filter the filters

WARNING: circular reasoning below. Read at your own risk. Thx – The Management

There is a filter in each k-cup for my Keurig, a little paper stopguard to keep the grind from going into my big fat Mickey mug while still letting the steeped and brewed goodness of the liquid through.

There is a filter in our upstairs landing airvent that needs to be changed.

Jeeves needs an oil change, also involving a change of filters to improve Mini Cooper performance.

There’s a filter on the google searches on our home PC, hopefully protecting us from unhelpful and unwanted results.

That last one, where there’s a filter on searches, is not the “strict filter” – that’s there, too, so stupid porn and spam results don’t bombard our innocent eyes. No, here I’m thinking more of the relevancy filter, and of Google’s testing of a “social filter” that somehow takes what you’re looking for and propagates it through an algorithm of what they think you’re looking for based on whatever social or location-based variables you might have. Some of that has been in place before, and some of it is new to the algorithms.

All that to say, filtering by and large is a good thing.

But… not so fast, my friends. This filtering business might be bad for us on a level that’s beginning to bug me. While I understand it, I don’t know if I completely like it. Like soccer – I think I get it, but huh?

Are we filtering out potential greatness for the settlement of better goodness?

That made no sense. But here’s my thesis: what if what I’m really looking for doesn’t fall within the parameters of what I’m looking for?

Okay, that made even less sense than before. I get filtering out the dirty stuff and the illegal stuff and the fill-in-the-_____-stuff. I get that. But beyond those self-imposed filters, what if my search through your filters narrows the possibilities sufficiently to keep me from finding what I didn’t know I was looking for? This could be any search engine. bills itself as a decision engine, having its own algorithm to give the consumer what it thinks he/she has asked for, which may or may not be exactly what he/she actually asked for.

And it’s also not just online. What if my religious filters keep me from finding real and good religion? What if my relationships hinder my quest for community? What if my tastes in music make it impossible to enjoy music? What if my choice of movies keeps me from good I-would’ve-definitely-loved-that movies? What if my filters are “protecting me” by keeping me from better choices because the choices I’ve made up to this point have been good enough to determine/filter whatever decisions are yet to come?

What if my filters are keeping me from changing my filters?

And how would I ever know?


2 thoughts on “filter the filters

  1. George says:

    I agree (I think). Amazon is a great example of good filtering gone bad. I had to purchase some home school books about the Dark Ages for my kids and now I constantly get emails from Amazon recommending similar books. I forever received Strawberry Shortcake DVD recommendations because of a Christmas present I purchased online YEARS before.

    NetFlix is no better. They actually recommend stuff that looks stupid because of other stuff that’s in my queue. I haven’t yet seen or logged an opinion on the movie, but because I put it in my queue, they assume I’d like something similar. That seems like a stretch.

    What I need is a Crap Filter, that sorts all results from High Quality stuff first and decreases the list down to the crappier one.

  2. Rick says:

    Well, even with the crap filter – you want to make sure you find what’s worthwhile, right?

    “With all this crap, there’s got to be a pony in here somewhere.”

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