Today O’Reilly Radar has a post about homophily, the tendency to congregate with people with the same interests as your own. The article explains how application developers can enable their users to move beyond homophily and make serendipitous discoveries.
I find that weblogs are a vaccine against homophily. Most people have plenty of widely varied interests, and unless we’re very careful, mingling with people with whom we share an interest will expose us to plenty of other information that we maybe aren’t so interested in. I encounter the same effect when reading weblogs. I may read a weblog because it’s got useful information about Ruby on Rails, but what I wind up finding is a new band I want to listen to or a way to manage my time more effectively.
In general, I think that homophily is overblown as a syndrome that affects people on the Internet. If anything, I find that there’s too much surprising new stuff on the web to investigate rather than too little. The separate discussion about how to account for it in your applications is interesting, though, and I encourage you to read it.