Social search is touted as the next big thing for improving information retrieval, relevance and awareness. Let's take a look.
What exactly is Social Search?
There is no clear answer as the field is emerging and changing at a rapid pace. Here is one early definition: "..a collection of Internet wayfinding tools informed by human judgment. That judgment takes place in the form of tags, click-through activity, search history, and other actions". Source These technologies are being applied to bookmarks, images, tags, blogs, bibliographies.
Subscribing to a Flickr, del.icio.us, diigo or technorati tag via RSS - allows you to connect to a community, annotate, scan for recency, popularity or some rating measure as applied to posted images, bookmarks, URL links or blog posts. This brings new finds directly into your aggregator helping keep you up-to-date and raising your awareness.
Scanning or searching Digg or Wink - helps you quickly zero in on news, posts and items others have rated as interesting, worthwhile or can be used for finding experts.
Social search engines such as Eurekster, Prefound, Searchles, Gravee, Collarity, Zimbio, .... claim to use collaborative filtering, relevance rankings, community activity & behavior, 'collections', unique ranking scores to improve search returns, provide a 'personal touch', guide inquiry and add 'meaning' to those coded search algorithms the big boys use.
What do we need to make social search really work?
- Dedicated community - people who share your interests, are sincere, active, honest and helpful - not always easy to find and maintain.
- Visual help and tools to refine a search - Quintura looks interesting with their interactive keyword clouds.
- Permanent URL - so individual searches can be stored, shared and updated.
- Ranking or scoring mechanism - simple but intelligent enough to prevent obvious spamming and gaming.
- RSS feeds - so you are alerted when rankings change, a repeated search yields new findings or friends provide annotations.
- An intuitive back-channel and community directory - to converse around results, rankings and relevance.
- Critical mass - there is a tipping point when social search offers greater value, improved relevance and increased awareness - no single engine is there yet.
So is your search social- yet?