tribescape is a newish entry into the social search arena that allows searchers to share search results with their peers through Twitter. Rather than e-mailing URLs, you simply click on button next to each search result, pick the followers to whom you want to tweet this result, and you’re done. Convenient, yes. Collaborative? Maybe.
I can certainly see using tribescape to support a rudimentary form of UI-level mediation, but it suffers from several shortcomings. You get to see the URL that’s being shared, but not the query that retrieved it or the other documents that accompanied it. SearchTogether, on the other hand, does a much better job of preserving the context of the query while also sharing the results with a group of searchers.
Another limitation is that Twitter messages, unless saved in some manner, tend to disappear after some time. This makes tools such as tribescape useful for sharing results in the moment, but may break down on on-going collaboration. The system might benefit from a TwapperKeeper-style archival mechanism that would help searchers preserve their results. Finally, the system would benefit from showing more than eight hits per query, since despite calls for the demise of recall as a measure of interactive search performance, exploratory search benefits from being able to explore the result set more deeply.
tribscape is one of a class of tools that have emerged recently that try to leverage social networks in support of information seeking. It would interesting to evaluate these tools empirically (can you say, Masters Thesis?) to assess the relative contribution of the social aspect to information seeking, and to compare the effects of different levels of of mediation (result exchange only, search context, and algorithmic mediation) on the outcomes. Come to think of it, perhaps this more ambitious goal may be PhD-worthy. The trick will be to see how many of these search engines survive long enough to be studied.