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Personal omnipresent content recommendation algorithm

Image credit: Sara Kurfeß

Darko Savic
Darko Savic May 13, 2021
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Inspired by Shubhankar's upgrade suggestion on this session, the idea proposes a personal content recommendation algorithm that takes precedence over ANY other social media or google algorithms.

Every person would effectively have a personal guardian "filter" that:
  1. decides which content is allowed to be brought to your attention
  2. knows the right timing when you need some inspiration, entertainment, knowledge
You would never encounter the timelines and recommendations from social media apps. The only time you would see a Facebook post, a youtube video, a tweet, an Instragram post or a Tik-tok video is if your personal guardian filter determines that it's what you need to see at that moment or if you specifically search for something/someone. As soon as you've seen what you needed, your personal filter would not let the 3rd party app show you anything unrelated.

All content would be on-demand. Your algorithm would let one or two pieces of fun/useful content come through only if you are bored and consciously request it. The filter would make sure that you are not just clicking on auto-pilot.

The user interface would be brutally honest. It would make you feel like a junkie if you requested too much fun with no specific purpose. "Did you consume enough?" Then you would have to click:
  • Yes, take me out of this attention trap.
  • No, I need more to take the edge off. Hit me again.


Because native content recommendation algorithms are working in the app's favor which is almost never good for the user. The user's attention is the commodity that is being cleverly manipulated to maximize the benefit for the app (screen time, clicks on ads). The user is being hooked with hits of feel-good neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin) that are released in the brain as a result of the content that shows up on screen. The user unknowingly ends up using the device as a drug of choice. This can take hours out of the person's day and years of their lives. More importantly, this can take a toll on the person's productivity and prosperity in life.

A personal content recommendation algorithm would have different objectives. It would be geared to learn and protect the owner's interests, direct their attention at fun content in moderation and aim for the beneficial content. It would also not try to grab the owner's attention when their time would be better spent elsewhere. Most importantly, it would not let any other app pull the owner's attention into a circle-jerk.

Apps often give their users a way to opt-out of potentially offensive content (sex, violence, gore, etc). Nobody ever gives the users a way to opt-out of having their attention manipulated out of their control. This would be it.
Creative contributions

Options for continuing

Spook Louw
Spook Louw May 14, 2021
You mentioned having the choice between "hit me again" and "I've had enough". Perhaps you could also influence the general direction in which the algorithm leads you. Google's trend search has approached this in a cool way by giving you two options underneath each article to pick from.
Options range from "something important", "something eye-opening", "something cool" to "something significant" and "something captivating".
This does not necessarily help you get out of the trap, but it could help you make you use the time in a more enriching way.
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The number of ads and their duration increase as you watch more wasteful content

Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Sep 09, 2021
The app notes the time spent viewing wasteful content. It will allow you to view it for a specified time (first 20 minutes). Then it introduces ads within your feed and in your videos. If you still keep viewing the content, the ads become more frequent and longer-duration ads are introduced. There will be a point where there is 90% ads and 10% content. I think it will be sufficient to help the user avoid such content. The algorithm will reset itself after 8 hours (or a time specified by the user) and the user gets another 20 minutes to watch wasteful content. The ads start disturbing the user after that.

Inspired by @Samuel Bello's comment on "The app puts a hold when the inappropriate word is detected" here.
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic3 years ago
Whenever I get drawn into watching a movie on tv, the ads are my chance to break free and put my time to better use
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni3 years ago
Darko Savic Happens to me with Facebook videos.
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Problems with the implementation

jnikola May 27, 2021
I would absolutely benefit from this algorithm and I would for sure use it. But, I was thinking about how this thing could become a sustainable product or, in the other words, where you would implement this product to get the maximum out of it.

If it would be an extension to a browser, it could efficiently track and alert you about the "attention traps" you encounter, but you still need to install it, enable the ability to read the contents of every web page, which seems a bit invasive. It could have the same problem as AdBlocker, in which case a lot of pages won't work if it's on. That could become a bit irritating for the user and limits its efficiency.

The next example of the proposed algorithm implementation could be an independent app, which does the same thing. Same problems appear.

So for these two, we should develop a smart plan on how to make this tool important for the internet in general, including the "non-attention grabbers", and not just for us.

The only thing I came up with is the implementation of this algorithm inside the devices like this. This type of devices could be bought by companies to help employees to stay focused and, if proven to boost productivity, become an important working tool. That way your algorithm could become an accessory of every serious office.

Do you have any other ideas or comments?
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General comments

Darjan Hren
Darjan Hren3 years ago
I'm currently in one of these traps for quitw almw time, consuming and learning,... but my problem is that there's too much and too wide content and as a lot of things interest me, i get a pile of unreaded lists of links.

if I mix in between that content all the popups, ads (each 3-4th facebook post is an ad), newsletters,... there's too many signals i receive each day.

Your solution would curate the content for me which would remove a lot of the wasted attention which could be turned into more productivity.

Maybe some long-term app content strategies would be oltimized per goal as well. Instead of dopamine hits on the phone, they may alao come in real life.

Eg. "Increasing business revenue by 20%" would promote content that could help with this.

The content could still come from social media as long as it's useful to the goal (or many goals).

A really good social media/information detox idea, love it.
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic3 years ago
Darjan Hren We all are in one or more of these traps:) Falling asleep listening to youtube lectures eats what used to be the most productive-creative time for me. I have to build up the discipline to break the habit. I have to get this back https://brainstorming.com/r/MCS5JQ
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni3 years ago
Darjan Hren Darko Savic I agree. What if the app creates several personalized environments for you? For example, if this had to be on my laptop/ phone, it would have the following environments. The first one would be - "serious diabetes-related". In this work environment, the only things that are allowed to reach me are technical manuscripts published in science journals and news articles. This is because I work in the field and follow the developments. The same could be converted to "longevity". The second environment could be "for brainstorming". Here, the algorithm would be more relevant and allow Youtube videos from channels that I have subscribed to and watch when I am using the brainstorming platform. The algorithm will look at my browsing history and see what kind of videos I watch when I have a brainstorming tab open. Only those will be allowed to appear in my feed in the "for brainstorming" environment. Likewise, you could create several environments based on the activities you perform in the day. When you are in the brainstorming mood, you can activate the "for brainstorming" environment. You can change the environments and that will change your feed. Once in a while, the app will allow for useless but entertaining content for a limited time.
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