<start_rant> I'm constantly fascinated by the increasing accuracy of recommendation engines across the Web. This includes everything from Amazon's finely tuned (commerce assistance/know it all personal shopper) to the simple "You Might Like.." tag- or topic-based links appearing at the end of many online articles to one of my favorites, the Music Genome Project and Pandora. These solutions provide a never-ending fountain of entertainment and intrigue but often do little to break our habits. I've been spending a lot of time thinking about the nature of how we teach ourselves, track our progress and build our lives into unique paths. Or, how we form online habits. Or habits online. You get the idea.
For example, after seeing many familiar faces in Twitter's "Similar to You" sidebar, a little voice inside of me wanted an alternative "Not Similar To You At All" set of choices. Many fascinating pieces have been written on confirmation bias and serendipity online (I'm thinking of Ethan Zuckerman's blog) and these ideas are essential to keep in mind as we flood ourselves with information. Sifting through the abundance is difficult enough considering that many of us worry more about keeping up than keeping ahead. Ironically, I've felt pressured to read The Information Diet, Clay Johnson's recent book because it's something I constantly struggle with and have since ye olden days when I practiced guitar religiously.
Of course, being active, passive or interactive all have their place. Sure, you can go on a link-to-link adventure and find yourself in the far corners of the Web. And you should - that's the point. Nowadays I feel like the commoditization of the web makes it less likely. It does for me, at least. That's one reason I stopped using Facebook in 2008 and the reason I didn't get an iPhone until last year. So what tools will get us started breaking our digi-habits? The goal would be a tool that asks you a few questions about your preferences and presents you with information that's remote enough you'd be unlikely to find it or search for it, but juuuust related enough that you won't be presented with totally uninteresting or useless crap. And sometimes, throw in a completely opposing point of view. Which made me think of this guitar riff. </end_rant>>