On serendipity

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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.

Brian O'Leary

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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