Dear Lifehacker, I've been browsing Google News for a long time now, but my recommendations seem to have strayed over time to things that I'm not really interested in (not to mention a few things I don't want others to see when Google News pops up on my screen). The same thing is also happening with sites like Amazon. Is there any way to "reset" my recommendations for a site and start from scratch? Sincerely, Ridiculous Recommendations
We've all been there before. Whether Yahoo has decided you like stories about child murder or you just read one too many stories about a naked man who bit off someone's face, sometimes your recommendations just get a little out of hand. There's no universal "reset" button for the internet, and while you could always create a new account for all of those sites, that isn't exactly an ideal solution. We've found that though every site is different, there are three broad categories of sites in terms of how they handle recommendations. Here's how they work.
Type One: Sites That Let You Clear Recommendations And History
Some sites have a lot of options for this, particularly Google and its related sites (like Google News). All you need to do is head to google.com/history and click "Remove All Web History" to delete the sites you've currently searched for and visited from Google (you can delete specific items if you want as well). This will also pause your web history, thus preventing you from getting those personalised recommendations in the future, which some of you may prefer. You can always turn it back on to start with a clean slate, though. To find out more, check out Google's help article on the topic, and check the help sections of your other favourite sites to see if they provide anything like this.
Type Two: Sites That Let You Manually "Improve" Your Recommendations
Some sites, like Amazon, are a little more complicated. Amazon will let you clear your viewing history, but it will still offer recommendations for you based on what you bought. On Amazon's Improve Your Recommendations page, you can mark certain purchased items as a gift or just tell it to not use that item for recommendations. You can also rate items, which should help improve the quality of your recommendations.
Again, every site is different, but if a site doesn't have a straightforward way of resetting everything, you can often use a rating system to manually improve your recommendations to fit your actual tastes and not just what you've browsed for.
Type Three: Sites That Don't Have Any Options Built-In
Sadly, there is a third type of site that just plain leaves you out in the cold. The New York Times' web site is a great example -- if you want to change your recommended articles, you merely have to "read more or fewer articles on a particular topic, or by spending more or less time in a particular section of NYTimes.com". Unfortunately, the best you can do for these sites is click on more rainbows and ponies to keep it from recommending child murder articles, or create a new account entirely to start from scratch.
Don't Forget To Use Private Browsing
Private browsing isn't just for porn. It can be really useful for things like this, when you know you're going to read an article or view an item that will muck up your recommendations. Maybe you're buying a gift for a friend on Amazon and don't want all that browsing logged as items you're interested in, or maybe you have to do research for a project that doesn't reflect the kinds of articles you like to read. Whatever your reason, it's easy to just open up Private Browsing when these situations come about and do your research in that window so the results aren't logged. This is a great way to prune your recommendations into something far more useful to you, so don't neglect it!
PS Got any of your own tricks or solutions to getting better recommendations on the web? Let us know in the comments.
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