I hope you've had a chance to check out the previous posting on "Musical Snowflakes" and try out Slacker and the just released Social.fm as examples of mass personalization and the Snowflake Effect in the world of music. If not, or if you didn't notice at the time, when you do try out Social.fm, you can experiment with the new visualization interface model that is becoming more popular, and which is in some Apple applications, such as iTunes and the new Mac OS, Leopard, where it is known as "Cover Flow".
As effective as it is simple, this technology restores the ability to flip through a stack of papers or albums and quickly stop at the one you are looking for or one that catches your eye. You'll quickly understand it after a few seconds on the Social.fm site. You can also run this short video about Cover Flow.
CAUTION: Severe risk of time loss ahead!
YouTube has also started to include a version of this visual "flip through" interface. After you've watched a video clip such as the one above, you get a horizontal band of other related videos along the bottom that you can flip through with your cursor, see some of the underlying metadata about the one you are hovering over, and then watch it with a click. Very slick! It's not only visually appealing, but it simply works well. And because the videos you are flipping through are all related to the one you just watched, see if you don't find yourself discovering many other unexpected things as you watch more and more.
It is quite amazing how much you do discover and learn in the process. Tying this example back to music...if you have not already done so, try using YouTube itself as a music discovery site. I think you'll be amazed at how much new music and artists you discover.
Right now, these are very simple implementations of visual interfaces, but they are examples of the continuing rise of visualization that is much needed within our human computer interactions. It's time to start planning for how you will take advantage of such visual interfaces as they become more commonly available for use with any kind of content within any application and on any OS. And imagine that the visuals will start to contain more information and have greater dynamic relationships between each item that you can see. An early example of this type of interface is shown in the Visual Thesaurus, demonstrated in the short video clip below.
While you ponder all these new developments from the music world, keep in mind that music is simply one area we can look to for inspiration and examples that we can adopt and apply to our own context. While I believe that most everyone likes music, and will find value in these kinds of services, the real benefits (and the reason for my highlighting these music examples) are to encourage their adoption in other wildly divergent ways.
These examples help us find and listen to music that is highly personalized to be "just right" for us. Now imagine having these same kinds of Snowflake Effect capabilities that help you find "just the right" content of any kind—from text to images to video and audio. What uses can YOU imagine? How will YOU use these as they become more and more prevalent and available?
Be sure to share your thoughts and experiences with the rest of us. I look forward to hearing from you.