finding information using search engines and obtaining info via social network browsing

Hello! This is an old article and you may like to read the updates:

Thanks to Tom’s history of information market, on the future of new media, I’m thinking to differences and similarities between finding information using search engines and obtaining new info (learning) via social network browsing.

information market

In the vertical axis we see the distribution of daily business time spent in many contexts of information. As you can see in our modern times the information has been delocalized and is abstracted from solid media. As we’ll see, information’s nature has changed a little as well.

The common broadcasted information is today completed by the info coming out of social media.

Search engines: instant access to reliable informations

Following the logical path since our first keyword in a search engine query, we see in order:

  1. the search engine gives contextual results based on a keyword and keyword phrases
  2. the users finds new websites and information sources (blogs)
  3. the user can deepen his search reading other peoples’ comments
  4. the user finds new websites and interesting people

social engine

Social network: from interest in our friends to new discoveries

Inside social networks the information’s path is random and based on our social connectedness and coolness:

  1. we browse through our friends’ raw data in a timely way
  2. we follow our interests reading people’s comments
  3. we rely on our social network to find contents
  4. we follow discussion to find new people and new contents

Parallel universes

Social media and search engines are two different ways to get informations, and they have some points in common and some unique points that come from the comparison:

Search engines:

  • instant access (on demand) to reliable and raw information
  • unlimited data
  • marketing based on keywords and concepts (SEO and SEM) plus demographic targeting on some search engines.
  • since we search using our words, we mostly find only what we can imagine
  • personal informations + official (corporate) informations

Social networks:

  • chaotic access to informations linked to our contacts group
  • limited data
  • marketing based on targeted audience (sex, location, interests, behavior …)
  • search must pass through the human need to communicate (almost no corporate messages survive to social networks)
  • our on-demand ability to get cool answers to our needs is based on our social coolness.

I also noticed that while my time is well spent on learning how to use a search engine to get better results, in a social environment many more variables take action before I can actually get some interesting informations (more time is needed to train in social skills). Since on today’s social networks time is the only way to filter our friends’ data streams, some kind of social pruning is required to keep an acceptable noise/information ratio (this is basically the concept of Personal Learning Network (or PLN) expressed by Karl Fisch).

At the moment FriendFeed is the only website that offers social network tools plus a content search (that also features a neat automated RSS feed for your queries). (update: now there is also google Buzz and google’s social search)

Some collateral effects of network Group-thinking have already been described by Irving L. Janis.

Thanks to Adam for ideas and support.

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