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Eran's blog

Social Networks for Social Search

There are 3 main reasons to add someone as a contact on flickr:

  1. They just added you and you feel obliged to reciprocate.
  2. They’re actually someone you know and you want to keep up with them and/or see photos from shared events.
  3. You like their photos.

Discounting #1 as an illness that plagues all YASNs, #2 and 3 are all about finding photos that are relevant to you. It’s not quite search yet because flickr doesn’t let you search in your social network but it’s close.

Other YASNs are like that as well. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that social networks are about 2 things: hooking up and social search. By hooking up I mean pure social connection, not necessarily of the sexual kind and by social search I mean using your social network to find/discover information that is relevant to you. Sadly, most of them are lacking in tools to do that effectively but we’ll get there some day. I hope.

Why am I writing this? Well, I’ve been thinking of social search on and off for the last year or two. The model I’ve come up with can be best described as multi-layered social search. Different layers of your social network (layers that may be completely orthogonal to one another) are used as filters for different topics. You can have your music friends, your Java architects, your gaming geeks… each group would be used to filter different sources of information. Get news about music and live shows from people whose music taste you appreciate. Get recommendations about new games from Tycho and Gabe and so on.

Most social networks won’t let you do that yet. Yahoo’s My Web 2.0 is making a good start with their labels and I’d like to see more of that. Del.icio.us let’s you find supposed experts on certain topics with their ‘active users.’ A combination of both features would be useful. A place where I can bookmark, discuss, discover and connect with like-minded people would be another welcome addition once we’ve combined the above two features (segmentation and expert discovery).

But for now, we have a different solution. This solution (partial and lacking in many ways) comes in the form of niche YASNs that keep showing up. Use flickr to find photos, upcoming for events, boompa for car information, tribe for like-minded people, last.fm for music, netflix for movies and so on and so forth. We don’t have the Grand Unified Social Network yet but we can pretend we do by using 20 different YASNs. If we’re lucky, at least some of those will be open (as in open standards and APIs) for integration in the future.

By the way, this idea integrates quite seamlessly with the theory of Object Mediated Social Networks which I’ve talked about before. When people connect (discuss, analyze, link, etc.) over objects (movies, bands, jobs) they create filters. Those filters can then be used for search. Social search.

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Filed under: Search, Tagging, The Net

2 Responses - Comments are closed.

  1. fling93 says:

    There are 3 main reasons to add someone as a contact on flickr:

    For me, there’s a 4th one: you think they’re cute (I’ve added at least three redheads as Flickr contacts for that reason, only one of which is actually a good photographer). I mean, you go on to talk about “hooking up”, so how can you overlook that one? 🙂

  2. limbo says:

    @fling93,

    Yeah you’re right, I guess I kinda lumped that under #2 (someone you wanna keep up with) I just don’t really think of flickr as the hookup kinda network… then again, maybe I should reconsider 😉

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