People First, Machines Second
The brilliance of Google' Page Rank algorithm is that it leverages the actions of real people to determine what pages are the best result for a given search term. The specific action I am thinking about is creating a hyperlink on a web page.
That human action of saying 'if you want to know more about fred wilson, here's his blog' tells google's machines that this blog is a good result for a search on 'fred wilson.'
Someday machines may be smart enough that they don't need humans to give them cues, but today I believe the state of the art in machine intelligence right now is 'humans first, machines second' as Google did it.
The particular event that got me thinking (and thus writing) about this today is the year end best of music listmania that has been going on the past few weeks.
You saw it in action the past three days on this blog and it is going on all over the blogs right now.
Well I wasn't the only one to do that. At this time, there are 141 "best of 2009" playlists on 8tracks. Click on that link and you can see all of them. But you'd be hardpressed to listen to all of them.
But 8tracks can now take the human intellligence that is contained in all of those playlists and do something interesting. They can have their machines go through all of them and create a 'best of best of' playlist. It could be just the most popular tracks across all of the best of 2009 playlists or it could be weighted by the times each playlist was played or it could be some other algorithm. My point is simple, if humans are doing the curation upfront, then you can turn the machines loose and get some interesting results.
On January 4th, the Hype Machine will unveil its second annual Music Blog Zeitgeist. I am very much looking forward to it. They scour the music blogs for all the "best of 2009" posts and then put them into their machines and crank out the results.
Last year's Music Zeitgeist was terrific and provided our family with weeks of listening pleasure and introduced us to dozens of new artists and records. I'm sure the same will be true this year.
As much as I enjoy reading everyone's best of lists this time of year, I can't get to all of them. Machines can and that's where they can add the most value. But you need humans first, then the machines can take over.