• 01.15.14

The End Of Manual Self-Quantification Is Fast Approaching

Inside the New York Times research labs, they’re working on turning webpages into themes and sharing that info to help with finding your next reading material.

The End Of Manual Self-Quantification Is Fast Approaching
[Image: Flickr user Michael Smith]

Saving articles to Instapaper or Pocket isn’t hard, if you remember to hit the button. To simplify things, the New York Times research labs is working on putting these manual processes of quantifying your own behavior–including web browsing–out to pasture. Curriculum is the automatic check-in for online reading.


Curriculum parses pages for topics and then adds them to a public stream. So instead of someone seeing the URLs you visited, they’d see topics like “3-D printing” or “cyber warfare.” Having your browsing history anonymously sorted and curated is another tool for those interested in quantifying and sharing everything they do. There are already tools that break down the amount of time you spend on different sites, but part of Curriculum’s appeal is its semantic listening. A simplified list of topics is more likely to spark intrigue than a list of URLs or even page titles.

The Nieman Journalism Lab does a great job of breaking down some of the more technical aspects and also makes the case for something like Curriculum to be implemented in every news room. For those concerned with privacy, it’s also worth noting that this is still very much a lab project. Far from being a finished product, Curriculum is an experimental project that can be used to inform other endeavors.

Twitter #music played around with this idea briefly, trying to curate recommendations based on followings and sift through vast data to help users discover new music. Ultimately though, its full potential wasn’t able to be realized. iTunes is another music service trying to quantify your history with its genius recommendations, but it lacks the social aspect: You can’t see other people’s histories.

Even though we have the world’s information at our finger tips, we still have the problem of where to start. Curated lists is one solution. Where do we find interesting articles to add to our Pocket account? Where do we find interesting places to check in with Foursquare? What websites are worth visiting? In the future, quantified semantic listening may hold the answer to questions like this.

About the author

Tyler Hayes is a Southern California native, early technology adopter, and music enthusiast.