I’ve been thinking alot lately about all the services that are out there that cater to the personal interests of their subscribers. Services like Bloglines, Google, the iPod, Yahoo and Tivo.
All of these systems allow the user to select specific content and custom design how they’d like to view (or listen to) that content. For instance, you can set up a google homepage that shows you your weather, news headlines, sports scores, etc. It will be completely custom and therefore different from the guy’s in the next cube over. Bloglines is a great product that pulls together all your favorite news sources, blogs and web goodness into one tight little package; you, of course, get to choose the ‘feeds’ that bloglines compiles for you.
On the surface these services are fantastic. I like not having to blog crawl daily to find out who’s updated and who hasn’t. I like getting the news headlines from places that are important to me (Beverly, Townsend, MV, Mount Vernon), and I love having all my favorite music on the iPod to listen to at a moment’s notice. These programs save time and frustration and have simplified ‘surfing the net’ for many people.
I worry, however, that having so many customizable options will turn us (or me specifically) into close minded, locally focused society unwilling to try new things. Our iPod is great at playing our favorite tunes, but lacks the ability to force us to listen to new artists or different types of music. Tivo is a little better, as it can ‘guess’ the kinds of things you’ll like based on what you’ve recorded before; but it still limits the bredth of programming you’ll see. Bloglines may show me my local news headlines, but if I haven’t selected an ‘internationally’ focused newsfeed then I won’t see foreign stories show up.
Channel surfing on tv or spinning the dial on the radio can give us the opportunity to discover new and interesting things. In the long run we may miss out because we never discovered how much we love jazz, since we never bought an jazz album from iTunes, and never heard it on the radio. We may never have heard the theory that the Sahara was once a lush, fertile region, since we never stumbled on that documentary on the Discovery Channel.
I hope that most folks out there are well balanced in the news they read and the music/shows/cultural interests they participate in. I hope that people are still growing and adjusting their tastes in music and literature and are recustomizing their tivo/ipod/feedreaders to reflect the change.