Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Recommendation Pieces from Time Magazine

A couple of interesting pieces from the last two issues of Time around the concept of recommendation... with the first being from the May 31 cover story on Facebook.

The story by Dan Fletcher is titled "How Facebook Is Redefining Privacy" and looks at the concept of sharing information online via Facebook and how the company enables (or as some privacy advocates assert, forces) that sharing.  One very interesting area that Facebook is getting into is that of recommendation with the company making a concerted effort to enable users to easily click a button on other websites saying they "like" a product or service.  With this information then broadcasting to the friends of that user, you've got a powerful influence mechanism. 

In this same category of recommendation, the June 7 issue of Time contained the Lev Grossman piece "How Computers Know What We Want — Before We Do" about Internet music company Pandora.  The concept is the company breaks a song down to the presence or absence of some 20-30 specific attributes and then uses the results to recommend/play songs for users. Basically you have users who say they like a song (or group), then a database of now 740,000 songs which Pandora algorithms use to match up other music with the same characteristics.

It's pretty ingenious stuff (with additional details about Pandora and concept on the below video)...

The examples from Facebook and Pandora are different in that one handles recommendation based on individual feeling and one on technology and defined characteristics, but both cases are about influencing perception and then purchase decisions.  Coupling these examples with recommendation efforts from other companies like Amazon and Netflix (with Netflix and their recommendation engine being fairly heavily featured in the Grossman piece)... you've got a whole new world around purchase decisions.


On a completely different note, but something that also struck me from Time lately was the Nancy Gibbs essay "TAPS: Help for the Families of Fallen Soldiers."  Powerful stuff that's also profiled in this ABC News story...