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Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Search, tags and follow

Organising or structuring information is a key value enabler in this age of abundance. Be it conversations, tweets, data etc, organization provides the key to efficient attention allocation. Currently, I have seen 3 scalable forms of organisations.

The most commonly used form of organisation, search instantly organises information around your stated interest. However, as information increases, the cost of search is going up. Not only that, search itself is limiting in discovery and doesn't fit into our way of uncovering stuff.

Tags is different from search as it is more discovery based. Interfaces like tag clouds encourages explorations. Now, with the use of tags on Twitter becoming more and more common, we might see innovations in tags related forms of organisation. We are not done with tagging yet.

Social filters are the latest in information organisation. The breakthrough for me was the invention of 'follow' by Twitter. Before this, we can already bookmark or subscribe to people so that they can act as filters for information. This process however is cumbersome. 'Follow' provides an elegant way for people to easily select their social filters and create their personalised streams of information. What's more, the information tends to be diverse due to the human aspect of such organisation.

What is interesting is when these models are mixed and match. One example is searching through the #tags in Twitter search. That is a combination of tags and search. What other models are possible?

1) Tagging the people you follow and then searching through the people you tag to find relevant answers on particular topics

2) Follow tags from the people you are following to explore the areas they have interest in

3) Follow searches by the people you are following and bundle them with tags

4) Follow people who are searching the same terms or using the same tags

What other combinations do you see? More importantly, what other ways are there to help us organise information?