Thursday, August 31, 2006

Recommendations with Reservations

A copy of To Kill A Mockingbird has been sitting on my bedside table for the whole summer and its largely been untouched. I don't really want to read it. But I am determined to plow through the thing since every book recommendation engine I have ever tried has pushed this book on me. In retailation, I dissed Suggestica this morning.

I have been thinking about book recommendation systems lately. Because these systems are created by those who are trying to sell you books, they are designed to push books that you may want to read. If you like a particular book, the system will suggest other books by the same author or in the same genre. This gets boring pretty quick. While I am occasionally paralyzed by choice when it comes to my next reading selection, I already know what I like to read. What I want a system that will tell me what I should read.

Sometimes we should be reading books that challenge the ideas and personal beliefs that we hold dear. Sometimes we should be reading books on topics that don't interest us much. Sometimes we should be reading books because they will help us understand other books. And sometimes we should be reading works because our professor has assigned them for us to read.

Here's a Library 2.0 (shudder - I can't believe I just typed that phrase) application I would like to see. I would like to see an application that injests the rss feed of every university professor's class readings and keeps track of the popularity of each citation. This ranking information would then be fed back into library applications like the library catalogue or periodical databases and would tell the reader: you should read this.

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