Soup of the Day Web Caching

Soup of the Day (SOTD) is an imaginary web caching strategy whose defining characteristic is to manipulate users  into requesting content from the cache in preference to content not in the cache.

Web caches store copies of web pages so that nearby users can access those pages quickly and with less network traffic.  The cache size is limited, and most caching research is focused on the problem of selecting those web pages to store in the cache.  Some caching strategies keep the N most recently requested documents, some keep the N most frequently requested documents, and some have more complicated formulas to determine the utility of keeping a particular chunk of data.

Soup of the Day (SOTD) is an imaginary web caching strategy whose defining characteristic is to manipulate users  into requesting content from the cache in preference to content not in the cache.   SOTD strategies can re-order webpage elements, re-style links, and add new links and distractors to influence users.

One action is to influence users to become interested in a cache attractor.  Cache attractors are interesting, self-contained topics that easily fit in a web cache, i.e., LOLCats or multi-page political discussions with comments sorted by oldest-first.

SOTD’s only saving grace is that it must not disallow access to content by disrupting the link graph, such as by deleting links or refusing to deliver requested content.  SOTD algorithms would be judged based upon the amount of data delivered to the user that is not in the cache and user-reported satisfaction with their web browsing experience.

SOTD is not so evil when users just want to kill time on the web or make inconsequential decisions (e.g., where to go for dinner).  It could be terrible when there is one clearly-best sequence of pages to present to a user.  However, a good SOTD algorithm would actually work to guide the user to that sequence of pages, to minimize mistaken page requests that are likely not in the cache.

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