Thoughts & Essays


Musings and creative writing on various topics.

Antonin Januska

About: I love writing, programming, and art. But would I say that I'm a writer, programmer, or an artist? Probably not :) (okay, programmer...maybe).

Reccr - The Recommendation Engine

Antonin Januska |

The presentation had Jerry completely enamored. Once in a while, he would tab over to twitter to see who commented on the new technology being unveiled. Top tech journalists from around the world had something to say. Whether they praised it for the product's ingenuity or slammed it for its privacy intrusions. As always, the more mild-mannered and realistic people replied with, "People will get used to it."

And Jerry sure would. He patiently awaited while the man in the white turtleneck on stage talked about feature after feature of the Reccr.

"We wanted to rethink the internet. We looked at other products, we examined the social media of our time and we realized that what people are looking for is always hidden. And that is why we built Reccr," the screen behind the man changed to show Facebook, Twitter, and various news sites wizzing by.

"What if you could harness the power of a recommendation engine to filter not just a list of movies for your favorites, but your facebook for the posts you want to see, Pinterest for the clothes and projects you're interested in, and news for the news that truly matters to you?"

The presentation ended with the date of release and the price. Only $299 and a $30/month subscription. The outcry at the prices was soon muffled as tech reporters with early access posted Reccr's features in action.

Jerry would get one. He wished he could have been there for the actual conference but from the comfort of his kitchen in his suburban home, he reached for a kombucha and went on to read more thoughts and articles on the technology.


Joanna sat at her table at work, annoyed by the squealing of the guys right next to her. They were excited for some new techie product. She didn't care much usually but she had heard about the Reccr on CNN. It was a wonderful technology that allowed her to better connect with others that thought alike.

Joanna was not a fan of the mainstream media nor was she a fan of the trash she saw on TV. Except for Fox News, at least they would give it straight to her. So today, as the nerdy guys over at the other lunch table gossipped about the Reccr, she decided to give them a break. It was something even she would use.

She checked her iPhone for message and browsed through her social media. She had gotten into another comment-war on Facebook with one of her more "liberal" friends.

Joanna expertly typed away on her screen, "If you don't support our troops, you don't support freedom. And in that case, you don't deserve to be in this country." Feeling smug, she browsed through her timeline. As of late, she noticed many of her friends sharing patriotic and christian (aren't they the same?) images which made her feel a little better about the world. Unfortunately, there was still the thread of ISIS which made her uncomfortable.

At that thought, she launched another app on her phone and checked the news. Apparently, Obama's new action will result in job growth. "Bullshit," she muttered under her breath and scrolled through her feed trying to find some information on the middle east.

"Ah!" she quietly exclaimed and read an article on how Iran is becoming a bigger threat than ever while the Democrats discussed sending aid to the country after its recent natural disaster.

She shared the article on her Facebook for her friends to see and tagged it with "Wake up sheeple! We're funding our own demise!"


Jerry had finished his morning mocha latte as he walked to work from Starbucks. The line had been long but Jerry didn't mind. He had a chance to talk to people around him and check his phone.

He liked Starbucks especially on days like these. They were running a promotion where every 20 cents of a drink's price was donated to some charity and Starbucks would match that donation. It made Jerry always feel better when he spent just a little bit extra to get coffee there.

He overheard a few guys in suits behind him talk about the middle east again and Jerry grimaced. Not only did they not know anything about the situation, they were full of false facts. They often blundered and mistook Iraq for Iran, they thought Syria was in South America and several of them mentioned how the US is helping Afghanistan become a first world country at their own country's expense.

"We should be putting that money elsewhere. Not to rebuild them. I'm glad we send our troops there, it had to be done for our safety."

Jerry tuned them out quickly and scrolled through his newsfeed on Flipboard. He had carefully crafted the topics to subscribe to and painfaully tuned out the misinformation that a lot of mainstream media presented. He saw that some new type solar panel could potentially solve the world's energy crisis and that it was cost-effective enough to be marketable in third world countries in Africa.

"And with cheap electricity comes cheap technology, internet, and whole-world revolution," he muttered. He shared a post about the big Four in tech approaching the UN with an idea to bring Internet to the "rest of the world" with a #changetheworld.

His phone made a loud chirp and a notification showed up, "Reccr installed, ready to be used". He tapped the text and a beautiful logo popped up. A red swirl with a white "X" crosisng it.


After church, Joanna often visited her favorite brunch restaurant. Many of her congregation went there as well and she enjoyed her lunch there with them. That Sunday was no different.

As she sat down and ordered her ice tea, her phone loudly beeped. "Reccr installed, ready to be used" popped up. Excitedly, she opened the new app. Similar beeps resonated through the restaurant.

The setup was painful. She had to login and authorize all of her social media, one by one. From her Twitter, to her Facebook and Instagram. "Why can't I just log in with one account?" she brumbled and was surprised when the app suggested it'd handle all of that for her.

A loading icon showed up and then changed into an options menu. She checked off all the places she wanted Reccr to filter: news, all her various feeds, podcasts, and even comments on articles.

A big green checkmark informed her everything was ready. "The recommendation engine will get better as it adjusts to your preferences" it informed her. It also told her of its "always on" feature which monitors everything on her phone.

She put her phone away and dug into her lunch with a few fellow friends. They talked at length about what the pastor had been preaching. All of them nodding along in agreement.


Jerry had just finished setting up Reccr on his phone when he got to work on Monday. He talked to his co-workers about the application and all of them but one agreed that it's a great step in consuming content. They all sought out new avenues of finding articles about their interests.

And in that aspect, they could not be happier with Reccr. Pulling up their twitter feed, they immediately saw the news relevant to their interests. In Jerry's case, it was politics and technology. They all shared an enthusiasm for technology in fact.

Larry, the only one in the group who did not like Reccr, disagreed with them at all points. "It's an invasion of privacy!" he said.

They all dismissed him, saying that they can always just turn off the application's data gathering when it gets good enough.

And after all, when Jerry looked up privacy concerns with Reccr, he found nothing to be concerned with. It was the same data Jerry's phone had already been collecting, it was anonymized, and there was nothing to worry about whatsoever. On top of that, even if Reccr did collect and upload a user's personal data, the trade-off was just too good.

Larry pointed to several well-written articles disagreeing with those points and while Jerry did concede to a few of those ideas, he ultimately dismissed them. They all came from irreputable sources that Jerry has never heard of.


Joanna's daily routine had been the same for the past five years. The only thing that changed was the world around her. In the morning, she'd wake up and shower. After a shower, she'd start working on breakfast and when she was done with eating it, she'd head out to work. Very simple, very routine.

Over the years, she started sprinkling technology into her every day life. From checking the news while still in bed to listening to podcasts as she cooked her eggs.

She noticed after a few days of using Reccr that things had changed in this aspect. When she checked the news, she no longer saw inflammatory articles by socialist journalists. Nor did she see any of the useless entertainment news about today's celebrities. Instead, she noticed articles that dug deep into the truth of things. They talked about the nation's situation. They talked about the war, the war on Christianity, and how the family structure in the modern world was erroding away.

On one particular morning, she listened to a new recommended podcast by a single devout woman living in the suburbs, not unlike Joanna, who had a strong voice and was full of opinions.

"I like this woman," Joanna found herself saying after the first episode.

She admired Nancy, the podcast host, and wanted to model herself after her. Nancy wasn't afraid to voice her opinion and she wasn't afraid to skip the sugar-coating. Joanna felt like she sugar-coated her own opinions and definitely did not speak up. Not at work, not with her friends, and not even at church where she felt the most comfortable.

That night, she sat down at her computer looking through her Facebook feed. Reccr had unfollowed all of her "necessary relatives" that posted stuff she didn't want to read. Now, she had a clean feed of her closest friends. All of whom actually commented on each other's posts and opened themselves up for discussion.

Joanna decided to post about her idea to start her own podcast. "Joanna in the thick of it" she called it. Her friends immediately commented and encouraged her to do it. Some even referenced Nancy's podcast as inspiration.

As Joanna clicked through the "fact images" that permeated Facebook these days, she noticed a new Reccr feature: "Suggest and post similar". She liked the idea of seeing similar images and similar articles and posting those on her Facebook for her friends to see.

That night, Joanna dreamed about firing up her podcast, loudly shouting to the world what she thought of it!


Jerry had spent the entire day in bed. He couldn't get out, he had come down with the flu.

"Damnit, I got my flu shot, too, " he muttered. He had plenty of sick days to use so work was not an issue.

At first, he browsed through Netflix and watched a few new shows. All thanks to Reccr, of course, which not only made recommendations based on the past shows he watched but also on what books he read, which articles online he took the time to comment on and what movies he discussed with his friends.

The new movie up in the queue was a documentary called, "The Peace Behind The Noise". It was an interesting lesser-known documentary that explored the world's violence and livelihood situation in comparison to what the mainstream media portrays. Jerry was impressed by the fact that crime, war, poverty, and many detrimental aspects of the modern life happened at a much lower magnitude than just twenty years ago. And at a much lesser magnitude than a hundred years ago.

For example, the movie discussed all the different ways that someone bad on their luck can get help and how the casualties of war are much less than, let's say, the rate of death from getting hit by a car.

He realized that he had never really thought about how inflammatory online discussion of world topics could be. For the majority of his life, he figured that the world was always in a worse shape than it used to be but now, he started to question it. In fact, he spent his entire evening reading articles on the topic. And thanks to Reccr, they were all relevant and full of great citations and sources. There were a few blunders along the way, an article about the diminishing privacy in the world and systematic dictatorship, but overall, Reccr did a great job. The second Jerry clicked out of the article "much too quickly", Reccr recognized it as a bounce, a disliked article, and re-filtered the search results.

He found the most astounding studies done. From the increased age expectancy across the world, to diminishing poverty in the US. Even the unemployment rate was much lower than it used to be before the housing crisis. There were studies that showed how warfare in the modern age results in far less casualties.

Jerry felt like he needed to share this information somehow. He wanted to write about it and discuss it. The next day, he had to call out sick again so he decided to spend his day setting up a blog and discovering new communities of people that thought alike.


Joanna had been producing her podcast for three weeks now and had garnered quite a following. Since her podcast was so similar to Nancy's, it showed up for Nancy's audience as a recommendation. At first, she was unsure of how to structure had garnered quite a following. Since her podcast was so similar to Nancy's, it showed up for Nancy's audience as a recommendation. At first, she was unsure of how to structure it but once she started talking, she found herself going on a long rant about one thing or another.

She enjoyed it. Every Friday night after getting home from work, she'd compile a list of articles she read, she'd pick out the common theme and start recording.

"This week's topic was centered on the United States Civil War. No, not the one in the past, the one that was bound to happen in the near future," she firmly believed that either all the Muslims, or Atheists, or whatever other group which wanted Christianity to disappear, would rise up and take to the streets. She had already seen a few hashtags on twitter discussing riots, and even praising them!

"Rioting and destroying the property of good Christian people is not about freedom. It's about vandalism and about infringing on freedom," she stated. She went onto describe how she sees the next civil war evolving.

"We'll see friction in Congress. Guess what? It's already there. We'll see a non-Christian President. He's already there. We'll see large-scale riots across the country and start to swallow up the rest of the world. Guess what? We already have it at our doorsteps. At first, it's the hulligans, then they get support from 'normal' people, and then it works its way up. It's like rot on a plant slowly killing the entirety of the planet from the roots up."

She often received positive responses from her friends and from a number of strangers. They recommended new podcasts to her and she was akin to Alice in Wonderland as she found vast groups of like-minded people who were already preparing for the demise of the their society. From book-collecting to writing charters and creating safe-zones.

Joanna found a whole town just fifty miles from her city that was devoted to preserving the true American way. She found herself suddenly researching weaponry and how to respond in these situations. Especially given the recent riot in Atlanta which resulted in fifteen deaths.


Jerry's blog took off pretty quickly, a side-ffect of Reccr was easy content discovery of new content. The engine had recently gotten an update and could rate quality of writing and what one's reading comprehension level was. But today, today an even bigger update was coming up.

Jerry decided to live-blog it to his subscribers. He often covered topics about how technology was making the world better and he believed that Reccr was a big part of it.

As the suave man in the slightly-torn jeans and a hipster t-shirt came on stage, Jerry's hands frantically typed all over the keyboard.

"Tom Malkington made his way onto the stage. You can feel the anticipation in the audience and the hundreds of thousands watching the livestream."

"It looks like the livestream is having trouble handling the number of viewers but the show must go on. Live-bloggers present at the conference are updating us."

"Stream is back. Tom is discussing the past year of using Reccr and the changes it has made in the industry."

"Five million new content creators have flooded the market as a result of Reccr and its ability to rate new bloggers, audiocasters, and videocasters without requiring large subscription-ship."

"One in every three mobile devices has Reccr installed. 85% of all PCs and Macs in the US use Reccr, excluding locked-down enterprise computers and legacy systems."

"Content discovery and content consumption are easier than ever. People's viewership and readership of online news and other topics have risen 25% over the course of using Reccr. An astounding amount."

"Tom is showing some of the ways Reccr has improved. Including conversation groups it creates for new topics. People all over the world are matched up based on their profile preferences."

"He's demonstrating Facebook. He shared an article using Reccr. Reccr automatically befriended people with similar interests in the area that are currently online and put them in a special locked-down group. Within seconds, the article received fifteen comments and a conversation started."

"The audience claps in applause."

"Tom is opening up twitter and searching for a hashtag. He tries a few different ones until he finds one with no recent tweets #cutepugpuppies. He includes that the hashtags are for Twitter's sake; however, Reccr is already plugged into the service and can match up pug enthusiasts.

He enters a simple tweet: 'I absolutely adore #cutepugpuppies' and posts a picture of his dog.

'We'll come back to this,' he says."

"Tom announces future first-class integration with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and a number of other services. 'Even our traditional competitors are getting aboard with this,' he mentions, 'We're working hard to make our services available to everyone.'"

"Tom comes back to twitter and searches the hashtag again, a hundred people have tweeted within those few minutes. Many have followed him, retweeted him, and others have messaged him. 'Remember that these people are using Reccr,' he noted the little icon next to their name, 'This means that they will only see my cute pug pictures in my feed, not all of my tweets.'"

"Tom steps off stage and the Chief Product Development Officer, Billy comes up. He warns that he is unveiling some new features but not the big announcement of the day. He gestures to the slideshow which is addressed to publishers like me and content sharers."

"It discusses advanced Markov chains that jumpstart discussions. It's an opt-in feature for publishers but consumers alike. Regular people can enable this feature which will pull them into a new conversation."

"Billy is talking numbers but we all know the moment is coming. I think he's on the last one, automatic content sharing which sends out tweets and facebook shares of their favorite content. Oh and Reccr seems to be weighing on platforms that encourage further discussion to keep users engaged."

"'Finally, the hour has come,' Billy announced. Tom joins him on the stage along with their Chief Hardware Engineer. The lights dim and a title shows up, 'Reccr Band'. This has got to be revolutionary."


Joanna checked out her bright red Reccr Band in the mirror as she got ready for work. She considered podcasting as a job but dismissed it. She didn't want to mooch off people online. Her work was more important than that.

Her feed alert let her know that she had shared an article on increasing riots in the major cities following a police incident. A few of her new-found friends replied and urged her to find more information about it.

As her heart beat quickened in excitement, the Band recorded the information and made sure to suggest plenty of other new articles.

As she scrolled through them, she noticed a disturbing trend. The riots were increasing in frequency. More peaceful residents were killed each time, and more police force had to be used. It was dangerous.

Worse yet, Joanna's city was suspected to be the next victim. Several articles suggested stocking up on weaponry and supplies in case the riots boil over into the residential areas which has happened several times before.

"This is it," many articles announced, "We're nearing a civil war. And it's about to happen."

Joanna turned her car around and called in sick. She had to be prepared.


Jerry went for a run in the morning. The Band doubled as a health device which suited him. The less devices he had to strap onto himself, the better. As he rounded the corner of a neighborhood, his music was interrupted.

"We apologize for the interruption but bring you special news today," a man's voice sounded. A new type of just-in-time podcasts have been making it to the market, slowly replacing TV and radio news stations, "A hockey game will be taking place in the city and some overzealous celebrations are expected. Please stay calm and stay in your home. There is nothing to worry about. Enjoy your day!"

The music resumed. Jerry cancelled his dinner plans and decided to stay home to avoid getting stuck in traffic or having to share his favorite eat-out place with excited fans.

That night, he heard the shouting and the noises outside. He paid no attention to it as he watched his favorite show on Netflix. He heard a few car alarms and decided to check his phone. He saw that the news were warning to stay inside but that the "traditional media" is blowing the situation out of proportion.

The man fell asleep soundly despite the outside noise. He did not stir when someone threw a rock through his car's window, nor did he stir when someone broke down his door. Afterall, the Reccr told him there was nothing to worry about.


Joanna arrived home and prepared her ammunition. She had feared this would happen but not this soon. Reccr informed her that under the guise of a hockey event, thousands were storming the city, destroying property, stealing, and attacking helpless victims. That would not stand with her.

Several of her friends had already arrived at her home, armed to the teeth. Her heart pounded with exhilaration.

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Created by AntJanus