Archive for September, 2007

All Consuming.net: The new road to Readers’ Advisory?

September 18, 2007

I’d like to move our discussion away from the social networking sphere and into another Web 2.0 tool, which utilizes many of the concepts of a social network (community, large-scale participation, virtual contacts) to aid in purchasing decisions.  This site, All Consuming.net, taps into the knowledge of a large base of users to provide recommendations regarding food, literature, music, activities, and so on. 

As advertised on the home page, All Consuming uses large scale community to provide three interconnected services.  Users can:

  1. Create a list of the food, books, music, movies, etc. that they have enjoyed (or didn’t, as the case may be) on a personal profile page. (An example of a personal profile page, with its navigational scheme can be viewed here)
  2. Users can also receive (or contribute) recommendations regarding what should be “consumed” next, based upon the lists that have been volunteered
  3. Users can share their All Consuming favorites with the world outside of All Consuming through widgets that can be embedded into their external blog, personal homepage, Facebook, etc.

The recommendation function is at the center of what this site has to offer.  Amazon.com offers a similar service in the form of “Customers who bought this item also bought…”  The difference between Amazon’s recommendations and those offered by the All Consuming community is that Amazon’s system is automated, relying upon Amazon’s vast stores of usage data.  The process is binary, and though very useful, cannot take into account the items that you are passionate about but which may have been purchased elsewhere.  Similarly, Amazon’s recommendations may not contain in-depth comparison information or reasoning behind the linking of the two items.

All Consuming, however, taps into the collected knowledge of many human users, and can offer more in-depth recommendations with useful comparisons between items.  (i.e.  “If you like the poetry of Ralph Waldo Emerson, you may also like Annie Dillard’s book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, because both authors are concerned with man’s place in nature, and both authors focus on the question of whether – and how- God speaks to man through the natural world.”)   Similarly, All Consuming is not limited to recommending items from within one store.  Recommendations can be made by people across many continents, people who may be exposed to items that a U.S. user may not otherwise learn about. 

Obviously,  a service of this type requires a large user base.  All Consuming partners with a similar group of websites, “43 Things“, so any user that is registered with “43 Things” is also automatically a member of All Consuming, and vice versa.  These partnerships help to keep the membership levels high enough for the service to be effective.

I think that this site has some implications for traditional library services, especially readers’ advisory services.  Sites such as All Consuming provide a scalable and inexpensive alternative to Amazon’s automated recommendations by relying upon voluntary participation by a wide variety of users.  Libraries have long known that human-supplied descriptive information can help people to discover new and relevant avenues of thought, experience, or information that otherwise may remain unknown.  Establishing school-wide networks such as this, to which students are automatically members, could provide tremendous information on the student body’s interests and scholastic needs, as well as provide a new way for librarians to provide readers’ advisory services.

Although All Consuming is difficult to navigate and somewhat difficult to learn, it has discovered an important niche in the information landscape, and offers an important “library-type” service.  It may be important to watch sites such as this, as they are bound to become more sophisticated as automated processes pair with user participation to eliminate unhelpful content, spam, etc. 

 Cool Rating- 3 (Though still in its infancy, All Consuming has a lot of potential!)