The Anti-Recommender

You know how Amazon, Netflix, and everybody else have a ‘recommender’ service? Based on what you’ve bought, browsed, read, listened to, they suggest things you may like. 

But if I’m always being told about things that are “like” what I like, how will I discover new and different things?  It could constrain opportunities for serendipity and luck (which I’m pretty dependent on).

I’d like an Anti-Recommender Service

Do you remember playing the “which of these is not like the other” when you were a kid? That’s how we learned and developed preliminary pattern recognition skills.  Somewhere along the way, it switched! We were taught to look for “which of these is like the other” (the old “don’t compare apples & oranges” routine).  Having been raised in a home that thrived on cognitive dissonance, I find this incredibly frustrating.

My ideal anti-recommender service will tell me about ideas, concepts, books, music, art, sites, bloggers, periodicals, tweeters, etc. that don’t fit into the ‘nice neat stereotype’ that’s been created about me.   It will point me to:

  • Blogs that may disagree with my viewpoint making me think and question assumptions;
  • Music I wouldn’t necessarily listen to but end up liking (from Massenet to Kevin Chesney) opening new harmonies and stories in my mind;
  • Books that wouldn’t have picked up but am now a sucker for (e.g., Nordic/Swedish crime novels) making me use my brain differently; and
  • People I wouldn’t normally cross paths with who bring new experiences, viewpoints, tastes, flavors, cultures, and ideas that greatly enrich my life, and others.

There is nothing inherently wrong with recommender services – except for lack of a counterbalance.  We need both to learn and grow – ourselves, our people, and our organizations.  We need both to innovate.

So, who among you would like to build an anti-recommender service? I’ll sign up to be an alpha, beta, whatever customer and I’d be willing to pay for it!  Or, if you know of one, please please share it! Thanks!