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I like this, but I don't like that

I like this, but I don't like that

Bruce Spector's company, ATTAP (All Things To All People) is trying to change the "locus of control" for consumers. Today, Spector says, we are obliged to navigate the consumer world via Amazon, eBay, Google, and such. But there's a better way.

The first product he showed off here at PC Forum was Riffs, an online service that lets users write reviews on various items--music, cities, food, celebrities, and so on. As a reviews site, Riffs looks easier to use than Epinions. And as a site to create an online persona, it's more focused than a wide-open personal page like MySpace. Although, watching the demo, it was not crystal clear that this focus is what's called for: Riffs enables users to create an online persona based on everything external to them--what they buy, what they like, where they live, what they eat. Everything except who they are. For that, personal blogs and sites like MySpace and TagWorld are more complete.

On the other hand, Riffs also has a form of collaborative filtering. As you rate items, the system can return other items that you might also like. Thus it's a discovery service for users. And given the size of its database (15 million items, ranging from music to universities), it could return some very interesting and useful results.

Spector is also rolling out a personality assessment site, PersonalDNA. This service taps into the fact that people love to take tests (compare to quiz-giant Tickle).

Riffs and PersonalDNA are designed for users, but the database of preferences they create will feed into another service, Lifeio. This service will be the "management console" for the preferences database, and, if users give their permission, vendors will be able to subscribe to feeds from Lifeio users to create marketing programs. For example, a vendor could use the service to reach people who like Johnny Cash and not Britney Spears.

Ultimately ATTAP is based on a universal human desire: people like to talk about themselves. The question is, do they want vendors and marketers to listen?