Archive for the ‘Amazon’ Category:


The Ubiquitous Tablet

I’m not going to say anything about the new range of Kindles yet – that deserves consideration alongside whatever comes from Microsoft and Apple in the next month or so.  I do want to talk about the trend which is becoming clear with the pricing of the Kindle fire:  Tablets are becoming cheaper.  Tablets are going to continue to get cheaper.  We will stop considering tablets as expensive pieces of technology, and start considering them part of our lives – like we do with phones and wrist watches.

Here is my prediction:  Fairly soon, we will all own lots of tablets.  We will leave tablets littered around the house and workplace, and we will use whichever tablet is closest to us when we want to do something.

My key assumption here is that tablet UI development is not dead.  That one day, we will probably settle on a fairly common UI pattern for tablets – much as we have with the desktop metaphor for PCs – but it took us 15 years to firmly settle on the PC UI – and I’m going to guess there is another half decade before we come close to doing the same with tablets.

So what does this mean for how tablets should develop:

1.  We will not store our data on tablets.  We may cache our data on tablets, but the data will be stored in the cloud (or – possibly – on a server you own.  I think the cloud is more likely, but the geek in me likes the idea of being able to control my own data)

2.  Since I don’t think there will be just one brand of tablet, any more than there is just one brand of notebook (yes, you are allowed to use notebooks which are not Moleskines, just like you are allowed to use tablets which are not iPads), and since tablets will be interchangeably used, this brings into question native apps.  I don’t think native apps will die, but I think they will become less ubiquitous.  More and more, I foresee people using javascript and html based apps which they can access from any of their tablets.  Native apps will exist for a few purposes:

  • Games – assuming games are not streamed from your media centre box or somesuch, many games will remain native apps
  • Turning a particular tablet into a particular thing.  If I buy a 32″ tablet and decide ‘this will be my TV set’, then I might buy a specific native TV guide app for it.  In this case, the app will be an app you don’t want to move between devices – so it will be installed on a per device basis (perhaps with an access control list of approved users)

It is just possible that Android apps will become the default – but that seems unlikely.  Since you will want your personal collection of apps to move with you between devices (not having to install every app on every device), I think there will probably be initially space for an app which acts as an installer for these new apps in some way.  I don’t quite know how this will work – I’m guessing we’ll see it on Android first, followed by Windows, then Apple last.

3. Multi account tablets are not the way forward.  With tablets just lying around to be used this seems non-obvious, but my thought is that tablets should not be multi or single account, they should haves no account.  What I want is to go to a friend’s house I have never visited before, pick up his tablet and start using it – with all my apps there waiting for me.  If all the data (including your set of apps) is stored in the cloud, this isn’t a pipe dream, all it would take is some form of federated log in – I expect the best way to do this will be by bumping your NFC enabled phone up against the tablet.

You might worry that not having accounts with passwords might mean tablets get stolen.  I don’t share this worry.  Tablets are cheap, for most of the tablets we wil leave lying around and lend to friends, you won’t be bothered stealing them any more than you would steal the crockery from their dinner table.  Expensive tablets can till have some sort of pin locking mechanism before they let you in.

 

In thinking about this new, tablet, world, I’m wondering how far off we are.  Right now, I can’t see any reason why companies wouldn’t stick six iPad mini’s or Nexus 7s in each of their meeting rooms, to allow people to get to that email they need on the spur of the moment without having to bring in their laptop (and all the associated distractions).  Since these are special tablets with a special purpose (sitting in a meeting room), we might also want to install some sort of video conferencing app on them – each person having their own camera and being able to look whoever is speaking in the eye (or quickly go to another speaker and send a sidebar message), might well make multi-site videoconferences work.

We haven’t yet seem the impact of the tablet on the world.  It will be a different impact from the PC – more like the impact of the mobile phone, but without needing the mobility, since ubiquity and cheapness works just as well.  My predictions are probably conservative – but we’ll see them happening, and they’ll probably begin happening in the next few months. Give it five years, and the idea of not having a tablet to hand will be a strange as going anywhere without your mobile.

 

The Art of Being Invisible

Invisible Man

Recently Citrix commissioned a survey into the public perception of cloud computing and it went ever so slightly viral.  Which was presumably the intent – to get magazines and websites to publish articles which link Citrix with cloud computing, rather than actually to learn anything new about the cloud.  I have nothing against this – Citrix is a company that is a big player in the growing cloud, but anyone who hasn’t noticed this (and many haven’t) probably still consider them to be ‘Those metaframe people’ – so any PR that works is probably a good thing.

What I found out from watching this unfold was:

Not many people writing articles about surveys actually link to the original source

Even when I got to the original source, I wasn’t able to locate the survey people were give, or the responses to those questions – just the results, as digested by the company.  Which means I have absolutely no idea of the context in which to put the results.

Most people who actually reported on the article didn’t seem to care.  They pretty much parroted the press release data.  Again, as I would have expected – that seems to be what tech journalism is all about.  But it would be nice to see more people out there who get some interesting data and actually think about it – and its implications – before writing anything.

And finally, as the survey suggests:  Not many people know what cloud computing is.

Which isn’t a surprise, because it is a made up term which loosely describes a whole bunch of tech industry trends.  In short, I think we can safely say it comes from those vague technical drawings of infrastructure where you might draw a few data centers, each with a bunch of servers and storage inside, then link them by straight lines to a picture of a cloud – often with the words ‘The Internet’ inside to suggest the data centers were connected together via someone else’s infrastructure.  As people are increasingly hosting there technology on someone else’s infrastructure, rather than in bits of a datacenter maintain by company employees we say that technology is in the cloud.

The public don’t know about this.  And frankly they don’t care.

And also they shouldn’t.

My day job is developing a key part of the infrastructure for the cloud.  Without it big parts of what we call the cloud wouldn’t work – or at best would have to work in a very different and less good way.  You will almost certainly have used part of this product in some way today.  And you probably don’t even realise it, or care.  So why don’t I care that no-one knows about the cloud?  Why don’t I wish more people would love my work and sing its praises?

Because, if I do my job well, my work is invisible.  Every time you notice anything about my work, any time you worry that it exists in any way, shape, or form, you’re keeping me up at night because I’m not doing my job well.

I’ll give you an example:  Electricity.  To get electricity there are power stations, huge networks of wires, substations, transformers, all ending up at a plug socket in your house.  You don’t notice these.  You don’t care.  Unless – that is – it all stops working… or perhaps you have some technical problem like trying to run a 110 volt appliance in the UK.  If electricity wasn’t invisible – if we had to ring up and request enough power for our TV set to run, then we would care more – and enjoy our lives a little bit less.

Cloud computing is actually all about making computing into a utility, just like electricity.  It is about not having to worry about where servers are.  It is about not having to worry about where your data is.  Now, some people have to worry about electricity – if you’ve ever set up a data center, you’ll know that you need to start caring about all sorts of issues which don’t worry the home owner.  Similarly, if you work in the IT industry, you’ll have all sorts of worries about aspects of CLoud computing which end users simply shouldn’t ever have to care about.

So if you ask a man in the street about the cloud – he should remain more worried about the sort of cloud which rains on him.  And, to determine how worried he should be, he’ll probably ask Siri on his iPhone.  And not care about how Siri takes his voice input, and uses vast numbers of computers to respond to it with data generated by metrological offices who process big data over vast grids of computers.  He won’t worry about anything which goes in between, and more than he worries about how to charge is iPhone when he gets home.

Consumers already have their heads in the cloud.  They don’t realise it.  and they don’t care.  because they are already used to it.  To them the cloud isn’t anything new, its just how things are these days.  As for companies and programmers – we need to make the cloud less and less obvious, less and less difficult.  One shouldn’t need to think about doing something in the cloud, because that should be the easiest way to do things.  We have to take the blocks of code we put together, and make them blocks which work across the cloud as seamlessly as they currently work across CPU cores.  We need to stop thinking in terms of individual computers and individual locations – and those of us who build the code need to make it easier and easier to do this.

We are already on our way.  But would I want to be the number one clod computing company?  No, I would want to be the number one computing company – because once everyone is in the cloud, the cloud vanishes, and we ar back playing the same game we always played.

 

Frighteningly Ambitious

Paul Graham has blogged about 7 ‘frighteningly ambitious’ themes for new startups – 7 themes which could lead to some form of world domination.  Interestingly many of these are themes I’ve had ideas about.  Not ideas I’ve done much with, you understand.  I’m lacking the time, energy, inclination, and most probably balls.  But I’ve thought about them.  And so, not wanting to waste good thoughts, here are the points I would start from:

Search Engines

Is the time ripe for a new search engine to overtake Google?  I for one always thought AltaVista could never be beaten, so I’m probably not the best person to ask (even though I became one of Google’s earliest adopters.  I do know what I like when I see it).  I don’t think there will ever be another Google – at least not in the same way that Google was an incremental improvement upon AltaVista and the webcrawlers which preceded it.  But maybe there is scope for another search engine done differently.

Graham suggests ‘bring back old style search’ – and I think there is a place for this.  Its a place Duck Duck Go is probably already in.  But I think its a niche.  Because people, generally, do want to find the things useful to them, not simply the best responses based on whoever has asked the question.  No.  There are two paths a new king of search could follow:

The first is to ask a question “Can we pay for search without using adverts”  or to put it another way “Are anyone but advertisers willing to pay for search?”  My guess is: yes.  But not your old style search.  If you were to provide a service more akin to Siri, there would be people (phone and tablet manufacturers, perhaps) who might be willing to pay to tie in with your back end.  Similarly, if you were to master the art of media search, then TV companies and set top box companies might want to pull you on board.  Finally, I might be prepared to pay a small amount for a really good search system which worried more about what I wanted than what ad revenue they were bringing in.  I’m probably unusual here, but if you were to give me something spectacular, there might be money in it.

The second is ultra-personal search.  The sort of search that feels almost creepy.  I’m talking about the sort of search, which right now is monitoring the web pages you visit, and listening into your conversations so that next week, when you say ‘I vaguely remember hearing something about a new film’ it can tell me that John was suggesting we go to see the new Die Hard movie, Julie was interested in us popping out to see a rom-com if anything new was coming out and  I personally had watched a couple of trailers – but didn’t pay much attention to them.  There are all sorts of ethical issues here.  But I wrote about privacy recently, and maybe the next generation, growing up privacy free, won’t really care.  Or maybe we have to sell it as being less like an evil corporation grabbing all your data, and more like having a personal butler who offers gentle suggestions.

Maybe if the two ideas were tied together (so you had to pay for the service, but you could be sure the information wasn’t being used by anyone but you) this would be more palatable.

Replace Email

I’ve talked about this before.  One Inbox is a perfectly good plan for a startup.  It absolutely is the same idea as Paul Graham’s suggestion we need something closer to todo list management than communication management.  My only comment on his suggestion is that we don’t specifically, need a protocol.  Everything can be done by simply having links to particular web pages, along with little applets to scrape data from said webpages and turn it into a brief summary you can see as you pass on by.  Ultimately there will always be a variety of ways people want to get things into your inbox, the art will be figuring out the best way to manage and respond to them.

Replace Universities

I have lots to say about the subject of replacing universities – well, about fixing education in general.  In fact, I’ve more to say than is fair to try to squeeze into a subsection of an article.  I probably have a whole series of articles.  So instead of writing everything here, I will just explain the main thoughts I have in this area, and then point to why the place I would start is very different from the place Paul gram thinks we should begin.  Here are my thoughts about education.

Right now school systems are more or less, one size fits all.  But children are very different, and have different styles of learning.  Catering for all learning styles -or for the most common – mean most children are not being educated in the way that suits them the best much of the time.

Also, currently schools systems have to cope with teaching a wide range of abilities.  My personal experience suggests this has a tendency to involve putting a lot of effort in getting the least able children to keep up with the crowd, and leaving the brightest to educate themselves.

But we are in a world where it is now possible for more people to be educated in the way that suits them best.  The same subject can be taught by watching videos, reading, discussing via video conference with a group, or one on one with a specialist teacher or lecturer.

We have enough experience of A/B testing and recommendation engines, that we can figure out what is the most effective way of getting particular information conveyed to the right students.

Online testing (aided by actual teachers paid – or not – to read essays) can be used to determine what you know, and can be used to figure out what the best thing for you to learn next is.

Right now, the online materials are there that anybody who wants a good university level education – self taught – can probably manage it: the Kahn University materials and online courseware for places like Cambridge, MIT and the Open University are superb. Kahn University is even playing with ideas of taking you though a self paced curriculum in maths using the sort of techniques I’ve described above

So I wouldn’t – as Paul Graham suggests – decide to start with university level – or even necessarily with high school materials.  I would focus on home schoolers.

Home schooling has characteristics of parents, who are often desperately interested in their children’s education, but who may not be capable of teaching every subject on a curriculum.  These people may well have better disposable income than many sectors of the education market, and all they would want is to have some influence over the particular curriculum, and to monitor what is happening.

So I would develop tools for home schoolers.  Tools which might allow home schooled children to access educational material online that they would not be able to get at home.  teaching which could learn to suit the individual child in exactly the way I’m describing above.  The barriers would be low, because it would be monitored and controlled by the parents – in exactly the way home schooling currently is.

Developing such tools would simply require the work of a team of teachers, programmers and designers.  And would be hugely desirable to home schooling parents.  But I suspect, they would also quickly fall into the hands of schools which wished to let some children experiment with self directed learning, and parents who wished to offer their children the ability to catch up with, or exceed their peers.

Internet Drama

I’ve talked about apps being the new channel before.  Lets not go there again.  Exactly which app store you buy from, I don’t yet know.  My bet was on amazon, but anyone could take the crown.  I wouldn’t suggest you try to go for the crown yourself – there are too many players, and they are all better funded than you.  Maybe you could make the program guide – but that’s more like being a search engine.

So lets look at something different.  Where else might content come from?  There is an idea I’ve had for years which doesn’t seem to have happened, and I’m not quite sure why.

It seems that online there are people who like writing.  People who like acting.  People who like filming, directing, animating, editing.  All of these things.  Why isn’t there a place which brings them together?  I’m thinking of a place where people are not sniffy about owning their work, and work together to produce open source creative content – content which may not reach the quality of the big studios, but which is good enough, and which might bring you to the eyes of a bigger name – or at the very least give you a portfolio.

Here is how it might work.

I have an idea for a script.  Just that, an idea.  I post it on this website.  Over time, I add detail to this idea, fleshing it out into a longer, more detailed treatment, and then over time into a scene by scene breakdown, and then a script.  Others could watch you doing this online – it would all be public – and they may begin to comment, making suggestions.  Or we could even go to a github type of an arrangement where they can fork your work – its all creative commons, see, as long as you are attributed, they can do what they like.

Now, from there, there are many paths it could take.  Voice actors could record audio recordings of particular character’s parts – which a talented sound mixer could put together.  Directors and artists could put together story boards (we could write an app to display them in time with the audio recordings), and there would even be the potential for people to get together to make live action recordings, or animations.

Everything would be free, but you – as a media consumer – would get to know the artists you like, and start following their output.

Eventually, teams of creatives might get together and begin to sell new works – or nicely packaged copies of their work with extra features.

In fact, if the site that got these teams together could find a way to fund these (kickstarter like, perhaps), or offer help in production or promotion, who knows, it could turn from an online community into the next big studio.

 

I’ll approach the remaining three big ideas in a later article

Feeling more Metro-politan : 10 things the Windows 8 Consumer Preview has made clear to me

Having played with the Consumer Preview of Windows 8 for a few days, I’m beginning to pick up a feel for it:  indeed, more than that, for the first time in years I’m beginning to feel like I want to own a windows desktop PC, because for the first time I’m realising I really want to develop software for Windows.  Its all down to the Metro interface – and how much smoother it has become to use since the developer preview.  I thought I would list 10 things I have come to understand about how Metro works – and how you work with it:

1) You live your life in Metro.  The desktop is a distraction.  You avoid it when you can.  Metro is where you prefer to spend your time – at least when you’re working with touch.

2) But the desktop now works with touch.  Unlike the developer preview, where I had to keep reaching for a stylus to do anything desktoppy, I can now control desktop applications with my fingers.  Touch works on the desktop – you’ll probably use it instead of a mouse most of the time, if you have a touch enabled monitor which is comfortably positioned.

3) You’ll probably wind up treating the desktop a bit like Metro.  When you pin the desktop to the side of your screen, you get each application listed separately.  Now, to be fair, you’ve had this with alt-tab for a while, but now you just touch to get to where you want.  It feel natural to treat each desktop app like a full screen application.

4) Linking online accounts works wonderfully, but feels a bit creepy.  I installed W8 on a VM, and logged in with my live id.  My face grinned back at me – a photo I had taken months ago with the developer preview.  I didn’t expect it to be at work.  Similarly, various apps started sucking information from google, facebook, linked in.  I had given them permission, but it all integrated too well – better than I had come to expect from my phone.  It crossed that line into feeling like I had less of a computer than I did a stalker.

5) But, that said, the ‘People’ App shows exactly how integration can be effective – and how Metro is meant to work.  I look at a live feed of my twitter and facebook statuses, seamlessly integrated.  Sometimes I click on a link someone has posted, and I’m taken to the web browser.  I may surf onwards, doubling back by scrolling to the left, and then when I want to get back to the People app, I drag it on from the left hand side – which is exactly where I expect to find it.

6) Metro is made for dashboards.  Right now, the only dashboards we are given are people (a social media dashboard), weather and finance.  Weather and finance are very similar, and probably shows what an awful lot of Metro apps will look like.  You scroll left and right to see the data you want, use semantic zoom to get to a table of contents, data is updated live from the net, you can flick between certain displays of data by touching onscreen buttons, and a summary of the most important facts are shown on the live tile when you return to the start screen.

7) There is no good way of taking notes – yet.  Evernote for metro is available, but doesn’t work in portrait mode (which is the most comfortable way to hold the tablet and type).  You can use your favourite desktop application, but for me, that’s gvim, and the touch keyboard doesn’t have an escape key, which kills its usefulness.  The skydrive version of Word doesn’t work properly (it won’t bring up a keyboard when you want to write), so right now, I’m left with either notepad, or Google docs.  Neither are a great choice.

8 ) In fact, there is still quite a lack of useful apps all around.  Hopefully this will be fixed soon.  Things I’m missing are:  A notepad.  A hypercard style thing for creating my own metro dashboards (as described above) and books.  A decent version of Amazon Kindle which takes advantage of Metro… right now I find the windows app running in the desktop to make particularly poor use of the tablet’s screen.  A metro calculator (in fact, I would quite like python and Idle for metro.  That’s probably a wish too far – especially as the lack of special keys on the metro keyboard is quite limiting).  A metro version of explorer.  A metro version of powershell.  And finally a metro iPlayer.

9) Lots of things are quite tricky to find – especially power features.  I tired to change set the APN so that I could use a data sim .  I managed it, but it took a lot of looking – and the old windows way of doing it no longer worked. (incidentally, for folks in the UK with a Build developer preview tablet, if you want to use mobile data, a giffgaff pay as you go sim works well in mine now I’ve figured it out)  Unpinning and uninstalling metro apps is easy once you know how [touch and hold a tile, drag it down slightly so it gets an orange border, then use the bottom of screen menu] – but I had to search the web to find out how to do it.  The menu bars remain quite unintuitive… they’ll probably get better as I get more used to it, but I can’t help feeling the design reflects how the Metro framework works internally more than what a user might want to do with it.

10) Ultimately, it feels good to use.  The developer preview didn’t.  Some of this is due to stability.  Some due to performance.  Some due to the ‘right click’ touch gesture is now far easier to do.  I’m not sure how convinced people will be when Windows 8 replaces their desktop, but for people coming in to Metro as a touch first interface, I expect it to be widely considered a good thing.

Lean Publishing and the Future Of Books

I’m very taken by some of the ideas behind lean publishing.  The idea is simple – start writing a book, and when you’ve got something written (it doesn’t have to be much – or indeed good) start selling it via leanpub.com.  As time goes by you add to your book – either more information you’ve wanted to add, or in response to comments from readers.  You submit these updates, and all your books purchasers can access them straight away.  You also have complete control over book price, so you can raise the price as your book grows.

Leanpub also provide some technically very neat tools for converting your book to different ebook formats – but thats by the by.  Its more about the idea.

What leanpub lacks is the ability to sell your book for a trivial amount of money (say 1 cent) – this is probably an effect of the costs of payment processing… but its a shame, almost anyone could write a book worth 1 cent – by the time you reach 99 cents, you start needing higher quality.  They also lack the tools to keep engaged with the reader – not just by providing updates, you understand, but by having in depth conversations – I’m thinking the ideal leanpub type site would have a blog, a wiki and a forum system all built in.

I’ve wondered if you could go even further with books than this. In the same sense that the ideal TV program is now an app, perhaps the ideal book is too.

I’m talking about lots of things… if I’m reading my book on a computer, then I want references to webpages to be hyperlinks, and references to other books to take me to the right place on amazon.  But I want more – maybe I should get a discussion forum built in (possibly even a forum which knows how far I’ve got into the book to stop spoilers).  Maybe I should be able to shop for books the author recommends.  Does the author do occasional interviews about this book?  Then his podcast could be included too.

I’ve also long had a soft spot for sites like dailylit.com which give you chunks of books every day, either by email or RSS.  Something about this form of serialisation of books seems ideal to be for young adult reading… perhaps in a long series like Twilight or Happy Potter you would subscribe to a book, getting new stories as time moves on.

Of course, all these ideas could begin with writing via LeanPub – because all leanpub use for writing is markdown formatted text – and, once you had amassed sufficient text, if my ideas are right, there will be people out there who have written the app frameworks for the sort of ideas i’m talking about, and will be willing to let you use them in return for a cut in the profits – just like LeanPub do with their ebook update offering.

Amazon on Your High Street

Word on the street (you know, that information super highstreet you have these days) is that amazon are planning on opening brick and mortar stores.  How does this fit in with my previous suggestion that the new opportunity on the high street is the apple store for brands (especially publishers)?

At first, quite well you might think.  Amazon are  a publisher, and have a range of their own products they may wish to support or add value to.  And you’d be right – this might jst about work.  But it isn’t a unified brand like Apple is… so while Amazon might be able to bring author speeches and Kindle Fire support, unless they really go in for the ‘community cafe’ approach I think publishers need to adopt I don’t see it being a rip-roaring success.

Because the products they sell are not the thing that makes Amazon Amazon – so showcasing the products isn’t going to be a big success.  What makes Amazon Amazon is excatly the opposite of products – Amazon doesn’t care about what it sells – Amazon care that it is able to sell lots of everything you might possible need at a better price than everyone else and just as conveniently.  Amazon doesn’t tie the user to the product, it ties the user to the convenience (which is why I’m an Amazon Prime junkie).

So I don’t see an Amazon bookshop – or an Amazon iStore – being a success.  But what if Amzon went down the convenience route.  Right now, I get next day delivery (Prime Junkie, see) But what if I want a book or product right now?  Amazon could handle this… they could buy into out of town shopping park stores and fill them with books – both for browsing and with Argos-like warehousing behind.  Now when I buy a book Amazon could offer me “Pick it up right now from …”.  Moreover, they could also offer “Pick it up this afternoon from …” – which might give me access to a far wider range of books (it would be easier, since Amazon would only have to ship from warehouse to specific shops).

Now add 24 Hour opening, and a place from which I could collect all my amazon deliveries (since some people don’t work in an office where they can easily get all their parcels sent to them), and we have even greater convenience – and even less caring about what the product is they are selling.

Sure they could still use the space to promote their authors and their electrical goods.  Sure, it would certainly be the place you would go to if your Kindle broke.  But it would be Amazon, not Apple.  And for Amazon, being Amazon would – I suspect – be a better bet.

 

 

Recommending

It doesn’t seem to be that difficult to write a recommendation engine that works fairly well.  Netflix has one, so does Amazon.  They work.  But they don’t always provide the recommendations I want.

To be clear.  They work at what they are designed to do.  But what they are designed to do isn’t always what I want.

For instance, Amazon sees what I read, and how I rate it, and makes suggestions based on what it sees.  And they are fairly good suggestions.  Except I read thrillers by one particular author.  I do this because I don’t read a whole lot of fiction, and I enjoy what he writes.  Now I know I could, potentially, read a whole lot more thrillers – and the thrillers by other authors which amazon recommends are probably clost to the type of thing I like.  But I don’t.  And right now I won’t.  I have better things to do with my time.  So it would be better if Amazon didn’t show me these things.

The problem is that they show me things they know I will enjoy, not things they know I will  want to read.

Another problem is the ‘I like this / I don’t like this’ choice.  You see if I’m looking for web pages to read, and someone offers me a load of links, I will go through, and if a link looks interesting, I’ll click on it.  Now the cost of clicking is low, so I don’t require much entertainment per click – it doesn’t take much for me to say ‘I like this’.  As a result, I might see a lot of lolcats.  Whereas what I really enjoy might be in depth journalism.

The problem here is I might like something (it may entertain me), but I may not value it.

There is an added concept of valuing here… some people provide short form content, which I like.  and which I consistently like (think Seth Godin, or XKCD, or quite a few people’s twitter streams).  Because I continually like them – even if I rarely value individual posts, I may well value their output over time.

I also want to see things which are new to me.  Not things (or ideas) which I have seen before.  Ideally I want to be quick off the draw.  Now its already clear I am influenced by certain individuals (Lets say Seth Godin… but lets also say Jason Kottke), hwta I would like to do is be influenced by their influencers.  I want discovery to come as part of whichever recommendation engine I use.  (Incidentally, this may apply to netflix… I want to see the films [and books, TV and web pages] which inspire the writers or directors of the films I love)

I don’t have a solution to this.  I’m thinking it would be nice to have a recommendation engine which monitors everything you consume (perhaps in some nice privacy aware way), and lets you not only ‘like’ it but also ‘value’ it and perhaps ‘dont show me as much stuff like this’ it.  But which spots trends in when you like things (so that perhaps it might realise I like everything by a particular individual – and that I perhaps value that individual’s output), and which is also able to spot what your influencers are likely to be influenced by – and give it to you straight away.

Finally it shouldn’t recommend me things to buy, click on or watch which I don’t want to buy, click on or watch.  If it really really thinks I would like something, it should construct a link that tells me exactly why.

I don’t quite know how much of this is possible (but start doing it well, and the metadata might come) and I don’t know if people really like recommendation engines outside of online shops (it seems with reddit that community ultimately trumped recommendation).  It is, however, what I want.  Because my life is too short for lolcats, and too busy for most generic thriller authors.

[although, should I suddenly be in the mood for a new thriller or a fantastic lolcat, I really ought to be able to ask the engine to find me the one I would be most likely to both want to read and enjoy]

© Ben.Cha.lmers.co.uk
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