Smart Customization is hot! Mass-customized products and services, personalized experiences, smart recommendations that are tailored to your specific interests and needs—all of these efforts have a lot in common.
On May 20th and 21st, I had the good fortune to attend the 2010 Smart Customization Seminar at the MIT Design Lab. One of the speakers I really enjoyed was Tom Conrad, the CTO of Pandora Internet Radio. Tom told the story of the history of Pandora, from its early days as Savage Beast, when the company provided music recommendation services to music retailers, through its reincarnation as Pandora Internet Radio in the summer of 2005. For over 10 years, the musicians and technologists at Pandora have been building and evolving a Music Genome by codifying over 800,000 pieces of music based on 400 musicological attributes. Their goal: make it easy to understand what sounds you like and find more music you'll like based on those attributes. His story is fascinating for anyone who wants to understand the trade-offs between the distinctions that subject matter experts make and the distinctions that average fans make. As is the case with many electronic publishing efforts, Pandora has merged the best of both worlds: a professional taxonomy with the wisdom of the crowds.
There are lessons in Tom's story for all of us. If you want to provide personalized recommendations, custom-tailored products or services, or smart solutions that infer what you might like based on what you've found valuable in the past and how you and others have interacted with those solutions, then you'll want to understand what Pandora has learned to-date in its 10 year history and to subscribe to and follow the evolution of this Internet Radio service.
It's been two years since I attended the last of Frank Pillar's Smart Customization Seminars at MIT. (See "Frameworks for Smart Customization".) The field of smart customization is maturing fast. I look forward to bringing you more examples of smart customization in the next few weeks.
Personalized Internet Radio
How Pandora Internet Radio Combines Taxonomy, Crowdsourcing, and Personalization to Improve Music Playlists
By Patricia B. Seybold, CEO and Sr. Consultant, June 10, 2010