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Jan 16, 2013

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Scoutness
on Facebook

First impression on Facebook’s Graph Search

This is a guest post by Shaul Olmert, the Founder and CEO of PlayChanger Media. He is a tech geek, an avid gamer and a huge sports buff. He lives with a wife, three children, two video streamers, five personal computers, two tablet computers, three game consoles and three smartphones, one of which he hugs while he sleeps..

I got to be among the lucky early testers of Facebook’s new Graph Search (and thanks to Ariel Evnine ). Based on a few hours of preliminary testing, here’s what I find that it is, and isn’t.

It is:
A step in the right direction- Facebook has the largest, most contextual, personalized and tagged database of objects and the internal relationships between them. There’s so much value it can bring if it was open to proper search and filtering. Until today, Facebook gave close to zero access to on-demand access to this data, beyond what would randomly appear on your timeline. The Graph Search capabilities, announced yesterday, are the first real access users can get to this database to initiate searches. So far I find it to be very basic and limited, but I guess you got to start somewhere so it’s a step up.

An interesting way to filter people (friends) based on mutual interest, geography and other limited set of parameters. This can be very handy, for instance: if I am about to travel to London I can get a list of all of my friends from London very easily, and make sure I don’t forget to notify them of my arrival- LIKE!

Great for broad searches- I searched for “Single females in Tel Aviv” (Vardit Vardit Gross- pure research, honestly) and got back a nice list of all my single female friends who live nearby, as well as friends of friends. The search results had internal filtering mechanism to get even more specific results, which is great. Results were less impressive when I searched for more specific stuff, see below.

Somewhat generic- it is hard to search for free text strings, the search recommendations kind of take over and “brutaly” encourage you to revise your search string to a canned one. Not a big deal, just a usability downside.

It is NOT:
A search engine- I searched for “New England Patriots” and received this link:https://www.facebook.com/newenglandpatriots. Relevant, but not exactly where I’d go for info about the subject.

Curated- I searched for “restaurants in Rome” and indeed it brought back results of FB pages of hundreds of restaurants in Rome. But- results were completely generic, almost random. Had I searched Google, I’d get lists of experts recommendations; had I searched Yelp, I would have gotten a list sorted by user rank; on FB, I expected at least to see results sorted by restaurants recommended by friends, friedns of friends, or at least people with similar attributes to me. What I got was a completely arbitrary list, featuring both fancy restaurants alongside McDonald’s.

Source of information- when you Google a subject you get alongside search results a feed of data related to the topic (try searching for a personality or any item covered in Wikipedia, for instance). On FB, you get the FB page created for this item, which includes somewhat arbitrary data. For instance, for each restaurant in Rome, I got a page with basic valuable info (address, map, etc.) alongside images taken at the venue. Unfortunately, most of them were images of drunk dudes that partied in the venue, not very helpful. Had I searched Google Images, FoodSpotting, etc- I would have gotten much more meaningful images results. The dedicated page did not have the Yelp-like value at all, which is disappointing. Facebook has so much interesting data, there has to be a way to compose pages for places and people that is more interesting.

“Smart”-… I searched for “my friends who like football” and got 3 results. I’m sure I have hundreds of football liking friends, but FB doesn’t categorize them as such. I searched for “my friends who like NFL” and got back an extensive list, but only of people who actually clicked the “like” button on the NFL’s page. So if that is the filtering criteria, it’s pretty lame. I, for instance, never clicked “like” on the NFL page, but I posted statuses about NFL games, checked-in from NFL stadiums, commented on NFL posts, so Facebook should have enough evidence to categorize me as an avid NFL fan.

Summary
After an initial taste, the Facebook Graph Search seems like an acknowledgment of Facebook that it can use its user data to create an exciting way for people to find contextual, personalized, socially filtered information. Unfortunately, the first iteration of it is more of a “proof of concept” and less of a useful tool for every day needs. Nevertheless, considering the potential upside and derived business model, I assume what we see today is really just the tip of the iceberg so there’s much to look forward to.


  • Orli Yakuel

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