Has Facebook finally gotten it? With the amount of personal data and interactions that they are able to collect, it should be a no-brainer for them to work on a recommendation framework. With the advent of user-generated content, we are in information over-load at this point (just look at how many unread emails you have, or how many article feeds you end up ignoring). The next big move needs to be a way to sort through all of this information and bubble up things that we care about as individuals.
Facebook is in a great place to do this because of their unique position in that people see a ton of value in declaring a lot about themselves over their platform (maybe a bit too much when you are “no longer in a relationship” – broken heart). The popular a/s/l (age, sex, location) back in the day in AOL chat rooms was one of the first forms of public declaration on the web and this basic desire/need to share information about ourselves has not changed as the web has evolved. Facebook has created a place where people want to do this, and that could be the most important and valuable thing they have to offer.
I recently met with some folks at Yahoo and noted a particularly interesting thing about users inputting accurate information. There are tens of thousands registered users at Yahoo that have the zip code 12345. Now the funny thing about this zip code is that it is for a small county in New York where there are 10 registered business and way less than 10,000 inhabitants! A Yahoo user doesn’t care to share where they live because there is no good, compelling reason to do it, while a Facebook user wants to share that information because it is valuable to their social network. I wonder how many people on Yahoo live in 90210. (On a side note, I found this information on Wolfram Alpha which is a statistical gold mine for anyone who loves numbers.)
Since Facebook has already gotten people to buy into sharing their information, they would have to be crazy not to work with this information to provide better services, including personalized recommendations. But alas, it appears that this feature is just a way to condense duplicate posts so users can’t spam their friends newsfeeds. Another tease. It’s pretty sad to say that the best analysis of online social interactions, and the most entertaining, has been Dateline NBC’s To Catch a Predator. Yea, I’m sure you were just there to help with some homework.