It's hard to keep up with all the newly released movies and music these days, but a lightweight social network with a whole lot of smarts under the hood says it can now offer you personalized recommendations of new releases that suit your very particular interests.
GetGlue is a semantic web browser plug-in that has, for years, been smart enough to recognize when you're looking at the same musical group across different websites, be that on Last.fm, MySpace or elsewhere. The service recently added a stream of recommendations of music, movies, books, magazines, wikipedia articles and other things you might like. How can it tell what you'll like when something is brand new, though? Today the service has launched a "new releases" section, where human editors rush to classify brand-new media. Then the semantic robots can serve it up to the right users, still hot out of the oven. It's pretty cool.
GetGlue founder Alex Iskold says he's learned a lesson similar to what formerly automated tech news aggregator Techmeme has learned: algorithms and user generated content can take you a long way, but there comes a point when it's good to hire some dedicated editors.
The service asks you to like or unlike a wide variety of things. It then uses that feedback to build a taste profile to compare against things it finds put into its database and find the stuff it thinks you'll like. That's harder with new releases, though.
"When something new is coming out, we don't know what it's like, so you need to have proffessionals tag it," Iskold told us. "We have two editors on staff who look across the spectrum of new releases each week. They draw the similarities between things in a deep way - the tagging system we use will be unvieled later. We use really eclectic tags to characterize what kind of zombie or vampire movie something is. We also use tags brought in from other systems and our users find cool new things really fast."
The end result is a nicely displayed stream of big icons for personally recommended newly released movies, music and books. You think you're hip to your scene now? Wait until you've got a network of contacts, a semantic robot and real human editors all working together to bring you the freshest content in your weird little niche. To be honest, I've been testing it out today by switching from new album recommendations on Glue over to Apple's Lala.com, where it's easy to listen to full albums once for free. That's not the way Glue wants you to use it, but that's the way I like to use it so far.
The Down Side
It's an incredible system, when it works. GetGlue knows though that there are some challenges in this kind of game though.
First, it's not easy to present this kind of flow of data to users without either overwhelming them or boring them. Many of GetGlue's latest changes are focused on making the user experience more pleasant: bigger images, collapsed bundles of shared items, etc.
Can the service find a balance between giving you strong-enough recommendations on one hand and regularly offering up new recommendations on the other? In past versions of the product, I've received too few recommendations to keep me coming back. Hopefully new releases will scratch that itch. Iskold also says that after "liking" only 15 musical artists, I'm actually much less active than most of the 400,000 registered users of the service.
Personally, I'm more drawn to the Wikipedia recommendations on GetGlue than anything else. The new releases in music might be roughly in the same sub-genres I usually listen to, but that doesn't mean they are any good.
Finally, all this "liking" obviously begs the Facebook question. Writing as an ostensible Facebook competitor about that giant network's radical innovations unveiled last week, Iskold wrote the following in a widely-read article here at ReadWriteWeb about Facebook's Open Graph:
"Time will tell where we land, but my gut is that positive things will come out of this. If nothing else, let's give Facebook credit for innovation and re-imagination the Web."
Today he emphasized in speaking with me that Facebook is new to what it's just begun to do, but his company has been doing it for years. There's no guarantee that Facebook will get it right, he said.
It's hard to say for sure that GetGlue has got it right, either. But as a work in progress, it's pretty darned good and today's new additions are very interesting.