Sears and Social Search
By David Dorf on Mar 12, 2009
When you have a question, how do you search for the answer? Beyond the search techniques you use on the Web, you probably mentally traverse your social network. If I have a question about camping, I'll ask Jerry. Steve knows about hunting, and Alex knows lots about game consoles. A certain section of your network is probably dedicated to co-workers, and they help answers questions like which platforms are supported, how many customers use that product, and where's the latest version of the coding standards. I'm also willing to bet your "social network for answers" is optimized based on response times, accuracy, and availability. One slow or wrong answer, and Carol moves down in the rankings.
Social Search is about leveraging your social network to help rank search results from the web. Jake has an interesting take on social search over at AppsLab. He thinks that social search has great applicability in the business environment:
In my experience, questions go to people first, over the cubicle wall, over the phone, over email, over IM, and lately over Twitter (or OraTweet). Always to a person though, not to an algorithm. Why? Because we know each other in the context of work, e.g. I’m known as a member of AppsLab, therefore I get questions about Mix and Connect and blogging and Web 2.0, etc. I’m tagged people’s minds, even before they use a social network. Before joining the ‘Lab, I was in EBS Financials. So, I had those tags. It’s human nature to associate information with people.
So why did Sears purchase Delver, a social search engine company in Israel? Delver was out of money and close to shutting down, so Sears picked up the 20 person company for what I'm assuming was a bargain. I saw this little piece of information over at RIS News in Joe Skorupa's blog:
Kasbe [CIO of Sears] is planning social networking initiatives at Sears that he believes will be amazing, but the plans are not yet ready to be made public.
While Sears may be interested in social search for the business, I think its more likely they will somehow incorporate the technology in their e-commerce site. It would be useful to know that when searching for a new network router, for example, that three of the people in my social network already purchased the Netgear DIR-655. If that's not enough to sway me, I can at least ask those people about their purchase.
I'll certainly be watching Sears closely to see how this pans out.