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Hi, welcome to my blog. In this part of my world, I talked about how to achieve financial freedom by learning how to make money online through creating sites and earning from them.

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My current experiment in making 50 amazon site niches. If you have not been following this challenge, best place to start is this resource page for the amazon challenge, that lists all the articles that I have written so far.

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Monday, 9 February 2009

Opportunities in enhancing discovery (serendipity)

I have find that Singapore is always a generation late when it comes to innovation, especially in the Web area. Hence, I am always 'listening in' to conversations around the Web, especially to people who are exploring the deep fundamental drivers that are shaping our economy and society.

In one of these listening sessions, I picked up on the concept of serendipity enhancement (hat tip to Ethan Bauley). It is different and yet may occupy the same importance as search. While search is powerful when the intention is clear, serendipity enhances social connections as it leads people to connect in unexpected ways. In a economy where social capital is growing in importance, such enhancement can bring tremendous value.

How then can you enhance serendipity? I have no strict answers but here a few thoughts that I am working on:

Serendipity is about flow: It is about maximising your exposure to the flow of connections and information, on your own terms of participation. Think about river of news but add in the ability of people to connect via the social objects being shared and discussed.

Such flow will come from services that help people expose their thoughts and work to where the flow is. Aggreagtors are the first manifestations of creating such values as they bring exposure to your writings. However, the bigger opportunity is in services which are able to move your information around and plug you into relevant flows. I called it SwitchBoard 2.0.

Serendipity is about edge connections: It is commonly known that the greatest value from your network typically comes from the weakest link. Serendipity increases your chance to connect to somebody that is outside your traditional network and hence, potentially bringing greater value to you.

This is why I lament here that current social networks are not meant to enhance social capital. What is needed is a way to let us, as individuals connect to the edge. To do this, we need to understand how social capital is built which then gives us answers on how to better a recommendation service. This is a key challenge and one that is still wide open.

Serendipity is about diversity: Discovering news things (and though that, new connections) needs a certain degree of randomness, and consequently a certain degree of noise. What many current services have done is to pair down the noise though specialised verticals. This has dramatically reduced diversity.

Aggregating across verticals to produce diversity is what we need to reproduce the serendipity that is found in our physical lives. That is one powerful benefit that services such as FriendFeed has introduce.

However, beyond activities, aggregating different perspectives on life, strategies, knowledge, values et al has the potential to really open up innovations. That is a difficult problem and one that I have yet to see attempts being made.

There are many more things to understand about serendipity and the opportunities it represent. This is my attempt to plug into the conversations that are happening. Let's see where serendipity will lead me to.

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