How Online Algorithms Actually Work

An algorithm is a self-contained step-by-step set of operations to be performed. Simply, it’s a procedure or formula for solving a problem. We teach our technology the basics and expect that ingenious marketing algorithms will continue to learn, thereby creating loyal customers who just can’t get enough.

Here’s how it really works:

Email:

Find a topic of utmost interest to you. Demonstrate your true devotion by divulging your email address. Sign up for one, single, newsletter.

Wake up the following morning forced to sift through 45 spam emails received between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6:03 a.m. “You have asked to receive emails from Victoria’s Secret. If you have received this email in error, please unsubscribe here.” I DID NO SUCH THING!

But where is the information you actually want to receive? Silly you – you’ll have to go spelunking for the desired “promotion” under the filtered eponymous tab in the user un-friendly interface that is the Gmail web login.

Facebook:

Succumb to peer pressure and “Like” a page or brands. But the joke’s on you – FaceySpace doesn’t care what you think you like. It knows what you need to see! You shall see competitors “sponsored” posts. (Pay your new technological overlord!)

Twitter:

What was once a sentence’s worth of banal chitchat, life un-changing commentary or social revolution inducing statements is now sprinkled through with posts “sponsored by” those algorithms that have determined you are a Target Audience. The digital robots have decreed that I, apparently, NEED to know that Hamburger Helper is currently promoting a pound of free ground beef if I mail a coupon to Walmart.

Online Shopping:

Purchase a single pair of basic black pants – timeless, classic. Henceforth you shall receive a minimum of four emails a day on new trendy clubbing attire. You don’t even need to read them, I’ll summarize, “Here is a style and outfit you would NEVER WEAR. Maybe you will buy it if we spam you hard enough.”

And the proverbial kick in the pants – obviously you’ll get all these sales memos while you’re at work. Work: A place where firewalls have blocked potentially unsavory (read: malware malicious) unsubscribe submission sites.

Google Search:

The Google knows all. Cookies – they’re not just chocolate chip anymore.

Algorithms have clearly harvested your information. You will never be free. (Except from the content you actually wanted in the first place.) Algorithms are an ever-evolving combination of binary coding – the numerical version of the knights who say Ni. BRING ME A SHRUBBERY!

Congratulations, you’re looking forward to snail mail again. Did you know the algorithm grandparents started stalking you there? Through direct mail.

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