3/15/2008

03-15-08 - 1

I've talked before about how Web 2.0 is fucked, but cooking & food information is probably the best example, so let's look at that.

The information that exists out there currently is basically in three forms :

1. Food blogs. There's a ton of great food blogs, but they are not aggregated/indexed, so it transforms useful reference material into useless feature/diary materials.

2. Recipe collection sites like cooks.com ; These are ridiculously overloaded with just god-awful recipes. The star rating systems they use are worthless because they're dominated by morons who have zero concept of cooking. This is a big part of what makes the recipe problem so obvious, is that there's such a massive amount of bad information out there, and also a massive amount of retarded people rating things, so that any non-localized rating system is worthless.

3. Sponsored sites like FoodNetwork or major individual's pages like Joy Of Baking. These are actually the most useful places to get recipes, because the standards are high, they're searchable, and furthermore they give you the author's name which gives you context.

The first most obvious thing that's needed is a global aggregator that breaks the data atoms from blogs into a single searchable database. As usual stupid Google is not a great way to search for recipes, because pagerank is not at all what you want for sorting results, and you get tons of spurious pointers to restaurant menus and junk like that.

More importantly though you need author context. To some extent, all information in the modern era is only useful with author context. There's too much information out there for you to trust the quality of it without knowing where it came from. Now if you go to FoodNetwork or something and see actual names and know that a recipe from "Alton Brown" is probably good, that's fine, but that is only possible with a limited network, for the whole web there will be too many people and they may have only a few recipes so the information is too sparse for you to remember them all.

Obviously what you need is some kind of Collaborative Filtering, but really that's not ideal, what you want is a Network of Trust. The big difference is I get manual control over my links and I also get to see where they're coming from. So if I want I can just say thumbs up/ thumbs down on various recipes and get CF recommendations, but I can also manually say "I trust Alton Brown" and automatically get recommendations from him and also everything that he trusts. Seeing WHY you got something recommended is also very useful ; some recipe that looks nasty is recommended to you, but on the side it shows a network connection from Alton Brown and you can conclude that in fact this bizarre looking recipe is worth trying.

The reason recipes are such a strong example of how Web 2.0 is fucked is that there's tons of good information out there that you should be able to find, and currently you just really can't.

The whole thing that's great about Web 2.0 is that there are actual communities with actual people, and you can get to know them, and when you read bits of content you can see who it came from, and that little "who" piece of information is incredibly valuable. The problem is it's balkanized and they aren't working with collaborative filters. When they do have collaborative filters, they just run an impersonal CF algorithm which throws away the valuable revelation of the "who" to the user which is the value of the community.

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old rants