Yesterday Google announced that their bookmarks can now be shared. So far, so social media. What’s interesting about it is the motivating scenario:
Sharing lists can help you collaborate with your friends on common interests or activities. Let’s say you’re planning a group trip to Paris. With a list, everyone can contribute useful links and resources, such as packing lists, hotel links, flight information and attractions.
The key characteristic that distinguishes this scenario from typical “ask (or mine) your social network” types of search is that here you and your friends have a shared information need, and you are all contributing your efforts and expertise toward that goal. The system doesn’t have to figure out that you all are planning a trip to Paris together — that would be a hard inference to make. Rather, you tell it, explicitly, what you’re doing, and it helps you work on that information need together.
It’s good to see some of our ideas becoming reality in massively public ways, in ways that a small research team cannot possibly accomplish. I hope that Google continues to push on this area and learns from the growing body of collaborative exploratory search literature, which will be expanded soon by the publication of our Special Issue of IP&M on collaborative search. In particular, I am looking forward to more experiments in algorithmic mediation to support collaboration.
These are interesting times in terms of HCIR: following a decade or more of minimalistic precision-oriented search from major web search engines, we are now seeing an increasing proliferation of ways to understand and support a variety of other kinds of information seeking behavior. Bing’s history, various query expansion suggestions by Yahoo, Google, and Bing, and the range of new experimental search interfaces from Google are all good signs. Not all of them are right, not all of them will succeed, but they are all indicative of a sea change in the way search engines approach satisfying information needs.
Here’s to more experimentation!