Lessmarcos.comAsteroid Blues

Content-based recommendation systems (not in this place)

By Marcos. Thursday, 03 September 2020

1. The books I like but I don’t know about yet

There is a place where book recommendations are not based on genres, on ratings, on social connections, on whether they were enjoyed by the same people or not. Communities are not needed to provide discoverability and recommendation of books you would like to read. In such a place, recommendations of books are based on content. In such a place I can discover unknown books in which the main character shares traits with Jacopo BelboFunes el memorioso; I get to know books in which philosophical topics are discussed the way Sartre used to do. Systems recommend me books in which their characters discuss questions of god’s existence and the immortality of the soul the way it’s done in The Brothers Karamazov.
Of course it’s not only one system that offers recommendations. There are a multitude of them that do the same. And all of this is only possible because all books are open: anyone can download any book as a plain text file.

2. Music

Some systems do an amazing job recommending books while others do an amazing job recommending music (in such a place, music is open as well). You want to listen to a song that gives you the same vibe as Good VibrationsDancing in the Dark or A Hard Days Night2000 Light Years from Home? Easy. Hard-coded genres are a thing of the past. In this place genres are based on wavelength and pitch.

3. Everything

In such a place, the content of any digital resource can be downloaded (and hence analyzed). Services exist that offer comparisons, recommendations and discoverability based on different filters. You tell the system:

Find books where the topic discussed is the alter-ego, the plot is set in the 19th century, and the writing style is like Poe's.

4. Really?

I think it makes sense if you think about it, at least to some extent. You like a book not because of the name of the author, or the genre, or the publication year, or because your friends read it. You like a book because of its content, because of how it’s written, because of how topics are discussed. You may want to discover books that are written in the same way as other books; you may want to discover books that are written in a diametrically opposite way. None of this is possible if all you got is just book metadata.