Don’t Forget Explicitly Collaborative Information Seeking

A panel on Social Search is happening at SXSW right now.  Reading Danny Sullivan’s liveblogging, I came across the panel’s definition of the three distinct types of social searching.  And I think they left one out:

The version that was left out was the type of search in which you don’t just ask a friend for an answer (e.g. Twitter and Aardvark), but the type of search in which you actively engage with a specific person to work on on a jointly-shared information need.  For example, imagine a couple looking to rent an apartment.  It’s not like one person in the couple can ask the other one “where should we live?”  The point is that both people do not know.  And so you can imagine an information retrieval system that has, built in, the capability to be multi-searcher aware.  Both people can work on the same task at the same time.

This is not what Aardvark does.  This is not what Twitter does. This is also not friend-filtered; this is also not collective.  It is a fourth type, a distinction that seems to have been missed by the panel — search in which a small team of people actively work together, and the search system actively mediates between them, helping the group as a whole find information that no individual already knows, and that no individual would have easily found, had that person been working alone.   For more information on this oft-ignored area, please see our earlier series of posts.

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