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.