If you have read Chris's original article, you'll know that one of his main points about The Long Tail is that providing access to all content (or goods) in a tail--not just popular material--shifts demand by consumers from that popular material further down the tail, to "niche content."
The Economist article asks: "But how can people find content they want when it is buried far down the tail? Already, a number of mechanisms have emerged, based on user recommendations. Perhaps the best known is 'collaborative filtering', in which purchase histories are analysed to work out what else is likely to interest the buyer of a particular product ('Customers who bought this item also bought...' as Amazon puts it). This approach allows users to navigate from hits that they know they like to more obscure titles further down the tail."
I now mount one of my favourite soapboxes: why, oh why, have librarians not been busy building recommender systems for their collections? Can't some clever people build one that sits on top of the silo known as the OPAC? Wouldn't it be a very good thing to suggest other, less popular, books to all those Da Vinci Code readers that may provide them with other views? Wouldn't this drive library users further down The Long Tails of libraries' extremely valuable but underused collections?
And why wasn't it one of our bookish tribe who came up with this?
"There can be few things more gratifying in life than finding a kindred spirit; someone who sees the world as we do, who enjoys the same intellectual challenges, who smiles at the same funny side of life. It’s something we all yearn for and yet, as we tunnel between work and family commitments, it’s often difficult to meet people beyond our immediate circle, let alone someone with whom we can have a meaningful conversation.
The days of such intellectual isolation may be over thanks to ConnectViaBooks, a brand new Web site which allows people to meet kindred spirits in the safe and culturally neutral setting of cyberspace. As the name implies, these encounters are forged through a shared love of books."
This came to my attention thanks to Ivan Chew, The Rambling Librarian, who has posted a lengthy review today. Ivan signed up so he has information about the process and what the service does. Not so very surprisingly, Amazon appears to be providing the book information. And ConnectViaBooks is a division of Onalytica Ltd, a UK company offering services in "Social Network Analysis, and Stakeholder mapping and analysis."
OCLC will be venturing into recommendation later this summer when we introduce a pilot project that will add Wiki features to Open Worldcat. We want to capture user input in structured ways and so people will be able to enter reviews, comments, and recommendations. About time!