Netflix Prize competition had led many researchers into developing methods that could not possibly scale to real world scenarios. Most industry people I spoke to described scalability as their number one consideration.
There were two strong beliefs that I heard stated many times in the last few days: improvements in the overall user experience dominate likely enhancements of current algorithms; and recommendations from friends remain far more powerful than those from machines. So the sort of research that will excite industry in the near future is likely to focus on topics such as:
- providing more compelling explanations for machine recommendations
- exploiting social relationships to make better recommendations
- optimising the user's interaction with particular recommenders
One final thing that might interest researchers with concerns about any of these issues: pretty much everyone said that they were hiring.