What I want from Search: Content that's meaningful to me

GoogleAn assertion by Ravit Lichtenburg in a post on ReadWriteWeb caught my eye. “The issue Google solved so magically — content find-ability — will become all but moot in the coming years. Instead, content relevance and quality will become the key focus.”

Web Search has transformed my life. Thanks to Google, I can find content about virtually anything. I search for topics, addresses, words, people, companies. Online search is my first reference for everything.

Still, Search continues to be a blunt instrument. All too often I find myself clicking through search results to find content that is meaningful to me. What’s relevant to the vast majority of people may not be what I’m looking for.

TwitterAnd that’s where social media comes in. Through social media – blogs, Twitter, Facebook – I find and follow people whose interests intersect with mine and whose perspective I find interesting.

I’m a communicator who cares about community, communication, business, PR and marketing. And I’m Canadian. So, over time I’ve assembled lists of RSS feeds, Twitter IDs and Facebook friends that speak to these interests and place. And very often, I find myself clicking on links and reading content recommended to me by the people I follow.

Does this mean that I live in a bubble of me-too thinkers? Not at all. I don’t subscribe to people because they agree with me. I subscribe to people because they say something that provokes me to think further about a topic or opens a new perspective on it. This leads me to new things as well as new perspectives on familiar issues.

What am I looking for? Search results that are relevant to me and reflect a higher quality of thought.

What I want is a tool that bringsĀ  all three together for me. And that will do the same for you. And for everyone. To do this, it will need to recognize each of us as an individual and take into account not just what we search for but also what we’ve linked to, what we’ve commented on and what we’ve said.

Is someone out there working on this now? When, I wonder, will I see a tool that will do this?

  • From where I stand, the focus of Google has always been content relevance and quality. In the absence of Social Media, this meant evaluating web pages for content relevance and then evaluating the importance of these pages by assessing links. Social media has broadened the approach. By enriching the linking environment with context and personal networks, search results will only become better over time.

    And yes, I would be amazed if Google employees weren’t already working on the tool that you envision. Given that Google’s value is entirely dependent on providing searchers with relevant, high quality content, not doing so would be foolish.

    Chris

  • Yes, Google is indeed working on it…

    http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/10/introducing-google-social-search-i.html

    Google already does this to some extent if you install the Google Toolbar and allow your usage data to be shared with Google. They (Google) claim that they’re analyzing your general web behaviour to personalize results, though I doubt this includes your social media behaviours specifically at this point (outside of Google properties anyway).

    Social search has been a hot topic for years, but it never seems to catch on (a number of social search startups have come and gone). My belief is that this is because, as you pointed out, just because you know someone doesn’t mean that you consider the same things to be relevant. I believe that it’s also because “sifting through long lists of results” just doesn’t happen that often. 95% of the time, people find what they’re looking for among the top 5 results…

    • Thanks for the comments Chris and Nick.

      I’m enthusiastic about Google’s moves. But they haven’t yet met the test of usability. They still feel like disjointed experiments.

      But I do think that they’re on the right track. I hope they and others will keep innovating until they develop something intuitive and natural.

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