On serendipity

Dreaming of tools that collate my interests

Monday Note recently posted a perceptive (if somewhat wordy) analysis of print vs. web in the news and information space.  In “Reconciling efficiency with serendipity”, editor Frederic Filloux claims:

“The fundamental fracture between print and digital media lies exactly here: paper is a fantastic vector for a reading experience driven by curiosity; the web is a cold medium utterly efficient for a search-based, focus-driven reading.”

Filloux pines for a “unique console” that could replace what he describes as a “jury-rigged system of bookmarks, RSS and microblogging feeds.”

Like Filloux, I’d pay good money for that “unique console”.  Almost every day, I come across articles, blog posts or factoids that resonate, inspire or challenge how I think about a variety of topics, including publishing.

I keep track of them in a variety of ways, none satisfying and all error-prone.  Just yesterday, I came across a forgotten Word document with links I compiled two months ago for a presentation I am completing this week.  How’s that for serendipity?

Filloux’s analysis and my own experience were top of mind when I read a Los Angeles Times article about GetGlue, launched late last year by AdaptiveBlue.  The Times notes that the “… web plug-in and its companion website (are) the virtual substance that holds together key resources about a particular movie, book or album.”

This got me thinking about truly reconciling efficiency with serendipity, at the dawn of the semantic web.  If GetGlue can track information about products (in their case, media offerings), how far can we be from a desktop plug-in that collates interests and suggests thematic groupings based on things like bookmarks and RSS feeds?

People who love print understandably lament its decline, particularly as paper is replaced by a less serendipitous alternative.  The new model (whatever it is) won’t save the old one, but it may better serve an audience with varied interests but not enough time to explore them all.  We just need the tools.

Posted by Kat Meyer
Apr 27, 2010  at  09:30 AM

Serendipitous is a fantastic word.
Regarding folks working on such tools, keep your eyes (or at least one of them) on Invention Arts and their Web4 project. http://www.inventionarts.com/web4/—very cool metadata-y/real time stuff going on there.

Posted by Brian O'Leary
Apr 27, 2010  at  09:42 AM

Thanks for the tip.  It helps to have friends who are in the know smile

Posted by DonLinn
Apr 27, 2010  at  10:55 AM

I want organization in some things, serendipity in others. Of course I’d like to be able to find documents and re-locate websites my feeble mind has misplaced or forgotten about.

But there is a difference between a unique console for some things I choose to have organized and the complete organization of my web experience that Adaptive Blue (Get Glue) and now Facebook seem to have in mind. The example that comes to mind is the virtual impossibility of genuinely browsing for books at Amazon due to its algorithms constantly leading me back to things they’re sure I’m interested in.

I still want to stumble, serendipitously, upon things like The Blog of Unnecessary Quotation Marks (http://www.unnecessaryquotes.com/). To use Filloux’s word, these things must be reconciled to allow both.

Posted by Keith Fahlgren
Apr 27, 2010  at  10:56 AM

“”“the web is a cold medium”“”

What planet are they on? The Web is filled with as much warmth, pain, joy, and ribaldry as any other form of human expression. Realizing some document in ink on dead trees doesn’t add any warmth, it’s the basic conservation of energy: as warm or cold as before.

Posted by Mike Cane
Apr 27, 2010  at  11:48 AM

eBooks: The Invisible Worm

Bad metadata won’t help:

The ePub eBooks Metadata Mess

Posted by Brian O'Leary
Apr 27, 2010  at  12:13 PM

@donlinn I guess I want a digital personal assistant that lets me stumble when I want to stumble and search when I want to search, then picks up the pieces behind me.  I’m not as keen about the product focus that GetGlue offers (though I understand why it’s of value).  Like you, I’m interested in collating ideas.

@keith I see your point, and I can’t remotely defend their meaning.  I cribbed that quote because it captured for me the supply-side (we decide and provide you an editorially curated package) vs demand-side (go out and find what’s of interest) dynamic of print vs. web.

@mike As ever, informative and on-point links - thanks.

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