Sunday, August 07, 2011

The Bear and the Gardener. Old tale, new style.

Inception, the movie, is getting closer to being a reality. It's not only the ads, but the whole web experience across multiple sites can be presented to you according to whatever algorithms back-end data analysts can think of. Since they can't really customize it to an individual, the services tend to pigeonhole you into some kind a slot that has marginal relevance to what you actually need. For example, when I'm logged into my Gmail account the "helpful" service determines that I occasionally use Russian in my correspondence and modifies search results accordingly. Did I ask for it? Of course, not!

We almost took on this problem at the last day of BUS 74 this summer, but the class chose a different subject for the invention session. Too bad...

Besides Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn, other companies are getting into the data-scraping game.

Social logins are not only a way to streamline registration processes, but also an opportunity for websites to glean extra data about their users. Social logins are keys to an existing profile, which potentially provides age, sex, location, preferences and more. All of this data can be leveraged in marketing and advertising.

Janrain’s social login works as more than just a registration tool. The company also offers a suite of back-end services for harvesting and utilizing user data.

“Janrain Capture” scrapes and stores profile data in the cloud and allows companies to share social profiles across select web properties and partner sites.

The title of this post refers to "The Bear and the Gardener", a fable by Jean de La Fontaine, which according to Wiki "warns against making foolish friendships."

The moral of the story is expressed in its last two lines:

A foolish friend may cause more woe
Than could, indeed, the wisest foe.

I guess certain negative side effects of social networking were well understood way before Google, Facebook, and Janrain.

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