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Planned Serendipity

LightbulbOne of the books I'm currently reading is David Weinberger's Everything Is Miscellaneous (stay tuned for a full review later).  I was only 30 or 40 pages into it when I became concerned that it was going to be one of those books where you figure out the core premise right away and the remaining 200 pages are just reinforcing that same point.  That might still be the case, but a chapter I read tonight got me thinking about the blogosphere...

Weinberger uses the phrase "planned serendipity" when talking about how Amazon uses its various filters and services to recommend new products for returning customers.  I'd say that phrase pretty much nails it, at least for how Amazon operates.

But where's the "planned serendipity" for the blogosphere?  If I enjoy blogs on sports, for example, where's the service that helps me discover new and interesting sports blogs, ones that I've probably never seen before?  We're left to find these blogs mostly by chance.  If I'm reading one of my favorite blogs, they might link to a new one I haven't heard of and so I click over to check it out.  How inefficient!

Remember that BlogRovr service I talked about earlier this week?  Wouldn't it be cool if they would add a feature listing a handful of blogs that are highly relevant to the one you're currently reading?  Again, I'd like to see all this via my feedreader, which is another feature they need to implement.  That, and they'd need to filter out blogs that I already subscribe to.  For example, if I'm reading a publishing-related blog, don't include one that I get the RSS feed to in the list of relevant ones I should check out.

P.S. -- This last feature, filtering out redundant entries, is something Amazon hasn't quite perfected yet.  I got an e-mail from Amazon last week suggesting that I consider buying The Black Swan, despite the fact that I already read and posted a review of it on Amazon!


Michael A. Banks

The redundant recommendations at Amazon result from putting too much trust and hope into systems intended to keep humans out of the loop. So we're encouraged to buy the book we bought yesterday, as well as the books we wrote. Actually, an algorithm that would prevent recommending books one already knows shouldn't be difficult. As for authors being offered their own books ... maybe that's too big a job.

Michael A. Banks

I've spoken with a quite a few people who run popular blogs lately, and the sense I get is that there are at least as many people who interact with the blog world through feeds as go hunting for new blogs daily. It's an almost necessary approach, given the huge mass of blogs out there. (A few even use feeds to filter news.) Most rely on referrals from trusted friends, or links recommended in a blog they're already reading. An in-feed service like you describe would be welcome to many.

Joe Wikert

Hi Mike. Yeah, I agree that I'd still wind up stumbling across new blogs the indirect way I do today regardless of what new services might be offered in the future. But, I'd really appreciate it if someone could offer the feature set I have in mind to help me out! Simply suggesting new, related blogs based on context, ranking or some other popularity metric would be a huge boost to making other blogs more discoverable.

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