The Yahoo! Search Blog, has just published a very interesting entry on a new form of searching, they are calling My Web 2.0. You can read more about it at Search with a little help from your friends.
The premise behind social search is that no matter how powerful the search engine, it can’t contextualise the search results for you personally….yet. So, how can the search engine know that the results it is presenting are going to be relevant to you and your own tastes and preferences?
Yahoo have devised their own solution to this problem. It seems that they want to start harnessing some of the participative energy we are already seeing in the Web 2.0 environment. How about ranking search results based on what your trusted community has saved, tagged and shared?
“Much like links and anchor text enabled major improvements in web search by becoming a new source of authority for search engines, people and trust networks are now an additional source of authority for social search engines. In the same way that blogs and RSS are empowering individuals to participate in publishing, individuals and communities can now participate in search, using tools like My Web2.0 that let them define what is valuable to them and their community”.
I like this concept. I was recently having a conversation with some colleagues about book reviews in Amazon. Although Amazon goes to great lengths to offer indications as to how valuable a review might be (ranking the review, ranking the reviewer etc). I still feel that with something like a review I want to “know” the reviewer in a way that means I trust their opinion.
It’s also quite interesting that Yahoo, use an example in their blog about Plasma TV screens. In a conversation, just a few days ago, I expressed an interest in buying a Plasma TV screen to my colleagues, who then bombarded me with a list of good sites for getting a good deal on Plasmas. In retrospect, it was a conscious decision on my part to qualify my investigation with trusted sources first, before I embarked on a web investigation.
Yahoo want to see My Web 2.0 evolve organically, enabling entire communities of interest to start using their platform to create their own search engines populated with content that has been tagged and shared within the community. I have two questions about this – what about if you have been merrily tagging your content in del.icio.us? Or Flickr? Are Yahoo and Del.icio.us going to create the APIs to enable tags to be imported? In a true spirit of Web 2.0 I would like to see Yahoo Search enable this interoperability.
My other question is about what impact this will have on libraries? The defence put up by libraries concerned about Google et al. has been that library search enables its community to find not just any source but a trusted source. In this context, that generally means a resource that has either been recommended by faculty or by the library, based on the vast amount of knowledge and understanding they have of the information landscape. So does “My Web 2.0”, infringe even further on the library space?
Two further observations to make at this stage:
1. Can “My Web2.0” make tagging the hidden web any easier? Academics currently have a method of tagging the resources they want their community (otherwise known as students in their class) to read, its called a reading list, and not surprisingly a lot of the material that gets tagged within a reading list, is physical content held by the library. Here Silkworm could really have a role to play, could a tagging tool like Del.ici.ous or “MyWeb2.0” use the Silkworm directory to locate resources that are physical but which have metadata that can describe the resource and point you to the location?
2. Is “MyWeb2.0” introducing layers of tagging based on us tagging the tagger? So for instance, you can see the following scenarios evolving:
a) Tags that are made by those people who I “know”, whom I have some form of direct relationship with. This is where I see “MyWeb2.0” being of immediate value. I have a community of interest based on my academic affiliation, or my research group.
b) Tags that are created by those taggers that I “know about”. Whose reputation I have come to respect or admire because I am part of that circle of participation. This is very much where both del.ici.ous and “MyWeb2.0” overlap.
c) Tags that are created by taggers who are an “unknown”, but I just come across them in a serendipitous fashion, and they may in time become “know about” taggers. This is again where del.ici.ious and indeed Technorati become useful.
To an extent all three scenarios, play well in an academic context. However, we have found from our experience with Talis List, that some academics are not keen to publish their reading lists to the wider community, they see it as their intellectual property. But, if we see reading lists as simply a set of tags, then the “MyWeb2.0” application could work very well.