You searched for a user’s guide, sir?


Online store recommendation engines are always funny, whether they’re advertising mattresses to the happy owner of a new one, a guide to Windows 11 after you bought a MacBook, or cuts of meat to someone wheeling out a stack of new vegetarian cookbooks. They offer us a glimpse behind the hubris of so many systems sold as intelligent, but in practice are anything but.

I found a user’s guide to a specific piece of vintage computer tech on eBay, and was subsequently told I’d be interested in these:

  • Sweet William: A User’s Guide to Shakespeare, by Michael Pennington

  • How To Live: A User’s Guide, by Peter Johns

  • Menschliche Genom: A User’s Guide, by Julia E. Richards

  • The Body: A Complete Users Guide, by National Geographic

  • A User’s Guide to Public Sculpture, by J. Darke

Clearly the User’s Guide string was matched, but it amazes me that it assumed tomes across so many different categories would be relevant. Can you imagine walking into a brick-and-mortar book store, and being told your Perl programming guide belied an interest in freshwater shelled mollusks?

Maybe it’s telling me to store a User’s Guide to how the Genome in Shakespeare’s Body Lived in Sculpture on my Commodore 1571.

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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