OtherTube: Exchanging YouTube Recommendations with Strangers
In online spaces like YouTube and Reddit, algorithms are increasingly playing a significant role in shaping users’ newsfeed by personalizing content. This personalization often leads to filtering out content opposing to users’ interests, causing filter bubbles. Such filters can limit users’ exposure to diverse content, depriving them of opportunities to reflect on their interests compared to others. In this work, we investigate how exchanging recommendations with strangers can help users discover new content and reflect. We test this idea by developing OtherTube—a browser extension for YouTube that displays strangers’ personalized YouTube recommendations. OtherTube lets users (i) create an anonymized profile for social comparison with others, (ii) share YouTube’s recommendation videos to them with others, and (iii) browse other OtherTube users’ YouTube recommendations. In the figure here, OtherTube embedded #1-5 in a user’s YouTube homepage while collecting #6, YouTube’s recommendation to the user. #3 is the profile of the stranger whose recommendation feed was collected and shown as #4. OtherTube has three interaction buttons in #2, respectively to browse content from other strangers, browse another set of videos from this stranger and pin this stranger to get back to them later.
Using OtherTube, we conducted a 10-day-long user study (n=41) followed by a post-study interview of a few (n=11). Our results reveal that users discovered and developed new interests from seeing OtherTube recommendations. We identified user and content characteristics that affect interaction and engagement with exchanged recommendations; for example, younger users interacted more with OtherTube, while the perceived irrelevance of some content discouraged users from watching certain videos. Users reflected on their interests as well as others’, recognizing similarities and differences. Overall, our results shows potential for designs leveraging exchange of recommendation in other settings.