Content Marketing

Jim Lanzone: Searchers Aren’t Passionate Enough for Personal or Social Search

Greg Linden posted on a conversation between Jim Lanzone, Steve Berkowitz and John Battelle at the web 2.0 conference.

In his wrap up of the interview Linden said that the most interesting part for him was when Lanzone and Berkowitz answered questions about personalized search:

“Steve entirely focused on privacy issues. He argued for giving users detailed and complete control of their data. Steve claimed this was being customer-focused, but I felt he was focusing on entirely the wrong customer.”

“Jim also had an unusual focus, saying that “users don’t customize”, “users are lazy”, and “the majority of people won’t do it.””

(does this smack slightly of Larry Ellison griping about his users all the while salesforce is eating his lunch? this video is of SalesForce president on that Ellison anecdote. it’s halfway through.)

I chose to write this today because I’ve had similar conversations in the past with Jim Lanzone regarding social search.

In fact, just before I went to moderate a panel conversation with Steve Mansfield of social search engine PreFound I wrote a long argument to Lanzone in favor of social search.

I wanted him to shred my position so I could be a strong counter point at the panel conversation.

Here’s a rough argument for social search (not personalized search, though they should be intimately connected) becoming mainstream. When I wrote this to him seven months ago I told him I would not share that I was corresponding with him mostly because I wanted to protect his negative views on users. He’s obviously not trying to hide how he feels about users now, so here’s my position:

first: do you agree that the majority of people (the mainstream), no matter how lazy, have something in their lives they’re passionate about?

do you agree that people create networks surrounding their passions so that they can relate (generate and share and consume content) around these passions?

do you agree that this particular passion drives that person to certain activities online?

do you agree that these activities will include measurable elements that could determine the value of certain web pages, videos, news stories to a given passionate segment?

Through these “relatings,” links, emails, blog comments, friend requests, friend comments, specifications of friendship levels (all of which users HAPPILY PERFORM on MySpace, they’re doing HARD WORK that NO ONE has tapped yet) I believe that social/personalized search engines will be able to increase search relevance to specific networks of users.

Further, social networks are self-policing, making it difficult to target SEO tactics at them, making this data critical in my mind to determining keyphrase relevance.

second: Mainstream Search
You hold that mainstream searchers are lazy and are not going to do the work it would take to personalize their results.

I hold that they already do this work willingly, and that it’s up to relevance scientists to help users take advantage of this work.

It’s up to… !!!!!SEARCH ENGINES!!!!! to help users create the networks and the content that will both reward them with connections with those who share their passions and, ultimately, offer up results that are personally relevant.

Search Engines must create useful systems by which users generate personal relevance algorithms by doing activities they’re passionately connected to and already do in other places on the web.

I would agree that only a small portion of overall users are going to participate in social networks. But I find it HIGHLY LIKELY that Yahoo’s going to learn a great deal about network relevance from MyWeb and that it will find ways to apply this learning to Yahoo’s main search engine.

If I know, as a user, that Yahoo employs relevant social network data in its SERPs I’m now seeing an algorithm that’s intimately connected with those who are participating in its content. I’m seeing search NOT as something determined inside a white box, but as something that evolves based on the participation of influencers important and relevant to what I’m searching on.

I believe that this would increase search share. (assuming of course that it actually succeeds in increasing relevance 🙂

Your drill-down feature is why I remain so fond of Ask. Imagine a drill down feature influenced by social networks relevant to the specific search term.

That’s exciting to me because in my fantasy I could search for “good movies” and know that stuff like “Grizzly Man” and “the Squid and the Whale” are going to show up… even if they’ve only been out for a couple days in theaters.

Gaping holes I recognize in this argument:
Lack of social network data.
Lack of social networks passionate about a broad enough range of subjects to make them relevant to mainstream search.

That was a long ass email and he never wrote back. He was ascending the Ask throne at the time. And, well, answering long emails can be tedious.

Anyways, I still think Ask is strong, but they’re going to get left even more in the dust by not embracing methods for putting more control into the hands of their most passionate users. TV ads won’t do SHIT for you without passionate users 😉

Here’s Google’s Craig Silverstein talking about Google Health, a verticalized Co-op iteration built in part by passionate experts.

Categorised as: Search Engines, social media

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