A technology to suite your taste

By Owen McDonald
Updated March 13, 1998 at 05:00 AM EST

Don’t you wish someone (besides the weird guy in accounting) would recommend movies and books you’re certain to like? Wish granted: It’s called personalization, and it’s free on the Net. Several sites now (or soon will) embed applications that analyze your tastes from basic input, then prescribe entertainment. Initial uses of this ”collaborative filtering” are aimed at the vast numbers of books and videos out there, but Netniks say it could eventually steer you to anything from wine to watches.

One of the coolest apps can be found at LikeMinds Inc.’s http://www.moviecritic.com. Movie Critic forms clusters of mentors — folks whose tastes you’re likely to share — using common film preferences. After rating 12 litmus-test movies, I chose drama and was offered several videos — including one I had hated (The Dead) and one I’d loved (Rumble Fish). Movie Critic also predicted I’d detest The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Wrong. Twenty-five viewings, and I still love it. ”It’s not 100 percent accurate, but I’d say we’re in the 90 percent range,” says LikeMinds VP Linda Della. If I rate some more sample movies, she suggests, Critic will know me better.

With 2.5 million tomes for sale, Web bookseller Amazon.com’s software uses data from previous buys to suggest other books. Meantime, video seller Reel.com takes an intuitive, watercooler approach, employing human matchmakers to propose flicks made with you in mind — or so it hopes.