The Real-Time People Web

At Jiva we are working on a whole series of real-time people web solutions. Not very user friendly terminology is it? An article at Aardvark goes along way to explain.

The key take-away is that what really matters is the increased accessibility of people online, not just the information online. We totally agree with this, and are working hard on delivering collaboration websites, and ways for people on a one to one basis – to communicate instantly.

I will take the liberty of quoting verbatim some of the key points from this article, as they explain it better than me:

Why is this important?

To understand this, consider the difference between Web Search and Social Search.

With Web Search, it’s possible to find countless long-hidden facts and figures which [a small minority of] internet users have at some point published on the web:  just type in a few keywords, and a Web Search engine will return the top results from among the billions of pages that constitute the web.  That’s great for queries about objective information that isn’t particularly timely, and which doesn’t need to be personally or contextually relevant.

With Social Search, it’s possible to find a person who has the information you are looking for: just type in your question in natural language, and a Social Search engine will connect you to someone with the right knowledge and experience to answer your question.  You get an answer in a few minutes, and can have a quick back-and-forth conversation with the answerer if there’s something you’d like to follow up on.  That’s just what is needed for queries that have a subjective element, or when you want information first-hand from someone you can trust.

The key point here is that often what you’re after isn’t static content — rather, it’s an interaction with someone who can help.  With the Social Search paradigm, online content is used as just an index of what its author knows about; the engine uses this index to find the person you should connect with for your question.  This becomes pretty compelling if we remember that the amount of information in peoples’ heads positively dwarfs the amount of authored information online:  just think what a small fraction of everything you know you have published on the web.  Yet everyone (not just those who blog a lot) have knowledge and experience that is valuable to share.  By using the web as an index of people, Social Search lets you tap into absolutely anything that anyone knows… in the theoretical limit.

How does this relate to the Real-Time Web?

There are three touch points for Social Search in the new real-time information landscape:

  1. The index of people is always up-to-date

    What makes Social Search possible is the vast amount of profile and social graph data that people have online (since this is what the engine uses to figure out who would be a good match to answer a question).  With the real-time web, this information can stay up-to-date automatically, so that you can connect with other people to talk about your current experiences.
  1. More people are online more often

    In the real-time web era, people are increasingly available online:  they are onIM, they are on Facebook, they are Twittering, they are using their iPhones.  This means that a Social Search service like Aardvark can easily see who might be available to answer a question in the moment and reach out to them… on any of these platforms.

    If you want to tap into your extended social network — tens of thousands of friends-of-friends, school and work connections, and such — we’ve found that it’s useful to have a service play the role of social intermediary here.

  2. Filtered channels are high-value

    The flood of online and real-time data has quickly become overwhelming to most people.  If you broadcast a question out to your entire network, that’s a lot of spam you’re creating as you add to the din; and over time, as we waste peoples’ attention, they are less attentive to these noisy broadcast channels.

    The alternative is to submit your question to a Social Search engine:  it will choose the few people who are most likely to answer, and contact them directly; in essence, it provides a kind of filter for your network.  It’s clear in the feedback we’ve gotten from Aardvark users that people are grateful to have this more personalized filtered channel — and as a consequence, they are much more responsive and thoughtful when they do choose to answer a question.

Put all of this together, and the result is a completely different kind of experience than anything available before.  Real-time information hookups!  With people you trust! Satisfying for the asker, gratifying for the answerer!

And this isn’t some futuristic dream — it’s happening right now.  In the time it took you to read this piece, a huge variety of questions were answered on Aardvark, based on connections made from profile data.  People really like helping other people!

In sum, the Real-Time People Web is the way that the Real-Time Web becomes personal:  Because often you don’t just want to hear what people are saying — you want to hear what someone is saying to you.

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