Nara raises $4m to build a better recommendation engine

When it comes to finding the perfect restaurant, hotel or entertainment venue, chances are you turn to one or more user reviews sites. After all, if you’re going to trust anything, why not trust testimonials from a business’ past customers?

User reviews, of course, aren’t perfect, and sorting through them can require a lot of effort. Hence the effort many companies are making to build recommendation engines that use computing power to tell you where you should eat your next meal or go to have a good time.

Can an API replace business development?

If you list some of the most popular and important companies on the
internet today, you’ll notice that most have one thing in common: they
offer an API. And, in most cases, for good reason. APIs can be a
valuable asset for an internet business.

But is an API a business development asset, and over time, should it cannibalize business development?

Hunch’s hunch: less traffic will produce a more useful service

For most consumer internet startups, more is better when it comes to
traffic. But Hunch, the recommendation engine co-founded by Flickr
co-founder Caterina Fake, has a hunch: when it comes to traffic, less
is actually more.

So yesterday Hunch made a drastic change to its service, which comScore
estimates receives approximately 750,000 unique visitors each month: it
cut off access to users who aren’t registered and logged in. Fake told
TechCrunch that she thought “traffic will plummet” in the wake of this,
but that “users who are using the product will have a significant lift
in the quality of results.

Hunch’s answer predictor gets Twitterers to share their personal information

Getting people to divulge personal information online can be a challenge. But recommendation engine Hunch stumbled on an easy way to do it this week: by turning the answering into a game.

The company’s Twitter predictor uses consumers’ Twitter handles to guess how they would answer an unending series of questions. The sometimes serious, sometimes silly question generator has enticed many Twitterers to give it a whirl, and collected new users and data for Hunch along the way.

SMWNY: When will location-based services stop being fads and start getting real?

Twitter is over three years old and many people still don’t get it. Just last week, The NewYorker’s George Packer called it “crack for media addicts.” But will real-time oversharing services make it into the mainstream?

At The Future of Space and Time talk during Social Media Week in New York on Wednesday, panelists from the tech world noted that conditioning larger audiences to share their real-time info and location will be necessary for such technologies to truly take off.

And for advertisers, this could be the key to actually serving those relevant ads everyone’s always talking about.