Monday, September 24, 2007

you story

Last week, I hobbled along the Fulton Street subway platform and rested awkwardly against a pillar, before reading this passage in Stumbling on Happiness:

"Whenever we find ourselves on the front end of a decision -- Should I have another fish stick or go directly for the Ding Dongs? Accept the job in Kansas City or stay put and hope for a promotion? Have the knee surgery or try the physical therapy first? ..."

The rest of the paragraph isn't important. What caused my eyebrows to raise more than previously deemed possible was the last bit. My hobbling, you see, was due to my knee. The one I had been talking to a physical therapist about that morning and discussing whether or not I should have surgery on it or wait and give the therapy a chance. As you can imagine, this made Daniel Gilbert's ensuing point a lot more personal and deepened its impact.

I started to wonder what it would be like if every article or story I read had personal references rather than general ones. AdSense has shown how easily personal data can be used to target advertising, but what about extending that philosophy to the very content you are reading?

A piece of software that knows what music you are listening to could throw it into a paragraph about a new music player: "So next time you fancy twenty minutes with The Knife, why not take this gizmo..."

The same software could know who your closest friends are based on Facebook interaction or email frequency. A cooking website could then tell you: "It's a perfect dish for friends, so drop Katie, John and Tamara a line and invite them..."

An article describing a new phenomenon need not patronise you if you're already aware of it. The next time an online community takes the media by storm, CNN might open with: "It's something you're already using, but millions more are set to follow..."

I think this is a really interesting idea. If only I was a clever programmer...

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