Twitter’s Discovery Engine: The End of Civilization As We Know It.


Sure it’s too early to know how the advent of “Social Media” will revolutionize the internet landscape but it will *certainly* revolutionize the online experience dramatically.     It’s been slowly happening for some time – perhaps 2 years or so – but I think we’re now at something of a tipping point where we’ll see widespread mainstream adoption of social media  – I predict Twitter will be the big winner in this space though there is plenty of room for Facebook to maintain the huge presence it now has online.

One of the most provocative upcoming items is the Twitter Discovery Engine, which will be Twitter’s attempt to allow users to  mine the information from the massive Twitter community.    They may not get it right at first but eventually we’ll see that unlike Google search – which is great for static information – Twitter will be able to connect you to a “human expert” about as  fast as you can Tweet out a 140 character note or click on their  “Follow” button.

This is very important because despite many foolish reports suggesting that Google has “solved” the problem of internet search they have done nothing of the kind.   Google’s very good at finding a lot of material about issues that stay the same over the years such as historical events.  Yet Google’s regular search generally fails – and miserably – when you are trying to find real time information on current events.    Their blog search and news search are better for information that changes regularly or has changed recently, but with a robust Twitter search you’ll soon be able to interact with newsmakers and news events in real time, asking questions and offering your own input.

The internet has always been about people much more than it is about technology.   Google is a brilliant company but I’d suggest that Google will be seen in the future as being the *last* of the major internet players to rely primarily on their technological prowess rather than their social architectures.     The new game will be the integration of human experience and expertise with the blossoming online information landscape, and this game will dominate until we have very powerful and direct integration of human brains with online information sources – probably in about 10 years.  This brain/machine integration has already begun at a rudimentary level with Braingate and mainstream devices like the Emotiv headsets coming soon.

This social media revolution  is not just a profound new development in the history of human communication, it is a social evolution of biblical proportions, and the beginning of a redefinition of social interaction that will both enhance and undermine our tribal history of human socializing that goes back tens of thousands of years and tended to favor smaller groups, less democratic social heirarchies, and simpler forms of “friend or foe” interactions.   These social mechanisms served our evolutionary needs at the time, but are becoming outmoded as the global population and global interests  come together, and fast.

Welcome to the new age new media revolution.    It’s going to be neat but be sure to fasten your mental seatbelts because there will be  some Twitter turbulence ahead.

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About JoeDuck

Internet Travel Guy, Father of 2, small town Oregon life. BS Botany from UW Madison Wisconsin, MS Social Sciences from Southern Oregon. Top interests outside of my family's well being are: Internet Technology, Online Travel, Globalization, China, Table Tennis, Real Estate, The Singularity.
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14 Responses to Twitter’s Discovery Engine: The End of Civilization As We Know It.

  1. John says:

    The integration of social media is the next leap in computing (human) evolution. I have always said that content means nothing without context. That being said, up until now the concept of creating digital media has been absolute, meaning it is a stand-alone entity. We create a photo to be put on a discrete website, we create bit of copy to be put on a discrete website never to be seen by anyone but the intended user.

    Now we can create a photo or bit of copy that can be used and shared by millions with each use being referenced back to the creator. With that, context is king. It not what we have… but how do the things we have relate to other things. It is not enough to have a story, a map, a video, a photo, a graph, a pdf without their reference to other pertinent assets. That’s where the rub comes. What is pertinent to the message?

    Twitter is a great simple tool, but being simple it lacks serious functionality. Where Twitter shines is its ability to integrate itself into other media. That is the key to being viable in the future. How open is my network? How easy is to share my information with other? Why would anyone ever want to use me?

  2. darkscot says:

    all null and void (tho once valid) arguments once Google acquires Twitter. Of it does, it’s information gathering essence will have grown another level. The Twitter Discovery Engine sounds great, on a benign level. I bet it will be monetized almost as soon as it is deployed.

  3. JoeDuck says:

    John excellent points and interesting notion that context trumps content. I think I agree with that.

    Darkscot I’m skeptical of the aquisition rumors because I think Ev and Biz and their gang know that Twitter won’t be bought yet for the kinds of values they want without showing more signs of financial health. Google would probably give them 500 million but I think they know they have a shot here at billions if they can grow another 10x and start to monetize. They are rich already, so they’ll go for that option.

  4. FoolsGold says:

    I don’t know if Context Trumps Content but for along time we have known that a good interface could be far more important than actual content.
    Continuing my analogy to an ad for Starbucks Coffee: the geographically aware ad for a nearby coffeeshop can be worth more than a more impressive ad for a more distant coffeeshop. So too can a social-media involved ad: a group of friends meeting there perhaps or a recommendation from a known and trusted cyberfriend for a new blend being served or a new waitress or whatever.
    I really don’t understand all these people flocking to something called yoville but there has to be some sort of marketing value to the hordes of people in yoville.

  5. JoeDuck says:

    FoolsGold you are keeping up better than me – had not heard of Yoville until your mention but it’s got 5 million Facebook people participating.

    I predict Twitter will become the key “location aware” application that helps bring people together as you’ve described. This already happens at conferences and as more people use Twitter it’ll be something of an ice breaker all over the world. Facebook might capture this with more changes to their interface but I think the Twitter discovery search will eventually, for example, allow you to ask questions that identify people you share location (Starbucks) or interests with.

  6. FoolsGold says:

    I think its back to that question of granularity with respect to interests and activities. Similar to that notion I posted long ago about an electronic lapel pin which sends out ‘chess player’ on a train and at a cocktail party but sends out ‘expert level player’ at a chess tournament.

    Consider perhaps these “Beer ‘n Blogs” nights at local pubs: Bloggers meet to hoist a few pints and discuss blogging software, irrespective of the subject matter of the blogs. Their common ‘social’ items are that they are blog authors, they live fairly close to each other, they have age groups and activites in common, but mainly they all like microbrews and gourmet pizzas. The developing situation is that such “Beer ‘n Blogs” participants will become aware of each other electronically rather than through more personal introductions.

  7. JoeDuck says:

    Fools Gold Wrote in Dec:
    a lapel pin such as a stylized chessboard. On a train or in an airport lounge it indicates chess player and has value whereas at a chess convention everyone is a chess player.

    An electronic lapel pin would be more granular: indicating chess player when in a blog about football but indicating “Intermediate Level Player” when in a blog about chess.

    A Gambling lapel pin would various indicate: Gambler, Vegas, Craps, Slots and Blackjack, Favorite Casinos, etc.

    The comment, made above, about moody creatures is apt. Sometimes we might want to have certain social beacons turned on and sometimes we might want to have certain highly relevant and highly useful social marketing beacons turned off: that you like to read books about young women being murdered is fine at a convention of mystery lovers but its not so good at a singles event full of young women.

    Perhaps a LapelPinSuperManager program will be developed wherein one can set their various electronic beacons to the desired granularity for various situations. Or perhaps the Twitter would read “going to Specific Coffee Shop” for some, “going out for coffee” to others and merely “out” to others.

    FoolsGold I think your good idea is combining what the “Open Social” mechanisms are trying to do online with a piece of hardware. We’ve seen a lot of early variations on this theme of a portable identity but nothing as robust as what you are talking about. Location awareness will soon be fairly standard on fancy phones, which means a stream of text and photo and video activity will start to emerge from locations as well as people who are *in* those locations or *talking about* those locations.

    As a travel publishing guy that is very exciting to me because it may allow a travel websites to engage everybody in a much more powerful way. Instead of looking at a static hotel website hoping they are presenting themselves honestly you’ll be texting with somebody staying there, asking the manager for directions, and planning dinner nearby with your new social media friends in that city. Now THAT’s communication!

  8. Jay McGregor says:

    Thanks Joe, for your insightful and thoughtful writing. I have read more of your work than I have commented on, and I am always rewarded with a good stir in my thinking.

    I won’t pretend to have a whole lot of experience in this area, but I intuitively know that well before the consideration of content or context, comes the question of credibility. I suppose credibility could fall under the heading “context”, but the first thing I always ask is, “Who says, and how do they know?”.

    The one area where printed media seems to hold an advantage is that there is still, in some cases, an editorial process keeping things objective,credible and accountable. If I were able to verify the expertnicity (new word) of the contact that Twitter has linked me with, then I’ve got something valuable. If on the other hand, I am left with only intuition in deciding about the value of my new contact, then I question whether this new ability to connect will change how I obtain trusted information.

  9. FoolsGold says:

    GPS-awareness will soon be omnipresent. The “lapel pin” would be more software than hardware. A physical lapel pin serves a well-known function but “advertises” itself to only those in close proximity to the wearer. It can be a conversation starter at a cocktail party, airport waiting lounge, etc. The real problem is the software that would handle the granularity. Carry your cell phone and you can be broadcasting your location, it would be the software that notifies a nearby coffeeshop, liquor store and hotel to target you for ads/directions/etc. and would select from the hotel’s many ads the one which lists the hotels Wine Pairings Event. The person who visits one blog may want to share only portions of his identity in a separate blog.

    As to “expernicity”, monetizing the “community” of a web site depends not so much on determining expertise as determining reputation. We tend to value a description of a resort from someone we “know” even if the knowledge is solely derived from frequent web contact in a different subject-matter area. If we recognize the “identity” of a person we’ve had prior contact with, we tend to elevate their level of expertise in a totally unrelated field of endeavor. This is why a forum on golfing will often have a separate area for non-golfing topics.

  10. JoeDuck says:

    Hey Jay! Thanks for checking in here. I think you are making an excellent point and agree that credibility (AKA “reputation” is a third leg on the social media stool and is in many ways separate from both content and context.

    You’d think reputation systems would be easier to develop than they have been, and even when you have a lot of community policing like you do at Twitter, DIGG, and Facebook you find there are abuses and some problems.

    However I think we are going to find over the next few years that the community’s collective actions will prevail and there will be better and better ways to “measure” the credibility of various sources and then make that info easily accessible.

  11. Joe Duck says:

    FG I’m wondering how much mobile smartphones will functions as the lapel ID tools. As you note a big problem is that you want to broadcast different info to different people and devices and not always consistently.

    I don’t want to get hit with coke ads when passing a vending machine (as in “Minority Report”), but I do want to know where that machine is if I’m in unfamiliar territory and thirsty. Much of this can be solve with “trusted friending” on Facebook or Twitter where we broadcast location to our friends but no others.

  12. FoolsGold says:

    Suppose you have a strong preference of Coke over Pepsi. You are in Las Vegas but do not know that there is a website that shows all the coke versus pepsi places graphically (or if you do know it exists you have neither the time nor the inclination to search for the url). Would you have to have previously listed it as a trusted friend? Or would your electronic beacon be sending out a Strong Signal for ‘Travel’ and a weak signal for ‘cokevPepsi maps’.
    Or you visit a singles site on the internet…does your coke versus pepsi preference really matter there?

  13. JoeDuck says:

    FoolsGold I think you are raising the key challenge for “perfect” management of social media / friends / interests. There’s a lot of context to those preferences and they won’t stay the same. If I’m thirsty I want Coke as a trusted friend at Facebook, automatically beaming me locations where I can get a Coke. However I sure don’t want Coke bothering me when I’m not thirsty.

    Technically I think you could build a program for managing this type of preference that would have a long questionnaire to determine how to rank people and preferences in a profile, but it’s a good example of where our behaviors are just starting to evolve online so few would complete such a questionnaire, preferring to just use defaults (which few understand well). Facebook, for example, defaults access to “friends friends” photo albums such that pictures are often visible to people who think their album containing a pic they reference is confined to their own friends when in fact the whole album becomes visible thanks to the referenced picture.

  14. Tiki says:

    Just found your site. will be submitting it to
    TransparentVoices.com

    hopefully they’ll post for others to connect and follow

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