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Dee Salomon

Medialink

The Serendipity Algorithm: creating containers for discovery

Who would have thought that a word coined by an English Earl in the 18th Century from a Persian story he called a “silly fairy tale” would have a powerful meaning for 21st century marketers? And yet that is what Horace Walpole has bequeathed us with the word “serendipity.” Walpole created the word from the title of the tale The Three Princes of Serendip, in which these Persian nobles are “always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of.” Increasingly we find information, content and products being delivered to us courtesy of algorithms informed by past browsing behavior, friends’ recommendations and currently trending content. In our zeal for ever more precise targeting of content and advertising, in our determination to give people exactly what we think they should want, do we risk losing the magic of serendipity?

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