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.