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Google giving social search the vote?

Thursday, 29 November 2007 — by

Google has struggled to get a fix on Social Media. And recently, indecision has been final. However, deep in the basement of the Google Labs, something very social is happening to search that might just be worth a vote of confidence…

You see, Google has this experiment in Social Media search. Right now, it’s not much, but it’s promising. I know, I know! I went and got my hopes up too soon before, when Google tried getting all social with links sharing, and look how far that went.

This time, the omens are much more promising, although I’m not willing to put money on this just yet. There’s still time for Google to get scared and run a mile.

An image of the Google Labs social search and Facebook voting toolsFor the observant among you, the new options to vote a search result up or to remove it looks suspiciously like the options you get on your Facebook page.

Dare I be so bold as to suggest some former Googler who’s since gone AWOL in Facebook’s direction might have started this one? Who knows.

So what’s so social about search results?

It is inevitable that trust will be the number one currency on the web. Trust is more easily given than it is bought. The more people who trust something or someone, the more value is given, which will therefore (most likely) attract more trust and amass more value. Similarly, a web page or ‘blog article that’s not up to the mark will be buried. Some might not agree, but that’s democracy for you!

We’re all familiar with Digg and StumbleUpon, but it’s StumbleUpon who has been at the forefront social search in recent times.

With their star rating system applied to search results on the likes of Yahoo!, Google and MSN, fellow SU’ers see who amongst their friends has voted on which article and what rating (if any) a web page or article has accrued.

It’s a wonderfully neat idea, and it’s something I feel Google should be at the very forefront of. Not everyone will want to join StumbleUpon and install their toolbar. But if such functionality is part & parcel of the search experience, the number of people such functionality would be exposed to is colossal. Additionally, if those same people are using the Google toolbar, more data could be unearthed, adding even greater value to their search experience.

So if it’s a question of installed base and sheer weight of data, Google has much more to offer social search, should they cast their vote:

“You see, here’s Google raking in all of this data, just as Mr Siegler mentions. Much of this data is tagged to a personal in particular.

If you’ve got a Google Account, then Google know (sorry, see) what you’ve found.

If you’re making good use of your Search History, then Google knows what you value.

How much better could this be if Google were to let people vote on what they find and then roll this new-found knowledge into their data?

How much more value would be added to the ‘best guess for thy nearest neighbor’ if voting one way or t’other was added into the mix?”

For now, this experimental social search tool only saves data on a per-person basis. Their voting activities aren’t pooled, so that all of those using the Google Labs experiment won’t see collective or aggregated voting. That could have been a good starting point, but maybe I’m just getting ahead of things?

I really do hope Google invests time in their social search feature, as it’s something that would empower people to either elevate or eliminate content based on a democratic process, rather than a process that’s almost entirely machine-managed, such as Google’s own search algorithm.

I’ll say one thing; Google’s new social search tool certainly has my vote…

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