoked salmon is big hunks of smoked fish you eat with your hands and gnaw on heartily until it’s gone. Which for me tends to be all too soon. It’s good shit though. We’re spoiled up in these parts because of that.

    @Omnes Omnibus: Like Miles Davis, but much less talented.

  136. 136

    @Yutsano: Salmon at least used to be a big part of the fishery in the Bay Area. I hate the stuff. The very smell of it puts me off. My brother, who has worked in restaurants for many years, probably hates it even more than I do.

  137. 137
    Corner Stone says:

    @xian: Like what my man? I drive a paid for hatchback, my son’s in public school, I pick up household help in downtown Chinatown, and I bit torrent all my pr0n.
    All my technology gear is paid for by my employer and all my groceries are from a couple different carnicerías.
    I don’t think we even want to get into where I get my shoes from.

  138. 138
    Corner Stone says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Sometimes, when I’m feeling really fucked up and out of sorts, I just tell myself, “I’m useless. But not for long. The future is coming on.”

  139. 139
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Corner Stone: Well, that’s a non-answer.

  140. 140
    MikeJ says:

    @Yutsano: Until a few years ago I lived in the land of the paper thin lox style, and I loved it. I had no idea what I was missing until I got here and got the chunky stylee smoked fish.

    So where do you go for scrambled eggs and smoked salmon. And are they open all night? Does anybody else want midnight salmon and eggs? I think beer would be good with it. It sounds exactly like what I would have had at Georgetown Cafe in DC except better.

  141. 141
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @MikeJ: Bond drank champagne with scrambled eggs and salmon.

    ETA: Per the Fleming books.

  142. 142
    NotMax says:

    @Corner Stone

    Unmarked door at the rear of the mortuary?

  143. 143

    It’s 10:45 PST. and on junk channel MTV ” Beverly hillbill … I mean WV trashtime, whatever YOU KNOW WHAT, there was an ad for the NAVY. It said that the honorable sailors follow those appointed above them. WTF! What does that mean? It could be good – anti-militia within, but it could also cement followers if weird Teabagger type rebels are higher up. I’m not paranoid; I’ve just never seen such wording.
    There was another strange – really new statement – in that ad but I don’t TiVo or DVR so no rewind.
    Please see it. I thought it was goog – and I’m a secure non=paranoid Leftist.

    PS : TV show is “buck wild”

  144. 144
    xian says:

    @Corner Stone: yes, you are truly sui generis, a snowflake unsullied by consumerism, taste, or any desire at all to have other human beings regard you or your opinions as worthy of esteem. I salute you.

  145. 145
    Yutsano says:

    @MikeJ: I am totally stunned that Beth’s does not have this on their menu. I wonder how amenable the owners are to the suggestion of its addition. Since they never close.

    EDIT: they do, however, have a smoked salmon omelette. So maybe if you asked really nicely since they do have a substitution policy.

  146. 146
    scav says:

    @MikeJ: I’m in for salmon hash. Midnight, morning, anytime, and I’m not much fussy about the drink that comes with.

  147. 147
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @MikeJ: You are talking about the difference between lox style smoked salmon and Scottish style smoked salmon. Both have their virtues, but, if I had to choose, it would be the Scottish every time.

  148. 148
    Corner Stone says:

    @xian: Well, I’m not really generous exactly. I try to help when I can, and I should probably look for more opportunities in the future I guess.
    I appreciate your kind thoughts otherwise! It means a lot to me what others here think of me. I try to be a liberal minded opinion leader and put forth some reasoned detrah for why I have made the decisions I do.

  149. 149
    Corner Stone says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Well, that’s a non-answer.

    Wait for my endless front page links to the new original content series, “On White Liberal Guilt”.
    Coming soon.

  150. 150
  151. 151
    MikeJ says:

    Ok, so who is up for midnight meetup for salmon and eggs at Beths’s?

  152. 152
    NotMax says:

    @Corner Stone

    Mind if I just re-watch Ordinary People instead?

  153. 153
    Yutsano says:

    @MikeJ: I would but…I’m already naked…

  154. 154
    MikeJ says:

    @Yutsano: When has that ever stopped you?

  155. 155
    Corner Stone says:

    @NotMax: No. It’s either me or some Mamet film with Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver. Or maybe Kevin Spacey and Winona Ryder.
    Or shit, I don’t know. Maybe Jane Fonda and Martin Sheen with Ben Stiller and Jenn Aniston?
    God dammit I don’t know anymore. I just feel a vague sense of guilt that I can’t properly define liberalness.

  156. 156

    Nice to see a comment of mine go straight into the bit bucket.

  157. 157
    NotMax says:

    @Corner Stone

    Mike Nichols and Glenn Close?

  158. 158
    Yutsano says:

    @MikeJ: Damn you and your infallible logic! Okay then, I’m a lazy bastard and my hips are killing me right now. Beat that tiger!

  159. 159
    MikeJ says:

    @Yutsano: Pain is an excuse, nudity isn’t. Fine, we’ll do late night eggs some other night. Seems like the meetup we should have when dougj comes to town. He’s from a college town, it ought to suit him.

  160. 160
    Yutsano says:

    @MikeJ: Beth’s is good for a crowd anyway. The only issue I can think of is parking: it’s a fecking nightmare trying to park anywhere around there. I’m down for it though, I lurve that place.

  161. 161
    BillinGlendaleCa says:

    @Yutsano: Who’s Beth?

  162. 162
    xian says:

    @Corner Stone: it’s your reasoned detrah that makes all the difference.

  163. 163
    Thor Heyerdahl says:

    @MikeJ: First time I read that I read it as, “Palin is an excuse, nudity isn’t,” and wondered if the bits about boobs in previous threads had worked their way into this thread.

    I’ll link up that imagery to the opening lyrics from “Sunday Morning Coming Down” (Kristofferson version) as a possible answer:
    Well, I woke up Sunday morning
    With no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt.
    And the beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad,
    So I had one more for dessert.

  164. 164
    HeartlandLiberal says:

    I have to declare a great big ‘so what’ to this.

    First off, Netflix is delivering streaming video to you via http protocol over the Internet.

    If you have ever managed a web server, you quickly learn about the logs that are maintained by the server, which can be configured to record not just every page, but every object in a page accessed by any connection to a web site. All time stamped to the 100th of a second.

    This becomes invaluable information for analyzing site usage, how people move about the site, and what interests of visitors are.

    And there is NOTHING WRONG WITH THIS when it is done by a site to improve their delivery of services.

    Where it becomes problematic to me, and sadly, this is really where we are headed, is when two critical things happen to this information:

    1. It is specifically identified and linked to a specific person. Now if it were kept on site, in the hands of the one vendor you are dealing with, well, still not unreasonable.

    2. But here is the kicker, and where things are going south: The information is being sold and shared with other parties. And when this happens linked to actual identities, we are lunging headfirst into the abyss of the total loss of privacy, and the total loss of control of privacy for our personal habits, actions, inclinations, and behaviors.

    UK regulators recently cancelled their demand that web sites enforce warnings that required users to accept cookies before proceeding on the web site. As was fully expected by those of us who have experience with web development, and understand how important a cookie is in maintaining communication with a discrete visitor in what is a stateless medium of communication, it was a sheer disaster and cluster gathering.

    Of course, even the poor cookie has been subjected to abuse. It is supposed to be a temporary file with just enough info to allow a web site to access it, recognize the data in it, and reestablish a continued appearance of a stateful connection with a web site. This is absolutely critical if you do not have some other mechanism in place, such as a logged in authenticated session. Once you have that, you can reference the authenticated user in the session environment on each subsequent visit, review the authenticated users credentials, and continue. Then you had entities developing Super Cookies, which they tried to shield from deletion, even hiding them, in order to track you whether you wanted to be or not across multiple sessions.

    But the vast majority of web sites operate without having established a logged in state, and this includes shopping carts, which must accumulate data and recover it on each subsequent page visit up to the point of checkout, at which point even then you may or may not be required to create an authenticated user session.

    As for Netflix, which I have now been using and enjoying since last September, my only complaint will arise then their insistence on guessing what I want to see interferes with me finding new stuff.

    That is why on news sites, such as, I absolutely refuse to customize my newsfeed. Frankly, that way lies just more insular madness, people surrounding themselves only with what they already know, hearing only what they want to or expect to hear. That underlies much of our current social and political decay and crisis in any case. Created realities trump the real world everyday in D.C.

    Also, re: Netflix, the search function is truly primitive and sucks mightily. Just sayin’, in case any one from Netflix reads this. I do most of my searching on the Web using Google and IMDB, then go to Netflix to see if what I want is available to stream.

    Oh, and Amazon Prime is worth the investment, too. We now use both services. I figure I will get the annual Amazon Prime cost back on shipping every year, so the free videos are, well, actually free.

  165. 165
    Tonal Crow says:

    Javascript can be used to determine what portions of online articles you view when, whether you hover your mouse over an item without clicking it, and so forth. This information can then be used to infer your interests, particularly if it is used in combination with other information about you.

    Stuff (including, e.g., newspapers) you read online might be reading you.

  166. 166
    Ellyn says:

    Netflix is almost always wrong about what they suggest I would like.

  167. 167
    Mr_Gravity says:

    In other related news:

    Taco Bell sells Doritos-flavored tacos.

    Doritos sells tacos-flavored chips.

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