May 31, 2009
Designing for serendipity

Lu Liu: How can we use serendipity to get out of homophily traps? I have a serendipity friend list. But if I can define my serendipity friends, then I guess they are not really serendipity friends by my expectation. In reality, I seldom read articles from that list.

Me: Yes, a serendipity list can't come from yourself. It must be an external recommendation. Automated since that's my bias :)

Time is key. What is serendipitous today is not so tomorrow. That makes it harder to 'define'. In practice, I suspect we must evaluate it like we evaluate porn: not by defining it but by categorizing examples.

Perhaps it can't be a list either, just one recommendation, with pride of place. I find I require time to appreciate something outside of my comfort zone.

Since it must take prime real estate it must be high-confidence. If nothing is good enough today, show me nothing.

Finally, it mustn't nag. Make it easy to dismiss, use the dismissal as a signal to learn from.

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