Social Search Engines Use Human Intelligence to Search the Web

AZ Central has a great article on the growing popularity of “social search” engines that are created and edited by human users instead of computer algorithms and spiders. Many people believe that these social search engines return more relevant search results because they are edited by human users instead of ranking algorithms.

From the article —

Traditional search results are largely based on objective criteria such as counting the number of links other sites have placed to a given Web page. Social search gives people subjective answers – the best sushi restaurant in Chicago or the best Web site for information about French Impressionism – not necessarily the site visited the most.

“You’re essentially breaking up a problem and sending it out to a huge number of people for a query, getting answers back,” said Steven Jones, a communications professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “It kind of ends up being greater than the sum of its parts. Other people are going to make associations and connections to information you probably would not have made.”

At Prefound, launched earlier this year, users contribute to the knowledge pool by submitting clusters of sites they believe would appeal to like-minded people.

A visitor looking for information on, say, New Jersey beaches can get the user-recommended sites, grouped by users. One user’s cluster gives restaurants, Internet cafes and other information on the coastal town of Ventnor City, N.J.

Results are better the more people contribute sites.

Jones said it’s too early to know whether social search will dramatically change the way people look for information on the Internet, but it’s already changing the way traditional search companies do business.

Yahoo, a distant second to Google, has entered the game largely by buying some of these start-ups, namely, a system for discovering new sites based on shared bookmarks, and Flickr, a photo-sharing sites where users tag items with keywords to help friends and strangers alike discover photographs on any topic.

Google has started to incorporate community answers on travel and health questions into its main search engine. It has also established a program allowing users to contribute their own content, tagged with specific attributes, to turn up in search results.

You can read the entire article @ ‘Social search’ engines put human touch on info.