Tag Archives: Social Search

Twitter’s New Platform

Last year I posted about Twitter’s development from a sparse messaging service to a mixed media circus. John Herrman of BuzzFeed picks up on the company’s evolution (tweet attachments, video, product links) and notes the great shift Twitter has taken:

“The tweet, in other words, is Twitter’s new platform. The old platform was about getting people to use Twitter. The new one is about making money from them.”

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Google Search or a Pinterest One?

Ashley McCollum of BuzzFeed makes a clever observation. When a user searches for a word on Google and then types in that same query on Pinterest, the difference in results reveals the limitations of Google’s internal logic.

Searching “stripes” on Pinterest, for example, brings up striped clothing, fabric, and art design:

“Stripes” on Google spits this out:

McCollum goes on to list 9 more comparisons and the contrast is demonstrated in each instance. Where Pinterest recalls fashion, art, and conceptual abstraction, Google retrieves products, names and hyper-literalness. (When she types in “California” we get pins of beaches and forests and skimpy clothes; Google instead delivers maps and pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge.)

From Google’s perspective, this is a rather silly and unfair analysis. The search colossus stores and catalogs the entire Internet, whereas Pinterest caters to sartorialists, designers, and artists. That Google’s searches are too obvious or mechanical or archetypal, as compared to Pinterest, is not so much criticism as it is a difference in intended user experience.

Even so, I find McCollum’s argument compelling. She grasps towards the point that certain kinds of computer driven algorithms are severely limited. And that a more curatorial approach to search has obvious advantages.

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The Future of Search

“Answer, converse, anticipate,” are the verbs Nathaniel Mott uses to describe Google’s newest search venture. Writing at PandoDaily, Mott explains the thrust of Google’s opening keynote during the 1st day of its I/O conference. The annual summit, geared towards developers, featured the company’s newest innovations.

With “Knowledge Graph” the search giant “will begin to answer Google users’ questions before they ask them.”

Mott continues:

Voice-activated search coming to the Chrome browser is perhaps the most interesting of today’s search-related announcements. Google Now — or some version of it, anyway — has been rumored to be coming to desktop computers for months, and its addition to Chrome will aid Google’s attempts to become a ubiquitous aspect of users’ lives.

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Live In Infamy

My essay at The New Inquiry

Given the shadowy practices of data-harvesting and the ubiquity and permanence of social media information, what kinds of young people will choose to run for office?

By now we’ve been trained to record only those behaviors that reflect well on ourselves, lest our employers interpret our cocktail-crushing prowess the wrong way. But Facebook’s privacy settings are clumsy and easy to circumvent. Elsewhere, blog posts, life-tracking data, consumer preferences, and check-in beacons can just as easily be ripped from their context and misdirected to an unintended audience – and meanwhile, the social networks, publishing platforms and shopping hubs just keep multiplying. For those young people interested in running for office, this poses considerable danger.

In Julie Cohen’s Configuring the Networked Self, the legal scholar reveals how much of our thinking on privacy is stifled by the language of authenticity and illusory control. She begins by reminding us that many of the corporate and political actors who favor strong protection for trade secrets share an economic interest with those who lobby for weaker privacy protection. What connects these two is the desire to commodify information and to harness “infrastructures that render individual activity transparent to third party observers.” Companies want to sell us targeted ads, but they don’t want to reveal how they construct their targeting system. Couched in favorable market language, we’re offered an enhanced, personalized experience, discounts and entertainment, social freedom – in exchange for our participation in an all-enveloping apparatus for market research. Still, we aren’t exactly sure what we’re giving up.

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The Curse of “You May Also Like”

Algorithms help us find the songs we like, but that may prevent us from imagining new kinds of music, argues Evgeny Morozov on Slate.

 

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