Sumit Sharma

My opinion on current efforts to make the web a more relevant place for us…

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There have been moves being made to rectify this potentially messy situation. For example, incumbent search engine algorithms are continually iterating in an effort to re-evaluate our search intents based on keyword popularity and cookie information about certain online activities. Pandora filters music streams to users based on their historical song preferences, Amazon.com tries to gauge what you may be interested in buying based on what we’ve browsed before. Many social networking websites and entities such as Digg, Delicious, Aadvark and Hunch are more explicit in trying to gauge our interests through more explicit feedback solicitation.

However the algorithms employed today still yield imperfect results too often and it can be argued that as the base set of data expands across the internet, these algorithms will only get marginally better, and perhaps even worse, over time. Perhaps, the reason why is because they are focused on an extremely limited set of data based on which they can form algorithms to discover intent and learn more about us. This data is limited in a couple of ways:

1. Whatever data is captured is not shared. Data exists in silos for each web company. This entails each company to have an extremely limited view of our activity, of course, unless the only website we frequent is theirs only, which is probably not the case.

2. To truly discover intent, and figure out more about us, we will need a much larger data set encompassing beyond just the online world. Data from the physical world, such as location, is already being gathered however there is extremely nascent and there is much more scope required. The development of sensor networks will go a long way in supporting this. Another realm for data could be data related to our mind/body – such data, of correlated correctly, can provide some extremely disruptive solutions to the various providers of data.

The underlying issue is that context needs to be understood. Context of user activity resulting  data production, as well as context of user consumption.

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Written by Sumit

October 17, 2009 at 6:41 am

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