Social Search should change everything, BUT…

We are on the cusp of another period of disruption, this time fueled by rapid mobile internet adoption.  It only makes sense to look to filter and rank the fire hose of information.  Being able to do so via the people, places, and things a searcher finds important has a tangible value on the personal, social, and network level, not to mention a monetary impact for advertisers.

Google recently announced social search, which takes your search results via Google and augments them through the lens of your social graph.

Google explains Social Search in this under-3-minute video:

Although Google is just making inroads in this area, Facebook has been doing it for some time – initially via their sentiment engine Lexicon and now through a federated search product.

The social graph, as defined in Web 2.0 circles is the sum of your online relationships and interconnections.   My main perceived shortcoming with social search is the same as with Google Wave – no one I know using it.

find-a-friendMy online persona is mediated such that there is both a ‘real me’ and a separate ‘online me’.  I’m easily the geekiest of my personal group of friends; I would expect that only my online ‘friends’ would use social search, leaving my meatspace connections out.

I contemplated writing a post about the need for ‘Smart Address Books’ that would pull information from various online entities, but I see that Steve Rubel at Micro Persuasion has already covered it:

First, because I have lived in Gmail the last five years, there’s loads of data in there that can make social networking even more powerful. Google will do a lot to mine these connections. This is just the beginning. But third parties will assist too. I love what Remail is doing by helping me easily find emails from contacts on my iPhone – even when I am offline.

Second, its agnostic. Google doesn’t care which social network you join. If a user links their profile to their social graph, Google will hep [sic] you harness it.

Finally, I like that you’re in complete control. If you don’t want people to be able to search your Flickr photos, make them private and do not connect them to your Google Profile.

However, here’s the big question – will consumers set up their Google profiles? And, if they do, will they link them to their social networks? If they are tech adept, yes, they will. But what about the rest of us? I am not so sure. This has to get as easy and as elegant to use as Facebook.

Similarly, it appears that Google’s Android platform has ‘an app for that’ – AddressBook by Asurion Mobile (via Read/Write Web):AddressBook Contact History1

Originally revealed at this spring’s DEMO 09 conference, the Asurion Mobile address book stood out as one of the more memorable mobile products. Still called simply “AddressBook,” this social media-infused contacts application is designed exclusively for Android handsets. From within the mobile application, you not only see the profile updates and details from your friends on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Amazon, you can also interact with some of the networks themselves, posting to walls, leaving comments, etc. However, if you would rather contact your friends through more traditional means, the app lets you phone them using its built-in dialer or you can text them via SMS.

Since being announced at DEMO, the company has been busy responding to its beta testers’ requests for user interface tweaks and more Facebook integration. Where before, the app only displayed Facebook profile photos and status updates, the new application functions more like a mini-Facebook client with access to News Feeds, profile details, photos, links, and more. These extra additions have proven beneficial for increasing the app’s usage too – the company found that their testers were spending an average of 20 minutes a day in the application.

[…]

The AddressBook application isn’t just one app – it’s a combination of the core application and additional, optional apps called “mix-ins.” Depending on your own personal preferences, you can download and install any of these mix-ins to integrate the social networking services of your choosing with the main AddressBook. After adding a mix-in, the app also helpfully auto-matches your phone’s contacts to your friends on the social networking site you selected. The option to manually match your friends is available as well.

This seems to be the least intrusive and most thorough way to build out your social graph, allowing others to opt-in rather than having them opt-out.

My initial findings with using Google’s Social Search have been poor, but I suspect it will improve over time, particularly as more users opt-in.   If you wanted to connect yourself via Google, do the following:

    • Go to Google Profiles and sign-in with your Google Account.
    • Be mindful of the various privacy settings and the effect on your visibility in search results.
    • Click edit profile.
    • Enter as much (or as little information) as you’d like.
    • Under Links, you’ll see URLs that Google believes are connected to you.  If so, click add.
    • You will also see two text boxes for title and URLs.  In this box, I would recommend including the profile pages for your various online user pages, such as Flickr, Digg, Pandora, YouTube, Delicious, and the like.  These – if public – will then become part of your social graph.
    • You can sort the various URLs up or down based on your own assessment of their relevance.
    • Save your profile when complete.
    • Visit Google Labs and enable “Social Search”.  Note that you can only participate in one labs project at a time.

Are you interested in social search?  Have you tried it?  What are your results?  Let me know in the comments section.