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Does Personalization Pave the Cow Paths?

I notice the issue of poorly engineered recommendation systems causing a “filter bubble” continues to surface. This blog is still very relevant with respect to how to do it right. And since this blog was originally published there have been additional advances, such as techniques that identify contrasting subsets of people’s interest profiles that otherwise more generally correlate (for which I received a patent).

The Learning Layer

Michael Hammer, the father of business reengineering, famously used the phrase “paving the cow paths” to describe the ritualizing of inefficient business practices. Now the pervasiveness of personalization of our systems is being accused of paving our cow paths by continuously reinforcing our narrow interests at the expense of exposing us to other points of view. This latest apocalyptic image being painted is one of a world where we are all increasingly locked into our parochial, polarized perspectives as the machine feeds us only what we want to hear. Big Brother turns out to be an algorithm.

I commented on this over at Greg Linden’s blog, but wanted to expand on those thoughts a bit here. Of course, I could first point out the irony that I only became aware of the Eli Pariser’s book about the perils of personalization, The Filter Bubble, through a personalized RSS feed…

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