WWW2007: Bradley Horowitz on “The Changing Face of Web Search”

Note: These are rough notes from the WWW2007 conference.

Yahoo’s mission is “to connect people to their passions, their communities, and the world’s knowledge.”  There are concentric circles of creation… theirs, ours, and mine.

We often call people “users.”  This is often pejorative.  Users use drugs or abuse people.  Need to eliminate the pejorative uses.

There is a pyramid of creators (starters), synthesizers (contribute once provoked), and consumers (lurkers).  The Web 2.0 phenomenon is to melt down the pyramid.   Anyone with a blank is now a blank.

There is always the dark side of UGC.  How do you differentiate the signal vs. noise?

Within Flickr, there was an algorithm they made to derive interestingness. It provokes interaction and response from users.  At acquisition, could only sort photos in Flickr by recently taken.  Now there is interestingness.  It’s determined by the organic behavior of viewing a photo, comments, tagging, and favoriting it.  Instead of asking users to rate photos, they looked at the organic behavior, which is less susceptible.

Flickr has turned users into taggers.  Tagging was started by graffitti artists who put up their art quickly.  Folksonomical tagging is good because its quick and dirty.  This is interesting because computer vision is hard.  Your users are your computer vision.  They can tell you whats in the photo.

There are machine tags.  You can tag a photo with the upcoming event or the geolocation.

You can visualize tags based on where they’re being taggged.  Yahoo has TagMap.  You can also restrict it to time.

Tag clusters are a way to give you more precision.

Users can be more then just contributors.  Users can be distributors.  Flickr encourages people to use flickr photos on non flickr pages.  The blogosphere does that a lot.

Users can also be developers.  There is an API.

There is a community of people who rose up that just take photos of single letters.  They have conversations about the shapes of type faces and characters.

You can turn users into neighbors.  Only a very few people actually leave comments.  MyBlogLog allows you to see who are the other people that are within your blog community.

For a while, we’ve been pushing HTML on the users.  Now we have RSS.  How can we bring the different types of data together?  CraigsList knows apartment openings.  Yahoo! Local knows where the parks are.  Yahoo! Pipes is an interactive application which allows you to bring the different systems together.

People + Algorithms > Alogrithms

  • Phase 1 – human editorial
  • Phase 2 – mass automation
  • Phase 3 – topological analysis
  • Phase 4 – social search

We’re moving towards social search.  We’re going to democratize the process of “voting.”

A great example of social search is Yahoo! Answers.  There is a person who has a question.  You have a large body of users who can tell you where to go or what the answer is.

Del.icio.us is the bookmark system in the cloud.  It is a personal memory.  You can create a network of people.  You can search to just see what the people within your network tagged.

Its all the process of moving towards 100% creators, 100% synthesizers, and 100% consumers.

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