Want a public psychological profile?

Scantron Psych EvaluationI’m not one to shy from self-expression online, but I draw the line at providing survey-question data, particularly psychological tests. They may plow up interesting stuff, but online, associating my IP and cookies, for harvesting by profile aggregators, I don’t think so. I’ve done the 6-question Which Book Are You, but I won’t do the List Your Favorite Books and I certainly won’t do a Myers-Briggs type analysis. For whom?

Scantron multiple choice formWhat could an online profiler deduce from such results? I’ve no idea. But that’s my lack of imagination. I’m not in the business of trading social profiles and profiting by it.

I do know that psychoanalysis is still a crap shoot, likewise so is literary interp. But carbon pencil marks on a multiple choice form can be tabulated by number crunchers which size up everyone with tables and graphs. Heavy machinery can then make informed decisions about you based simply on how the numbers come together. It’s punch card technology. You prefer Tiramisu over Creme Brule, Boggle over Scrabble? The survey says: we need two times the security deposit from you, sorry dude.

Multiple choices with no.2 pencilHandling internet sales at the Bookman, we use a rudimentary fashion of account profiling. Its efficacy is something we’ve wised up to over the years. Here’s how it works: if someone makes an inquiry about shipping details before they place an order, we reject their order. Period. They may be earnest, even upstanding, but our experience shows they’ll be trouble. Our actuarial table says basically, this customer is so likely to be a bother, let them go. So we pass.

It seems a shame, but it’s the only bureaucratic edge Bookman has, and why not take it? Shipping books is a business after all, for profit. Who needs the aggravation of someone figuring they can get their money back AND keep the book. The odds they won’t? Not good enough.

That’s the way profiling works in business applications. If you’re a client falsely cast, you’ve no recourse. The semi-literate customer service rep on the phone has no discretion to treat you differently. And why should they? The designers of the business model know where to fish for profit and when to cut bait. The statistical overlay supersedes any argument you can make. What are you going to say? I’ll be an exception, I promise!? Insurance companies didn’t grow such tall impressive buildings with unreliable actuarial tables.

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Eric Verlo

About Eric Verlo

On sabbatical
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