Power to people. Or so they say. In recent years, the social web has helped empower, enable, connect and cultivate personal and professional relationships all over the world. So what’s next?
When you think about a search engine, it’s essentially a referral-based system that collates content. The referrals are the links between one we page and another. It’s like word-of-mouth recommendation in many ways. Sure, there’s the low quality and the illegal stuff, but word-of-mouth isn’t just a way of making popular what’s good, it’s also a way of making people aware of what’s bad.
So the search engines are, if tangentially, people-powered — we make the links and the search engines follow them. Thing is, in recent times, the social web has started to undermine the search engines:
“To link is to like is to love. Or at least, that’s been my mantra for long enough. Problem is, Twitter and its ilk could be undermining the web itself. But if we link less, are we trusting less? No. We just need a better way to measure who and what we trust.”
In search of The Found Engine
I find interesting to see discussions on the future of search coming to the point where what we’re essentially talking about is user-curated data, or even people-powered search. It’s also interesting for another reason; in the coming years, search as an activity will most likely become rare and functionally meaningless.
I certainly wouldn’t go as far as saying semantics is meaningless, as the author of the ReadWriteWeb suggested, because that’s an excellent way of adding much needed specificity to a web page.
Nearly two years ago, I talked about what I called the Found Engine, which is where all of this is heading — we announce our needs, schedules, lists of friends and tasks to the various web applications we’re now wedded to and off they go, to find the resources we’re going to need to do all of those things, wherever those things may be lurking.
So we no longer search for things because those things we need are found for us and then surround us in a contextual cloud that’s further refined by having this cloud of data & information (two totally different things) spread across a time line, related to our activities, as they unfold.
It’s gratifying to see my ideas being played out, even if only conceptually.
Tags are already doing much of this, such as on StumbleUpon, or hash tags on Twitter. By declaring your interests in advance, those services sift through their vast silos of user-generated content for things that match your criteria.
The relevance of relationships
Recently, I’ve noticed several people talking about trimming their follower lists right down, in some cases, right back to just those people they’ve spoken with most often, or have met in person.
So as you can see, already, people are thinking about the manageability of their social networks, when originally, their only concern was to acquire as many followers as possible.
While I wouldn’t recommend doing that, it’s all about the individual and the needs of the individual. If you’re using the Twitter client HootSuite, for example, you can easily move followers into groups, to more easily manage the flow of knowledge and the create silos for distinct types of knowledge.
For my part, I saw this problem from the get go — the more people you follow, the more difficult it is to separate the links to interesting news stories from the inane messages concerning stubbed toes, broken promises and hateful bosses we all invariably Tweet about!
Finding the signal in the social network noise
Ultimately, those that rely on this way of surrounding themselves with relevant (maybe even mission critical) knowledge will find themselves continually going back to their various social networks and repeating the process of un-friending / un-following those people they think are diluting the quality of the shared knowledge they rely on so much…