I’ve been enjoying testing out both Delver and FriendFeed for an article I’m writing about the effective use of social search for substantive research for the October issue of The Information Advisor. These sites, along with perhaps the new “Twitter Search” represent perhaps the most practical and workable approaches to making social search–that is, doing research by relying on the publishing, communications, and content sharing of members of your social network–to date.
The article goes into details on each, as is my overall evaluation (briefly: FriendFeed is currently way ahead of Delver, though Delver still has real potential), but I had an incident while I was researching this piece that is noteworthy. I had a research challenge (find a review of a certain Broadway musical review written by Clive Barnes in the late 50s or early/mid 60s for a major New York City newspaper) that had me stumped.
A perfect opportunity to call on my own social network, right? Well the one I turned to, and where in 5 minutes I got several right-on answers, was just an old fashioned ListServ–BUSLIB–a group of experienced business librarians who I’ve been relying on for, oh I don’t know, maybe 15 years or so!
So it was a good reminder that this kind of social search has been around for a long time indeed–and one reason it works so well, IMHO, is that it relies less on algorithms, sentiment detection, rankings, sortings and the like, but just puts dedicated, smart people together. Some like to say that the new social search is human driven and not algorithmic like Google, but it is still primarily a digitally driven process, (crawl the Web to try to determine who is in whose social network, figure out a way which content sharing gets ranked higher etc.), while a good ListServ is still primarily a human-driven process, just facilitated by the Net.
Oh-and one other lesson I learned on the topic of old is still sometimes as good or better than new. One of the business librarians gave me a great suggestion on a source I overlooked to try to find that review: how about the Readers Guide to Periodicals? Of course!
It reminded me of the time I worked at McGraw-Hill in the mid 80s and needed to compose a letter but all the “Wangs” (word processors) were down. I was roaming around wondering what to do until somebody pointed out to a nearby desk and suggested I use the object sitting on it–a typewriter. (Of course, that’s not an option anymore in today’s offices)