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Search Life Meets Real Life — Tell Me Your Thoughts!
I was thrilled when I got invited to speak at Chris Pirillo’s
Gnomedex event happening in Seattle this
August 21-23. Gnomedex is legendary to me, and to present at it — well, wow!
Plus some nervousness, which I hope this post will help with. I’m looking for
some thoughts on my topic of "Search Life Meets Real Life." Want to help? Then
read on — and comment!
While most of my writing is about search marketing, I’ve been most fascinated
with how search collides with real life or society. One survey from a few years
ago always has stuck with me, how people turned to search for advice over things
they’d used for years — decades – centuries — like friends, family and
libraries. Search engines are our confessionals, our confidants, our trusted
friends that help us.
But sometimes our friends can be scary — like when it’s YOUR house that’s
showing up in Google StreetView, or that feed you thought was private ends up
appearing in a listing, or those photos — well, what happens on Flickr doesn’t
necessarily stay on Flickr.
It can also seem absurd when people want things removed. Really, you want
Google to start blocking houses that anyone walking down a street can see and
take photos of? If so, will StreetView eventually look like one of those
redacted CIA reports? But then again so what if something’s public? That doesn’t
mean people want material to be so easily out there — or that they shouldn’t
have some voluntary controls to remove it.
I don’t have the answers here. That’s part of what
talk is about, to explore issues like these — plus fun and weird stuff,
- The guy who fakes
his death and gets found through Google
- The town that’s
wiring itself to Google Maps
- The fact that
Google has to figure out a policy on how to label bodies of water in dispute
- The US Navy having
to change buildings because through online maps, it was discovered they look
like swastikas from the air
Another thing that struck me was
a post I did about
maps of the Southern California fires last October. It was a quick thing I did
more out of personal interest than expecting many others to be curious. But
nearly 50,000 people came in to that post over the course of two days. Maps are
another form of searching, and the ability for anyone to contribute and build up
real-time resources is remarkable. One person I know even told me how she
depended on my post to find the maps, as she had a tough time seeking them out
in other ways. A few years ago, you got your map each morning in the newspaper or
waited for whenever TV decided to flash one up for a few seconds. Now you can
study them, shape them, or get frustrated if they’re not out there.
Things are changing even more as search continues to jump off the web browser
and into devices such as TV and our phones. While
I’m no fan of many visual and
weird search metaphors, UrbanSpoon for the iPhone blew me away with its
intuitive "shake and discover" interface:
That made sense — that suited both the content and device, and we’re
going to see more unique interfaces like this to come. But as I wrote to Chris
as part of my talk:
What happens as search continues to jump off our web browser and into
our televisions, iPhones and GPS units. These bring us a world of new search
opportunities, such as location-specific restaurant search — but they also
open new concerns about the search records and profiles left behind. After
exploring some of the issues, plenty of time for audience discussion.”
Possibilities and issues. And as I also told Chris when I first suggested
this as a talk:
I guess the big trend I’d say is that search has revolutionized our lives,
made us expect that anything should be searchable from anywhere and that I think
we’ll get more disappointed if it’s not. And that access to all this information
is reshaping our lives in ways we’d have never imagined, from the private trails
we leave that aren’t so private to political disputes. And that in the turmoil
of all these changes, I’d guess I’d conclude I have a sadness that practically
no one really focuses on the society issues of this stuff. Look at how much is
written about Microsoft and Yahoo – yet how we interact with search, what
policies should emerge, where it is taking us – little coverage of that tends to
be done, little research. I think there are all of two universities with single
professors that look at it.
On the research front, I’m hoping to perhaps do a college class of my own on
the topic next year (Marti Hearst,
who is one
of the few I know of looking at search and society up at Berkeley, is an
inspiration in this). But for now, I’m starting with this talk and especially
looking forward to what comes from the discussion with the Gnomedex audience.
But I’m curious what folks here on Search Engine Land and from anywhere on the
web think. So please give me your comments via our Sphinn forum below.
On a side note, if I’m not responding, that’s simply because I’m going on
vacation for the next week and will be completely offline. But I’ll be eagerly
reading what people say. I’d hoped to do this post before I left so I could
respond to comments, but I ran out of time!