Thursday, April 22, 2010

Personalize me Cap'n!

"I wanna talk about me!" - Toby Keith

We’ve been talking about personalization quite often in class lately; probably because the rest of the world is talking about personalization, well, almost constantly.

But what is personalization? Is it being able to pick what fonts your website is displayed in? Is it making sure that your computer remembers your Facebook password for easy login? Or is it being able to download whichever app you want, when you want it straight to your handheld iPod?

D. None of the above.

Personalization is “is a computation-based application that takes a well defined set of inputs and returns one (or more) recommendations for a piece of content to be immediately served to an end user.” Or, personalization is a mouthful.

So let’s break it down. Google may be one of the best and most familiar examples of online personalization. Whether you’re aware of it or not, Google tracks everything you search. I have a gmail account, and I logged in to my account and went to my privacy settings to try to better “hide” myself from Google. What did I find? Every. Single. Thing. That I have googled since I bought this laptop. All of it. Scary, huh? Immensely.

So anyway, Google takes all of that information, stores it, and uses it to send you the best (according to its computer brain) results for you personally. I was trying to find a place to go out for lunch the other day, and I typed “lunch restaurants in” and what comes up? Bethesda. It read my mind. Scary again. Useful? You betcha. Still scary.

This web article, written on March 3, 2010, claims that Google personalizes about 20 percent of search results, usually the top results on your Google search.

Now this may lead you more quickly to the sight you do actually want, but is it entirely a good thing? Is it making users close-minded? Is it preventing us from moving outside of our comfort zone? It’s helping prevent me from eating anywhere besides Bethesda, that’s for sure. So is it helping or hurting? Broadening our horizons or erasing them? I’m not so sure. I’m a googler-I google everything; I think it’s because I’m very inquisitive. But because I click the first site every time, am I only reading what google wants me to read? Am I letting google do some of my thinking for me? I hope not. I consider myself a pretty good thinker; I need to think about this one on my own & give Google the night off. I urge you to do the same!

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