Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Social Web, Search, and User-Generated Organization of Content

One of the most interesting and recurrent themes of last night's panel discussion on Search was what Bradley Horowitz of Yahoo! described as The Social Web. The theme of this MIT Enterprise Forum symposium (which I moderated) was Search is King: Guiding Consumers to Content, and Bradley described key frontiers of Web growth as

  1. The Public Web – published pages on servers
  2. The Private Web – the personal desktop, which is now being integrated with search
  3. The Social Web – which applies the wisdom of Web users, both at large and in your social network.

This theme was woven through all of the presentations, showing that a common thread of many of the most interesting developments of search – and how it relates to the broader evolution of digital content – is that of user-generated organization of content. User generated content is becoming a major force, but what what promises to make it really useful – without burying us in drivel and irrelevancies – is user-generated organization of content.

We spoke last night of user-generated content and the Long Tail, of tags and folksonomies, of social networks, of reputation and authority, and of guides and recommenders. All of these relate to the real intelligence of the Web being not machine intelligence, but the ability of machines to help people share their human intelligence in far more powerful and efficient ways.

  • Bradley spoke of Flickr and MyWeb 2.0 , and the culture of participation, with a pyramid of creators (e.g.: 1 in 100), synthesizers (10 in 100), and consumers (100). He also spoke of Yahoo!'s FUSE objective: "Enable people to Find, Use, Share, and Expand all human knowledge."
  • Marissa Mayer of Google's comments reflected the inherent social web component of Google's PageRank system, which favors pages that are linked to by many other Web authors. She also noted the power of user-generated video in a world where millions of people have high quality video cameras and Final Cut skills.
  • Karen Howe of AOL/Singingfish described the efforts to make all that video searchable, and how the descriptors users include with their postings aid in that.
  • Salim Ismail of PubSub spoke of new ways to make user-generated content more accessible, including Semantic Web-based methods of "structured blogging" that can allow special content such as user reviews to be effectively searched and aggregated.

I have been a believer in the power of "man-machine symbiosis" since reading Licklider's classic article (and the hypertext visions of Ted Nelson and Doug Engelbart) decades ago. The Social Web, and this idea of user-generated organization of content, exploit the power in using machine intelligence to do what it does best, and applying that to augment the real intelligence that humans do best. This has been a long time in coming, but this aspect of "Web 2.0" promises to be a major step in that direction.


Monday, September 19, 2005

Search is King: Guiding Consumers to Content -- NYC 9/28

A symposium by the MIT Enterprise Forum of NYC on September 28 will explore where search is going, and how it will transform the content marketplace. The panel includes four key executives from major and emerging search engines. (I have the honor of moderating.)

The next wave of consumer search technology is dramatically altering the consumer content markets and has significant implications for media companies, publishers, advertisers and consumers. Search engines’ role as the omniscient gatekeepers to digital information is changing the rules of the content game.

This expanded role is supported by the spread of search services beyond mere text searches, to video, audio, personal/desktop, and local/map search. Come and see visual demonstrations of the next wave in consumer search, and how it is vastly expanding the influence of the Internet.

Some of the issues this session will seek to shed light on include:
- What are the latest search services and technologies?
- How is consumer behavior changing?
- How are businesses benefiting from the new search technologies?
- What is happening as an increasing amount of content is digital and search engines are increasingly the omnipresent gatekeepers to all digital content?

Paid keyword ads generate big money, but there is far more to search than that!

Details of the symposium are at