“Unlimited choice” can “produce genuine suffering,” argues Barry Schwartz in The Paradox of Choice. His research basically sums up what your mother has been telling you for years: You don’t even know what you want.
Thankfully, the Internet () does know what you want — or at least its algorithmic recommendation services are trying to figure it out. Pandora () is great for music, but these seven sites will help narrow down that agonizingly long list of choices in a variety of areas using your own past preferences.
Read on and let us know in the comments which, if any, worked best for you.
Users select sources from the web that they wish they had time to read. Their personalized players — which can be streamed on the web, on an MP3 player, through an iPhone () or on an iPad — select articles from those sources’ RSS feeds and read them out loud. It’s like NPR, but tailored to your interests and without any hint of human inflection.
At some point before Netflix, you could wander into your locally owned video store and ask something like, “I’m kind of in the mood for something romantic but light-hearted, maybe something with Vince Vaughn?” The helpful video store owner would reply, “Perhaps you would enjoy Swingers.”
Now you can ask Jinni. The site classifies movies using factors like mood, place, time period, and plot. It calls this selection process its “movie genome project.” Users search and browse by these factors and the site gives recommendations based on their preferences as they use it.
Want a shorter War and Peace? If BookLamp progresses as planned, you’ll be able to search for a book that has similar stylistic elements — perspective, dialog, description level, pacing and density — to Tolstoy’s classic, but that can be read during a four hour layover.
As of now, the site is still calling itself a “technology demonstration,” and hasn’t analyzed the writing style of enough books to be useful as a recommendation service. If you sign up, however, you can request a favorite book or author to be added to the database (although there are no promise that it will actually be added).
If you are craving Chinese food, prefer chicken, and are in the mood for something filling, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to articulate your recipe search as “Stir-Fried Chicken, Bok Choy and Chiles With Basil” without some help. Cookthink helps users answer the perpetual question, “What should I make for dinner?” by allowing them to search recipes from food bloggers, cookbook authors, and newspapers by any combination of ingredient, dish, cuisine or mood. They call it “the recipe mapping project.”
Worio (or “Web Of Research -io”) supplements users’ favorite search engines with an enhanced discovery search. Normal search results from the selected engine appear on the left pane and results that use the keywords from the principle search as well as the user’s search history suggest related items that might be of interest on the right pane. The site operates by looking at the tags associated with webpages the user searches for. There are also options to create a library of tagged content, download a Facebook () application, or look at friends’ libraries.
Channel surfing used to be a lazy activity. Now, with choices on television, web video, digital download platforms and even your mobile phone, it can be a lot of work. Bee.tv is like a channel surfing assistant.
The site recommends TV shows and movies based upon the devices you are using, your preferences, and your likes and dislikes. It allows you to filter results based on rating, genre, HD and whether the content is free as well as to browse TV listings.
The site is currently still in Beta and requires an invitation code, but a free app is available on the iTunes store.
7. Apollo News
Time Inc. launched an experimental personalized magazine in print and online last year, but that was before the iPad hit the market. Apollo news is a similar idea. It’s an iPad app that serves as a personalized newspaper.
Users select preferences to build their customized periodical. The app’s algorithms populate content that the user will like by considering factors such as how much time she spends on certain articles and at certain sources’ sites, which articles they indicate they like or dislike, which articles they mention on social media, and similar people’s tastes.
More Tech Resources from Mashable:
– 5 Great Ways to Find Music That Suits Your Mood
– 7 Unique Sites for Discovering New Music
– 7 Ways to Find Amazing New Android Apps
– HOW TO: Find Good Food Online
– HOW TO: Find and Add Facebook Apps