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Social Search, the New Trend in Search

February 12, 2010

Google just bought the social search service Aardvark. I first read about Aardvark back in Sept in Pogue’s Post but didn’t think much about it until it was reviewed recently in Scoholarly Kitchen and then I felt there seem to be an ideal opportunity for UniPHY.

Aardvark lets users ask questions that are distributed to the social graph for quick and high quality answers. You ask questions in natural language via an instant message buddy (yes, just add Aadvark as a buddy in your chat program, so simple) or email to . The questions are then farmed out to your contacts (and their contacts) based on what they say they have knowledge of. Syncing your accounts (via Facebook Connect) allows Aardvark to connect you with your friends and friends-of-friends when you ask and answer questions (read the research paper).

Aardvark is not the first attempt in search of this kind, there were others before, Yahoo Answers, but Aardvark’s strength is derived from its exploitation of the user’s extended social network.

What type of questions one could ask and can the results be trusted? The Aardvark team has the following answer:

We demonstrate that there is a large class of subjective questions — especially longer, contextualized requests for recommendations or advice — which are better served by social search than by web search. And our key finding is that whereas in the Library paradigm, users trust information depending upon the authority of its author, in the Village paradigm, trust comes from our sense of intimacy and connection with the person we are getting an answer from.

Fantastic. The academic brains we serve are full of questions and AIP’s UniPHY seem like the appropriate village to host this type of service. But there is a catch – Aardvark fully relies on the goodwill of the users. Can the UniPHY members be active participants in this impending revolution? I tend to believe that we would not know unless we try, any one disagrees?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Tim Ingoldsby permalink
    February 12, 2010 12:03 pm

    You asked if anyone disagreed. I don’t disagree, but I think we would need to consider carefully prior to doing something like this. Physicists who sign up for UniPHY are expressing a certain trust in AIP that we will “do the right thing” with the UGC created on the site and the very collection of researchers that it represents.

  2. Mark Cassar permalink
    February 12, 2010 5:07 pm

    Are you suggesting that we use the researcher “fingerprint” as a means of deciding whether or not that particular person has the expertise to answer a given question?

    Why not make use of the technology already there and produce a “fingerprint” of the ‘question’ and also let the user tag the ‘question’ and then look for experts within the whole of UniPHY. Longer questions would get better results.

    But, of course, only PACS indexable questions could get asked in this manner.

  3. Aravind Akella permalink
    February 16, 2010 12:01 pm

    Mark, yes. I will soon add another post detailing a model I have in mind and will include possible solutions to address Tim’s concerns.

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