With the news this week that Foursquare had over three million intra-day check-ins, and the growing personalization of almost everything we seem to do online (in fact we seem almost permanently logged on whether we realize it or not), it does beg the question to ask if personalized search is better. Facebook “likes”, which are celebrating their one-year birthday and still seeing about 10,000 new “like” buttons being embedded each day, seem almost everywhere. Even Google are recognizing the potential and are rolling out the new “+1” which they will be looking to influence their search algorithms.
Over time, we will begin to see evidence of the influence that our networks and our own bookmarking have on our search and our overall online environment which is coloured by advertising. Will this proliferation of this change mean that we need to choose friends with similar good taste as our own? Will this lead to the curating our own social and professional graphs with the aim of bettering our search? Could we become trapped with the search output of our friends? When it comes to searching for something serious, research is by (a) definition a systematic investigation to discover facts, theories, applications which we did not readily know. A bungee cord restriction to the nebulous world of our existing connections could be extremely frustrating in this case. There is the balance that search must find between frequent, local and playful conveniences versus the opportunity of finding meaningful serendipity. I accept the counter-charge that the opposite of this is an acceptance of search output to be the result of black-box algorithms coded in Mountain View. But why has this discussion been framed so as never to suggest the two approaches can co-exist. Different workhorses for different racecourses.