Engineering Serendipity

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By Catherine Cook (Co-Founder, MyYearbook) When John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale reach for the same pair of black gloves in the movie Serendipity, they meet and fall in love. The goal of social discovery applications is to engineer this kind of serendipity. By leveraging demographic and interest data, and by providing good reasons to interact with strangers, this emerging category seeks to make meeting people feel fun and natural.

And it’s not just about dating. Most people I know I met through serendipitous encounters. Whether it’s the friend I bumped into at the college bookstore as a confused freshman or the boyfriend I met at the coffee shop, most human relationships start the same way – in a serendipitous moment.

But not a random moment. I wasn’t waiting in a random line in a random store in a random city; I was waiting in my college bookstore, surrounded by people in close proximity with shared ambitions and life stages. Even at the coffee shop, it’s not a random cross-section of society that caffeinates there each day, but a group of people particular to the location and environment of Georgetown.

Social discovery apps spend much of their time focused on this problem: how to infuse apparently “random” online interactions with the sort of affinity that leads to connection—not unlike a good mutual friend who enjoys playing matchmaker.

» Read the full article at TechCrunch.