Thursday, September 29, 2005


The Social Web, Search, and User-Generated Organization of Content

One of the most interesting and recurrent themes of last night's panel discussion on Search was what Bradley Horowitz of Yahoo! described as The Social Web. The theme of this MIT Enterprise Forum symposium (which I moderated) was Search is King: Guiding Consumers to Content, and Bradley described key frontiers of Web growth as

  1. The Public Web published pages on servers
  2. The Private Web the personal desktop, which is now being integrated with search
  3. The Social Web which applies the wisdom of Web users, both at large and in your social network.

This theme was woven through all of the presentations, showing that a common thread of many of the most interesting developments of search and how it relates to the broader evolution of digital content is that of user-generated organization of content. User generated content is becoming a major force, but what what promises to make it really useful without burying us in drivel and irrelevancies is user-generated organization of content.

We spoke last night of user-generated content and the Long Tail, of tags and folksonomies, of social networks, of reputation and authority, and of guides and recommenders. All of these relate to the real intelligence of the Web being not machine intelligence, but the ability of machines to help people share their human intelligence in far more powerful and efficient ways.

I have been a believer in the power of "man-machine symbiosis" since reading Licklider's classic article (and the hypertext visions of Ted Nelson and Doug Engelbart) decades ago. The Social Web, and this idea of user-generated organization of content, exploit the power in using machine intelligence to do what it does best, and applying that to augment the real intelligence that humans do best. This has been a long time in coming, but this aspect of "Web 2.0" promises to be a major step in that direction.


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