Blog Archive: 2010

Help isn’t all we need

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Jeremy scooped me in his recent post where he commented on a recent SXSW panel on social search that included Marc Vermut, Brynn Evans, Max Ventilla, Ash Rust, and Scott Prindle. Jeremy pointed out that in addition to asking for help and embarking on a solitary search, was the possibility (discussed many times on this blog) of embarking on (an exploratory) search together. Searching together, collaboratively, is often appropriate when faced with exploratory (rather than known-item, factiod, or trending topic) information needs. Collaboration works best when information needs are shared, and when the results need to be created rather than merely re-discovered.

In an exchange on Twitter, Brynn pointed out that instances of true collaborative search comprised less than 10% of the instances she and colleagues had recorded in their study of Mechanical Turk respondents. But that argument misses the point.

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Social bookmarking for academia

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I’ve been going on and on in blog posts and in comments about the business of reviewing papers as a socially useful activity (given the right incentives) and how the reviews themselves should be rated to identify effective reviewers. The idea behind is not new—Amazon implemented something like this a long time ago—but it is useful to understand it better. This article by Jared Spool offers a good account of the history, the mechanics, and the effect.

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Libraries are for sharing

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The ACM Digital Library is a great resource for our community, and ACM continues to improve the services it offers through the Portal, recently adding an Endeca-built guided browsing interface. The digital library offering is lacking, however, in important ways. Its interface is stuck in the 20th century in that it provides access to materials, but does not support information sharing and collaboration among the people using it. I don’t mean (for once!) collaboration in the sense of collaborative search; I mean that it is not possible to comment on articles or to rate them. The only feedback one can provide is to chose to download a paper, or to cite it in one of your own publications. Both offer some evidence of an article’s impact, but the measures are not nuanced, anonymous, and lack of download or citation frequency may not reflect the merits of the work.

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Which future of search?

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Alex Iskold recently wrote on the ReadWriteWeb about potential improvements in search that could be derived from incorporating evidence from one social network to affect the ranking of documents. The idea is that people you know, people with similar interests, friends-of-friends, authorities, and “the crowd” could all contribute to change the ranking on documents that a search engine delivers to you because the opinions or interests of all these people can provide some information to help disambiguate queries.

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With friends like these… who needs search engines?

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Brynn Evans has been doing some interesting research on looking at how social networks support collaboration over information seeking. She uses two dimensions—search goals and search locations—and looks at how social interactions affect search activities, and discusses the implications that this work has for the design of tools to support information seeking. Slides are available through SlideShare, and a video of the talk is also online.

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