Preference engines – will ROCK if they better integrate social software

In between hurricane Rita head counts, Slashdot has a post on an LA times story about preference engines.  From the article:

Their spread worries some who fear that preference engines can extract a social price. As consumers are exposed only to the types of things they’re interested in, there’s a danger that their tastes can narrow and that society may balkanize into groups with obscure interests.

"As these things get better and better, nobody has to encounter ideas they don’t already agree with," said Barry Schwartz, professor of sociology at Swarthmore College and author of "The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less." "We lose that sense of community we had when there were shared cultural experiences, even though we may not have liked them. Now we can create our own cocoon and keep all that unpleasant stuff out."

The doom and gloom predictions are not warranted, because almost all preference engines have a social element to them.  Google considers links, created by humans, so even their infamous algorithms are a combination of social and machine factors.  Preference engines do add value.

I on the other hand would prefer if Rita would go away.  I am betting 100% agreement in the echo chamber of Houston opinion today.

In between Rita

Rita.  Everything in Houston is about Hurricane Rita. Shut down the office temporarily of course.  Thank heaven for data centers and redundant connections! The latest map suggests a hit on Galveston, and being on the North side of Houston we will likely get winds up to 100 miles an hour.

On the plus side, it was nice to set up a wiki page to handle employee communications and updates.  Besides email, the wiki may be our best connection given cell phone coverage was spotty yesterday, two days before the storm, from over use.

The traffic map in Houston shows mostly 5 or 6 miles an hour, or no data available.  Meaning people in cars are parked on the freeway making new friends.  Gas stations are out of gas on the evacuation routes.  Us silly humans haven’t exactly built the infrastructure to actually execute our emergency plans.