Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Yahoo!'s Social Search

Ross Mayfield on Many2Many has a great review of Yahoo!'s new social search engine called My Web 2.0. It requires a free Yahoo! account. This service allows me to "save" web pages and add metadata to the pages. I can then share my tagged pages with others. Thus, in return, I can search the open web like normal, or search only those pages tagged by me, or search only those pages tagged by my like-minded friends, or search only those pages tagged by the general membership of My News.

This is a three tier foldering service. The quality of the tagging (and hence the quality of the searching) goes up as the tier becomes more like-minded.

I love this. Yahoo! (like Flickr) is harnessing the power of complex adaptive systems.

I've noticed that since My Web went live last Friday at 10 am nearly 5000 tags have been entered. They are already conforming to a Zipf distribution, so common when language is used. In essense, the use of tags is not evenly distributed, but the most used tags account for a very disproportionate usage, so that--colloquially speaking--the top 20 percent of the tags account for 80 percent of the usage.

The beauty of this system is that anyone can enter any tag they want, but core meaning of the tag set emerges from the contributions of many, many people entering the same tags. It allows for both individuality at the periphery and coherance at the center.

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