A few years ago, the operator of RatingZone checked in to the AlexLit-related newsgroup at sff.net, and asserted that he had the collaborative recommender that would kick all others to the curb. Or some such claim. Feedback from the group was swift. Defensive or not, most thought his database of ratable books was too thin. Also, RatingZone only allows ratings of books, so that folks used to making distinctions between the quality of different parts of a book had to figure out how to make an aggregate judgment.

The RatingZone official responded that they were prepared to field most requests for new additions to their title database. The decision to allow only ratings for books instead of stories is probably a user issue: most people would think about the specific items that they could check out or purchase.

So, RatingZone is out there. Besides offering recommendations for books, you can also get recommendations for movies, music (albums only), TV shows, Radio Shows, Magazines (and newspapers), Retailers, Web Sites, Restaurants, and Travel Destinations. It is not clear whether your preferences in one area are used to offer predictions in another, though I suspect not.

All items can be rated on a scale of 1 to 10, and you can use different drill-down browsing methods to find what you want to rate. RatingZone does a halfway decent job of adding new movies, but, since late 2003, has stopped adding items in their other categories. The movie system will offer recommendations pretty quickly, and will make fairly conservative predictions that will hold for a while. This suggests that they only update recommendation lists on an irregular basis, or that new ratings are slow to be coming in. I've found that my top recommendations make for an interesting blend of old and new, obscure and well-known, and provides a good mix of genres. Currently, RatingZone is recommending Pixote.

RatingZone will not give you recommendations on specific items, only generating a recommendation list. I like their movie service and let it influence my viewing choices, but, I cannot recommend any of the other categories because of their decision to neglect those fields.

The system is operated by a marketing consulting firm by the name of MediaChoice. According to a February press release, The "Affinity Analysis" technology behind RatingZone is currently being used to allow casino "gamers" to rate slot machines. MINI-DISCLOSURE: I participated in a study by MediaChoice ostensibly to test the appeal of a mid-profile science fiction novel release, for which I was compensated with two more paperbacks. None of the three books rocked my world, though I am disappointed that no more opportunities like that have cropped up. Its nice to get free things every once in a while.


Hamady at the Library

Any terrified "art snobs" that find themselves drawn like moths to the zapper to witness and be terrified by each and every one of the Herky on Parade statues will eventually find themselves at the home of the Dick Tracy Herky. Now, Dick Tracy has, I thought, been culturally dead after the movie came out, but I guess there is a semi-local celebrity connection -- Max Allan Collins scripted the strip between 1977 and 1993. And gee, now there's another Iowan running the strip.

But, if you wander into the building a bit further, you'll find an interesting show in the library's underplayed (and kind of hideous) exhibition space. Walter Hamady's books are very impressive-looking in person, even under the library's life-sapping fluorescent lights. If anything, it. The paper in the books is handmade "Shadwell", and the illustrations are mechanistic or natural. He'll use woodcarving, collage, embossment, rubber stamps to create the write environment for the writing of himself or his collaborators (including Denise Levertov).

Probably the best picture from the exhibit page

At one time, I ran, with my future wife, the literary magazine at Evergreen. I'm proud of what I was able to do with the magazine, which was mostly resuscitate it, but, from a creative standpoint, I was mostly content to degrade the production process by transferring the layout to desktop publishing. We'd long given up embossment, though I did have fun reproducing a four-color block print artwork into one-color for a cover (with the approval of the artist). But that was a technical accomplishment.

I find myself looking at this blog. It's fun "publishing" like this, but it sure doesn't look like much. I've never been much for fancy web design, but let's see if we can spruce up the place a bit.

UPDATED: Added image, links, and modified a few sentences for tone.