I’ve spoken in the past about my concerns with Google’s personalized search. Last week I came across an article in Mashable that summed up my problem: It’s the lack of serendipity.
I understand that Google thinks personalization gives it a business edge but, by not limiting where you get your news and information from, you make yourself better at what you do. I’ve written about how being on the lookout for news stories can give you tips about new niches and make you more profitable or more informed for your clients. It’s this type of serendipity that algorithms can’t duplicate.
I was recently reading a story in the New York Times about a debutante who has set up a teen social travel website. She is trying to have a monument built for one of her ancestors James Madison. As an example of serendipity coming full circle, she also happens to be the model for Serena Vanderwudsen from the show Gossip Girl. This was a story chosen to be featured in the New York Times by a human editor, not by an algorithm. This kind of random discovery is what the editors are really good at and where computers fail miserably.
What’s interesting to me is that some people on the extreme left or right want to have their news filtered more than it is now. They only read stories that they agree with. Barry wrote about people complaining about Fox News last year. I fear that personalizing SERPs is the first step to creating narrow minded, intolerant, ignorant people, and a small step away from algorithmic censorship.