Skip to content

Look Beyond the First Result

February 26, 2013

 

I'm not sure Orbitz did anything wrong, but this certainly made me re-examine how I look at results when searching.

I’m not sure Orbitz did anything wrong, but this certainly made me re-examine how I look at results when searching.

This story about Orbitz was very interesting in the way metadata about users was affects the results of queries on the Orbitz site. It’s slightly skewed to imply Orbitz was charging OSX users more than Windows users, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Instead, if an OSX user was detected, the order of search results was changed to show more expensive options first. Users were understandably upset, as some of them ended up paying more for services than they might have otherwise.

However is this a valid way to present the data? From the business side of things, this makes sense. If you identify a trend, you may look to exploit it or incorporate the potential results into your decision making. I could even see some sort of business intelligence system making this decisions automatically, without human intervention. As we build more sophisticated software, using a large set of inputs, I could see exactly this type of thing occurring more frequently.

Is it fair? Is it moral? Those are tough questions. We often want to go where the data leads us, and while many of our human tendencies don’t make any sense, the data sometimes shows patterns in our behavior. In the end, I’d argue this was a very poor model of the data. All Mac users aren’t looking to spend more money on goods or services just because they might have purchased a more expensive computer. There are likely quite a few other qualifications inputs that should be considered as well.

Steve Jones


The Voice of the DBA Podcasts

We publish three versions of the podcast each day for you to enjoy.

From → Editorial

Comments are closed.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,734 other followers

%d bloggers like this: