Social networks are all about finding stuff

A question from Dave Snowden on Twitter about what I thought the best semantic search tool was and my rather facetious response “the meatware” reminded me of something I am more and more convinced of. Social networks are about finding stuff. Finding documents, finding people, even finding human contact.

I have often said that the best search engine is other people’s collective memory. When people ask on a forum where to find a previous answer tell them to ask the question again. Users will almost certainly remember the question being asked and will point to the previous answer. If you are lucky, and ask the question well, you may even get pointers to various answers any or all of which could be useful. If you are really lucky you will kick off new exploration of the subject and unearth new and more current information.

Twitter is making this ubiquitous access to an outboard brain more obvious to more people and there has even been talk of it replacing Google for some. The point is you can only do this if you have a high quality network of people doing the filtering and collective noticing for you. Building up these networks, and building “credit” by helping others, will become key skills and the people who invest the effort will find the better stuff faster.

10 thoughts on “Social networks are all about finding stuff

  1. Good point and I agree for social or exploratry questions. However I wonder where the line should be drawn when your asking the question while being in an agency realtionship (i.e. employee ) and the answer could add risk or failure or oppertunity to not only the person asking the question but an entire third party.

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  2. Euan … in that last sentence you have beautifully captured what I have been trying to say to my clients over the past 6 months. From within agencies and departments they rarely get to play with applications like Twitter and when they see what I do they say "But how do I know who to follow?".They then struggle with the fact there is no ‘best practice’ or silver bullet … you just have to ‘start somewhere’, let-go of predetermined outcomes and as Dave Snowden would say … probe-sense-respond.I really enjoy your posts and the conversations on Twitter between you and Dave.CheersGeoff

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  3. I agree, in principle. However, I am having a facinating time watching the fitful, halting and occasionally brilliant spread of Yammer in our organisation (one you know well). It’s roll out is wholly organic, with no encouragement, support or external structure at all, and it’s not a universal success. It does have it’s moments, and it’s possible that in areas where uptake is dense enough for a significant proportion of a community to be fully engaged, it is having an impact. However, the Venn diagram of Yammer users and any one other specific interest group or community doesn’t mesh enough. Yet. Maybe.

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