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What's Serendipity?

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When you find a “story you wouldn't have normally read,” that's called serendipity in the newspaper world. Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal's Jason Fry explained that serendipity is alive and well at online newspapers too.

Fry points to most popular or most emailed stories as inspirational sources. In the Wall Street Journal, he admires how everyone votes for these listings. (See Fry's WSJ column, subscription required.)

Popularity features are interesting, but reflect where articles appear in the first place. When an article is placed on the homepage, for example, there's a higher likelihood this exposure influences clicks and results.

Most viewed-type lists are democratic, since they reflect the "votes" from everyone visiting the site. However visitors aren't literally part of a single community or interest group.

Wouldn't it be nicer to have visitors share interests, rather than simply contribute to overall popularity contests? Then everyone could browse, search and find things related to their own interests.

It seems to me that serendipity should be different for everyone -- almost as varied as snowflakes.


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