Like, Totally

July 22, 2010
My friend never attended a traditional high school, and as a result, he loves high-school dramas. Those of us who did go to high school know that shows like Gossip Girl and Glee are far from accurate depictions, but some themes ring true like; you stick with the people who share your label, whether that's 'jock' or 'deadhead' or 'chess geek.' This can have negative implications - it can limit your scope. Technology has redefined what terms we use to define 'sameness.' With increasing frequency, users are meting out their online identity by expressing what they prefer. Constant and compounding self-election narrows our scope to things we know we like. But if we only follow the threads of things we like, will we miss out on things we could like? I've written before about the Apple App Store as a closed model that filters out unfavorable content. Recently, Google and Android announced a joint venture to create a DIY App Inventor, software that lets average people create apps. The Android Market, in stark contrast to the App Store, filters out bad or unfavorable apps based on user input - instead of a third-party arbiter. The difference between the two is huge, or is it? On one hand, it seems like a closed model may just save everyone the time it takes to for the market to weed out unfavorable apps. Conversely, maybe using an open-source market is like catching a song you've never heard while tuning your radio dial. It exposes you to something you didn't know you could like because you haven't tried it. Maybe it's both/and. You could find the same new and unknown thing in a closed system but be more assured that it won't crash because it's been vetted. Meanwhile, maybe it's only by seeing what is wrong with un-vetted apps that make subsequent open-source marketed apps better. Who knows? These answers are impossible to riddle out, and only get curiouser and curiouser the deeper you follow the thread. And that's the fun of it all, human preference is so nebulous, so indefinable that it can't be codified or objectively examined. Ultimately, what is most interesting about these questions is that we ask them. That we seek to understand the implications of our differences, or to understand why we choose the things we like, maybe the best way to do that is by seeking out people who like and 'Like' the same sorts of things. Finding people who are like us might be the best way to understand those who aren't.