Monday, November 20, 2006

Stumbling and Searching - the best of both worlds

I stumbled upon a website today - curiously called - the premise of this application is that there are people who don't want to google for all their information and surfing but actually want to stumble upon interesting content. Having installed the application (a browser bar - needless to say), the first site it took me to at random was one for measuring broadband speeds (my upstream speed is 340KBPS, but I get 4Meg downstream speed - in case you were wondering). The next site I was directed to after hitting the same button again, was a collection of Einstein quotes. Although not authenticated, by the collector's own admission, its full of little gems such as "Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind."

I can think of quite a few reasons why lots of people would like this kind of surfing experience:
  • I often like the radio rather than my own CDs because I like not knowing which song will play next. Its kind of boring when you know the next song and the one after that.
  • For a lot of people the joy of surfing is lost if you have to work for (google) everything. And People do get tired of Youtube, Myspace and even the BBC website.
  • The problem with search is that you're not likely to be surprised or mind-expanded. I mean how likely is it that you'd search for something you've never thought about??
and this led me to understand a key dynamic of the TV-PC unification discussion that so many folks like to have. The TV is historically a "stumble upon" environment. People like to "channel surf" not knowing what little gem they'll discover. Sure, there's always the 57 channels and nothing's on syndrome. But so often we find programs... that we didn't look up in the guide and didn't get told about - but we just discovered.

While enough effort is afoot to change the TV to a search and view mechanism - rendering most of tv like a "Google" experience, it begs the question - will there not be people and occasions to just stumble on good content? I think we all know that most of us at some points of time (and some, most of the time) will prefer this mode of discovering content on TV. And nothing bears this out more eloquently than which has created such an island of discovery in the middle of an ocean of tagging, sorting, socially-networked-recommending and ever better seek and retrieve mechanisms.


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