I’m not sure where to begin, but I did very much like this:
The methods I gave earlier for advertising interests (“Did you know … Joshua Schachter also competitively whittles Persian cats”) let you learn more about the people you already know. That’s an important difference from the prototypical serendipitous recommendation: “you and X should become friends!” As Liz Goodman pointed out, we’re grown-ups and have lots of friends already. What else can the software do for us besides making it even harder to keep up with all the people we know? People are conversational animals, give them more things to talk about.
It reminded me of a moment I had last week when Jenn Sramek introduced herself on the CivicActions Team list. I’ve never met Jenn, and we haven’t worked directly with each other yet, so I had no way of really know what she was like or what kind of things she did outside of managing projects for CivicActions. Turns out she is into environmental sustainability and has worked on some interesting projects related to sustainability. She and I exchanged a few emails about some interesting sustainability projects and I e-introduced her to some friends of mine.
Similarly, at our recent retreat in Amsterdam, I learned that Karyn Gladstone does trapeze! That is pretty cool. My girlfriend and I have talked about taking some classes in trapeze, and interest both of us have had since before we met (I make this poitn because it is not like we met because of teh trapeze and we had no idea of know that the other had an interest in it untl we were talking about Circus Contraption or maybe I mentioned the NY Trapeze School), but have never really acted on. Now I can ask Karyn about trapeze.
But isn’t countering Homophily and pointing out these interesting tangents — these serendipities — kind of like identifying the things that you don’t know you don’t know? Maybe I actually am missing the point of the O’Reilly article in my anecdotes above. Neither bit of information I leanred “challenges” the way I think, it is just stuff I didn’t know, and wouldn’t have thought to ask. And we’re a pretty small “social” network at CivicActions and we do, by default, have a lot in common.
This is definitely interesting to think about, especially when we talk about Search, content aggregation and the like.
Last thought, I love this:
Another way to build in serendipity is to have pivotal navigation: tags, top ten lists, and Flickr’s interestingness measure are all ways to break people out of whatever group they’re in and take them to something new. Links are at the heart of this: we’ve all been lost in clicking our way through a drunkard’s walk of the Internet at one point or another. Inspire that in people: build those links and the metadata behind them into your site from the get-go.
Pivotal Navigation! We were talking pivots in mid 2005!