Choice engines, what are they and how do I use one?

Perhaps you would be surprised to know that you have probably already used a choice engine?

So what are they? In short...

...a Choice Engine is a system that assists you
with making a choice.

From back at the start of the internet, as soon as the number of websites started to grow, users needed websites that would help them in finding the information they were looking for. Initially these were search engines but as the number of sites covering a single subject started to grow larger it became impossible for the search engines to always give you the right one (although they are constantly changing to get better and better at this). So websites started appearing that would collate information from a number of sources and provide tools to allow the user to search or browse through them more efficiently. Well known examples are property portals, job boards, price comparison and restaurant directories.

More recently they went further and added rating systems, either user generated or added by the site's own reviewers depending on the nature of the topic or nature of the website.

However there are 3 main issues they face:

  1. Data: These sites are only as useful as the data that they contain. -  Imagine a flight comparison site that didn't include the budget airlines or a property website that only had 50% of the properties in a given area?
  2. Transparency: How can the site provide transparency with regards to how the ratings were produced? - The tales about reviews being paid for have resulted in a mistrust in rating services in general.
  3. Personalisation: Every user has different needs and objectives, how can the site understand the needs of a particular user?

With it becoming easier and easier to get access to 'data' and with the use of social media providing both a level of 'transparency' (referring to the social media profile of who made the reviews) and 'personalisation' (using information in social media profiles to tailor the results to the user) choice engines are getting a step closer to being really useful.

The personalisation however is still an aspect that has a long way to go. Whilst government bodies argue over levels of privacy, users are still presented with overly complex privacy settings and hackers trying to get round the systems put in place to protect users. We are a long way off the scenes in Minority Report where the adverts change to match each person as they walk past them but there are companies making moves to allow users the freedom to share 'their' data when they want to.

Tesco for example is already planning a service that allows the user to access their own shopping history. Now imagine what an online diet system could do with that data in order to assist the with their chosen diet plan?

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