At a houseparty in France five or six years ago I met a very funny American guy who complained that his Tivo didn’t understand him. For those unfamiliar with Tivos, they are digital TV boxes that present their owners with a “curated” list of programme options, based on their past viewing history, much like Sky+ and other similar devices. In theory, they become more accurate as time passes, until they are able to anticipate the user’s viewing preferences faultlessly. In practice, of course, we are all rather more complex in our likes, dislikes and interests than any piece of software can cope with, and what we want to watch at any given moment depends as much on our mood as anything else, and who we are watching with. The guy with the aberrant Tivo had us all in fits of laughter at some of the totally inappropriate choices it had made, and his fruitless attempts to teach it what he really liked to see.
Well, that was a few years ago, and soon afterwards I acquired a new PVR with a predictive function. I turned that off after about a month of hoping it would learn from my choices – it didn’t, it just kept suggesting programmes that I wouldn’t want to watch even if there was nothing else on TV, no internet, no radio available and nothing in the house to read. Unfortunately, similar algorithms are now much more common, popping up on e-tailer sites and social media. Google AdWords is an obvious example – when browsing a website that generates ad income, the viewer is presented with items for sale that are supposedly targeted specifically to their needs. It’s possible to turn them off, but like many web users I don’t bother; I have a naïve hope that one day I’ll be offered something that I really need but hadn’t yet realised that I needed. Now, that would be useful. It never happens though. More often than not I get adverts for whatever I have just bought, whether it was an airline ticket or knitting yarn.
But lately, things have changed. Whatever tweaks Google have made to their algorithm, it’s had a profound effect on the ads I’m seeing. Now, I leave Google AdWords working because I find it amusing, not because it just might offer me something that I actually want. Yesterday, for example, I saw adverts for waterproof portable generator covers (I’m not kidding – “quality waterproof covers that keep generators running in the rain”) and a Tinkerbell colouring book, along with more mundane fare. That’s quite a variation. For the record, I have neither ever searched for a portable generator, nor have I ever considered buying a colouring book, or at least, not since I was six years old. I think my eclectic interests have totally confounded AdWords; it can’t make sense of someone who is turned on by techie, engineering subjects as well as having a love of crafts and fibres. I probably spend as much time on Screwfix’s and Machine Mart’s websites as I do on Ravelry. Google doesn’t know what ads to display for me so it just hurls random stuff in my direction and hopes for the best. Judging by this, I’m not too worried that AI is going to make the human race redundant just yet.
Silver lavastone beads tutorial
But enough of all that, let’s talk about craftier matters. Back in May I posted about the necklace I made from lava beads that I’d embellished with silver, using precious metal clay (PMC).
I’ve written it up as an Instructable called Silver Clay Lavastone Beads. It’s a good way of making a little of the expensive PMC go a long way, so pop over to Instructables if you want to know how I did it.