One of the constant refrains of past consideration of what great things computers will do for us is the “smart agent”, a mythical delightful artificial intelligence that will cater to our every whim. In fact, this is the central thesis of Hyperland, one of those surreal film projects where you no longer have to wonder what happens when you combine Tom Baker (Dr. Who), Douglas Adams, and Ted Nelson. The part of the “smart agent” is played by Baker, whose personality, interface, and choices are all at your whim.
So we’ve spent a lot of time on a lot of programming to achieve what we hope are good recommendation engines, where they mostly work by watching your habits and then making choices of what else matches along tags and semantics. This is sometimes rather successful. A lot of people are burning the midnight oil on that one.
Myself, I prefer slaves.
Slaves, of course, are my cute little attention-getting term for unpaid labor. The watchword of 2.0 is unpaid labor. Previously, this was given a nice veneer of volunteerism, but on the other hand, it also means what it means: free, free, free. Naturally, the potential for quality slip is great, so you need to keep a good whip hand. I mean, be aware of the downfalls of user-generated content.
An example of a nice slave market is del.icio.us, which is a social bookmarking site, or, really, a place that people share bookmarks and it correlates all the input to figure out who and what is popular on a given day. There’s a few sites that do this, but I like that one.
All one has to do, then, is browse through the racks for someone who is like you. Not too hard; go look up a few sites you like, check out who was entranced enough to write a comment, and then browse them to see what your future pet likes. If they check out, then merely use the RSS feed that del.icio.us supplies, throw it into your RSS feed reader, and boom! Your smart agent does all your work for you.
Like choosing a puppy, it’s sometimes hard to know how long the love affair will last, and a few have to go back to the pound. But really, this is a minimal amount of work for what you end up getting.
One of my favorites is George Hotelling. (Here’s his link feed.) He links to Michigan stuff a lot, as well as programming things I don’t use, but he’s really got this great knack for finding amazing piles of obscure links I’d have never thought to pursue.
George and I go back a bit; he gave a talk on Wardialers at a Rubi-con well over half-a-decade back that I was insanely impressed by, which is how I started following his rising star and finding his link RSS feed.
You too can have your story of delight and adoption. Just a little detective work, and the next think you know your smart agent (made of convenient meat and self-sustaining) is on your side.
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