Saturday, July 02, 2005
Behavioral Targeting: Serendipity Lost?
I thought this sounded great at first - you know, to improve the signal-to-noise ratio of the content I view - until I considered what we might be missing as consumers if this became the norm on the web. If my favorite information site is using its sophisticated tracking and content-serving programming to show me only the things related to what I've been doing lately, am I missing anything important that may not be related to my recent surfing behavior? Both online and offline I think there's something to be said for the serendipity of discovering something wonderful that you weren't looking for in the first place. The nearest analogy I can think of is how shopping for books on Amazon changed everything. While I like and use Amazon a lot, unlike wandering through a physical bookstore (Starbucks cappuccino in hand, of course), using Amazon, I've never unearthed a "must-have-but-really-wasn't-looking-for-it-and-I-only-found-it-because-someone-absent-mindedly-dropped-it-on-top-of-the-bargain-pile" book. I guess the question I'm pondering is will our computer algorithms ever be 'smart' enough to reliably give us those chance discoveries that make life more enjoyable? Time will tell.