Tag Archives: Delver

Google Nails Down Social Search

Google’s Social Search is doing the walk, all the rest are just doing the talk. As soon as I activated the Social Search experiment, my next search yielded a social result. No setting up, showing how I am connected to that result (including friends of friends), showing as part of the standard web results…

google-social-searchContrast this with Microsoft’s poor attempt at “social search” by indexing tweets and status messages and showing them regardless of the actual searcher (example search, you’ve got to be on “United States” locale on bing to see it).

Then also contrast it with Facebook’s announcement back in August of its implementation of searching within friends’ posts – a less grandiose announcement that yet delivered far more social experience than Bing’s. Nevertheless, it’s a very limited experience and far from being a true information source for any serious search need.

So how does Google overcome the main obstaclecollecting your connections?

Google relies on its own sources and on open sources it can obtain by crawling the social graph. That is the true reason why Facebook is not part of Google’s graph (no XFN/FOAF marking on Facebook’s public pages). Google may be counting on Facebook’s inevitable opening up, and with Gmail’s rising popularity it becomes a reasonable alternative even for Facebook users like me.

Sadly, all this great news gave zero credit to Delver, where it all happened first

IBM IR seminar talk on Socially Connected Search

I had the pleasure today of presenting Delver in a talk I gave at IBM Haifa Research Labs IR  seminar. My slides are over here.

The seminar’s focus this year was on social search, and there were quite a few other talks I found very interesting, I’ll blog about those later on too. One of the positive surprises for me was the amount of work carried out at IBM-HRL on social/web 2.0 tools such as SONAR. Impressive social product work for a non-consumer player; I plan to read more of their published work on that.

Bootstrapping Social Search

As a followup on Brynn’s review of Delver, I’ve had an interesting exchange with Lachlan Hardy, where Lachlan expressed his disapproval of Delver’s crawling and unifying the social graph (content alone seems ok). My response is in this thread.

The important issue is that socially-connected search requires a comprehensive and unified social graph, which can be quite difficult to achieve. When users conduct their first search, they would expect all of their friends, friends of friends, and their respective content to be pre-indexed, for such a service to be of any use.

Skipping that part makes it impossible to bootstrap, and would be like a web search engine that includes only websites that opted-in to be included in the index, or like a FriendFeed version that shows no public profiles, and if you want to follow someone you must create their consolidated profile yourself. These can be regarded as far more privacy-observing services, but will probably never bootstrap as their real-life counterparts did. It’s all about keeping the balance right.

Gmailizing blogs

When I first started using gmail, I was shocked: “What? no folders??…” I couldn’t figure out those funny labels, and searching my emails instead seemed a strange idea. Nowadays, when I have to locate an old email, I pray that it’s on gmail and not in my Outlook (even with Vista’s improved search).

The dilemma between search and browse paradigms runs through many software user interfaces, and was especially emphasized with Google’s focus on search in their products. In some areas, such as finding web sites, the search paradigm has undisputably won and the once-king Yahoo! Directory barely has a stub article in Wikipedia. In others, such as news, search is a rarely used service, and a portal-like browse interface rules.

But in reality these are complementary paradigms, rather than competing. Browsing is excellent when the data fits a clear and sufficiently granular taxonomy, shared by the author and reader, and unstructured searching fits into all the other cases (and in some cases, like web search, that’s all there is). Oh, and one more difference: search is A LOT easier. Just stuff all the text into strong index machines, and give the user the ubiquitous search box.

With gmail I wouldn’t think twice before moving an email to the archive, I have no doubt I’ll find it when needed, and all the hassle of managing folders is gone. A blog is no different. You have an author communicating a heap of knowledge to readers, and instead of sorting it for future reference in tags and categories (the complete opposite of “…a clear and sufficiently granular taxonomy…“) they should be gmailized – stuff them in an index and search.

Ah, you say, just embed a blog search box. Sure, but I have dozens of blogs I want to search in. So use some blogs search aggregator, you suggest. But I don’t want to get results from all the blogs out there, just from those I care about. Well, then, guess you’ll need to build yourself a custom search… or just use Delver. Knowing that in a few years every major search engine will integrate social features, I can carelessly blog about anything my social circle could find useful (say, how to plug an mp3 player to the audio system of an Israeli leasing-level Ford Focus), without bothering about categorizing with the perfect keywords (hint: there aren’t any). In fact, I think I’ll skip categories altogether in this blog, and just use tags for a nifty tag cloud 🙂

(crossposted on the Delver Blog)