Back in 2003 I had the following idea for a website:
… Perhaps a site like All Consuming [JG: a site for keeping track of one’s books and, later, other media] could become an effective matchmaker by correlating what its users are reading or have in their collections.
Here’s another way to do it, based on the Friendster model: users create the standard profile with personal information and photo, but then instead of linking to other users they link to cultural artifacts (favorite books, music, movies, etc.). The software could then display the other people who have the most shared links, with optional filters for sex, age, location, whatever. There may not be a woman out there who likes libertarian politics, evolutionary biology, Batman, Nietzsche, Meet the Press, and Paul Simon, but if there is I would love to meet her. Such a site would probably be the most viable way to make that happen.
Amazon.com even provides an efficient way to identify individual items. Everything they sell already has a unique ASIN number that would cover most books, music, and movies. Links to the various items could generate sales for Amazon, so there’s a quid pro quo for using their data. Associate referral fees could also accrue to the website, possibly making it financially self-sufficient. Standardizing things like TV shows and works of art/artists would be a more difficult task, but a doable one.
If this website (Culturster? Artifactster? Tastester? None of these names has a good ring to it, so let’s dispense with the Napster derivations) is ever made, it would be good for more than just matchmaking. It would also be good for discovering other things a user would be interested in based on the selections of people with similar taste.
A site sort of like this now exists, and with a much better name than Artifactster. Library Thing allows users to catalogue their books, tag them, and find other users with similar libraries (example: my catalogue, my profile). This opens up the potential to find new reading material or, though there is less emphasis on this, get in contact with others who have similar interests. It seems to be doing this well: after adjusting for library size and book obscurity, the second person the site lists with a similar library is my friend and fellow blogger Will Wilkinson.
(Note: Just figuring which users have the “same” books is a challenging task in itself, thanks to variations in how things are titled, American vs. British ISBNs, paperback vs. hardback, and multiple editions. Founder Tim Spalding discusses how he deals with this issue in the About section of the site.)
Library Thing currently only works with books. I don’t know if there are any plans to add music or movie functionality, but it could be an interesting experiment to see how much taste in one area overlaps with taste in another. I’m not complaining though. I really like the site and it’s free for the first 200 books one enters. The cost is only $10 a year if you want to catalogue more than that.
[Via Crooked Timber.]