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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Apple and Twitter’s big new initiatives put humans before technology by Vlad Savov

Follow on Twitter as @vladsavov
"Major new services will rely on conscious selection to provide the best user experience." summarizes Vlad Savov,
Senior Editor at The Verge.

Photo: The Verge

Curation. It’s the thing that lies at the heart of Apple’s new Music and News services, and it will soon serve as the fulcrum for Twitter’s Project Lightning initiative. Today’s web user is beleaguered by an overabundance of things to read, listen to, or watch, and the coming battles between web companies will be about how to reduce rather than expand the choices on offer. This month, Apple and Twitter presented their visions for new models of curation that rely on humans first and machines second.

Apple Music is a complex, multifaceted beast, but its core concept is a simple one: expert curators making music listening more enjoyable for the end user. The 24-hour Beats 1 radio station "plays music not based on research, not based on genre, not based on drumbeats, just music that is great and feels great," says Jimmy Iovine. The former chief of Beats Electronics has brought his idea of expert-curated playlists over to Apple and the hope is that their quality and relevance will set Apple Music apart from the competition. If nothing else, they promise something different from the usual tech company pledge of ever-smarter machines.

Not too dissimilar from Apple Music will be Apple News. This new app gathers stories from a wide variety of sources — like so many other news aggregators out there — but it will employ dedicated editors to pick out the most important, relevant, or interesting pieces of news to promote. In this way, Apple is attempting to differentiate not through its technology but through the discernment of its curators.
Exactly how successful either of these ventures will be depends on how well Apple does in recruiting the skilled workforce it needs to make the curation credible and trustworthy. If Apple News strips out, say, 90 percent of the stories coming out on the web every day, and if those discarded items are mostly noise and repetition, then it’ll be a great tool for people desperately seeking a higher signal-to-noise ratio in their news-reading app. And if not, it’ll be just another pretty news reader clogging up your home screen.

Both Apple Music and Apple News will, of course, rely on computer algorithms as well. What distinguishes them from the more automated systems that already exist is the emphasis on human input in the final decision making: the algorithm aggregates, but the curator chooses. Twitter is embracing the exact same philosophy with Project Lightning.

Source: The Verge