A dialog of thoughts and ideas about software, usability, and products, with random science and wacky ideas thrown in for good measure.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
First, it's hard to imagine this being the future when searching on sites social network sites is so abysmal. On Twitter, searches only go back 7 days. And while Facebook lets you search for friends, it has no decent way of searching the content of wall posts. I had to dig around pretty hard when I wanted to re-find an awesome song that a friend posted months ago.
Technical feasibility aside, there are conceptual issues with relying only on friends for recommendations. Social networks don't have the "long tail" that other sites on the Web support. For example, I have about 300 friends on Facebook, and these people tend to come from similar backgrounds as me: for the most part, we attended high school or college together, or we've worked together. Or we're related. I might value my friend's opinions on good books for summer reading, but if I'm trying to stretch my horizons, my friends are a terrible source of input, since we're so homogeneous.
Relying on Facebook or Twitter for recommendations will only benefit the socially rich, those who have thousands of diverse connections. For the rest of us, we'll have to rely on the diversity of people who aren't connected to us, but who can still influence our decisions: the people on Amazon, TripAdvisor, and other sites who tell us how good a certain book is, and what's wrong with that hotel.
The other thing that makes social network sites unsuited for recommendations is the fleeting nature of posts. On Amazon or TripAdvisor, other people's recommendations are associated with the desired object itself. But in social networks, your friends' recommendations are associated with your question. If you post a question when no one is looking, no one will answer it. If you post a question a few days after a friend posts a similar question, you won't benefit from those recommendations unless you're somehow aware of them.
I'd like to see improved search capabilities in Facebook and Twitter (why can't I search my friends based on location?), but it'll take a lot of work to rend recommendations from these sites.