Fast on the heels of the recent BingBook announcement, Google’s made it’s own push into social search (well, a further push, as they’ve already, just like Bing, been doing these things for a while). Oddly enough, I was reading something that paralleled my own thinking on the evolution of search by a writer today, J.A. Konrath, on the indie bookstore that banned him. Like any respectable author, the guy is writing to earn a living and, as of recently, went with Amazon’s new publishing arm (their Crime / Mystery one, Thomas & Mercer publishing) an imprint similar to their Domino Project with Seth Godin (we all know him, right?).
So you walk into an indie bookstore (I haven’t done that in a while, but, in high school that was the only place to get books and I still miss the expertise of the staff there) and you get fantastic expertise. Typically, that’s their value add. They might not have the selection of a Barnes & Noble, or Borders, or even Walden books, but they have the passion for books and the human expertise that far outstrips the chain stores (on the whole). Social search reminds me of the independent book seller problem / opportunity. Thing is, Bing & Google are both like Barnes & Noble. Incredible selection but without that human expertise…well, you’re just missing something crucial in the mix.
Now here comes the money: social search
Couple the algorithmic search results with real human expertise (in various flavors) and you have, potentially, that indie bookstore at scale. Another way to look at this….suppose you could couple people online, with interests matching your search, who could further help refine the information you need. Wow. It kind of reminds me of Vark.com (remember the Q&A company Google bought?). I think that this metaphor for search will add a new, powerful dimension and aspect to the experience that’s been lacking thus far. All that selection and PageRank doesn’t always bring you the best, most important or most relevant page.
The synergy (and recent announcement of Google’s Search team breaking down into two divisions, led by two very amazing scientists) between social and search has been there forever. Only now, the companies are trying to get closer to real time, real world expertise (in case it’s needed, or could help) with the effort. To me, personally….I don’t have trouble finding things. Other people might, though and that’s where this kind of recommendation and filtering can really do something interesting.