The Web can be an impersonal medium. Anonymous reviewers write under cryptic pseudonyms everywhere from Yelp to Amazon. Display ads on travel websites suggest booking hotels minutes away from our homes. Games pair us with people we’ve never met, and whose names we will never know, thousands of miles away for a game of chess.
Fortunately, the emergence of social networks over the last decade have made the Web a more human space. More and more often, we can put real names and real faces to the people we find online. It becomes much easier to weigh someone else’s film review when I know he or she enjoyed Jiro Dreams of Sushi as much as I did.
Yet the online recommendations we receive often seem as “bespoke” as a form-fitting burlap sack. A set of technologies designed to hark back to the days of yore, when the genial owner of a local bookshop could find us the proverbial needle in the haystack, instead seems to channel the spirit of a psychology experiment gone wrong. Recommendations are often so obvious to be useless, or so hopelessly off-base they make no sense.
Occasionally, though, we get a glimpse of what’s possible. Social networks and improvements in research have made these problems more tractable than ever. From time to time, an online service will find that perfect combination of novelty and specificity that makes my day. My goal, here at Infinite Analytics, is to make those moments less occasional for sites big, small and everywhere in-between. By integrating our social graphs with advances in existing techniques, we can make the Web a more human place and even more powerful tool.