Google Social Search searches your social circle

Do you ever wish that Google's search results would be more tailored to your social network? If so, Google's new Social Search experiment might be for you. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers dissect the idea, as if it were some kind of Web 2.0 frog.

By Richi Jennings. October 27, 2009.


Your humble blogwatcher selected these bloggy morsels for your enjoyment. Not to mention Sleeveface...

    JR Raphael has a first look:

Google Social SearchGoogle is pouring personalized social data into search results with its new Google Social Search, launching in experimental mode. ... [It] adds content from your friends right into your Google searches. ... uses your own lists of contacts from various services to build up a network, then features content specifically from the people whom you know.


The main venue for culling your social content is your Google Profile. It's a ... page about yourself that allows you to add links to your various online profiles: your Twitter stream, personal blog, FriendFeed page, you name it. ... To try it out, just visit Google's Experimental Labs page and click the button to "join the experiment."

Danny Sullivan adds negativity:

Let’s first talk about what Social Search is not, to avoid confusion ... after all the seemingly related news that’s come out recently. ... [It] is not real time search. ... That’s not bad ... Google Social Search is pretty cool. It’s just important that it doesn’t get confused with a completely different type of search engine.


So what is Google Social Search? It’s a way that Google figures out people you trust, then ensures that you see content from them showing up in your search results. ... One thing I love about the new service is how it makes use of the “social circle” term rather than “social graph,” a phrase more popular in 2007 and 2008 but which doesn’t really explain much to people. Social circle makes sense — these are people you are connected with. They’re in your “circle” of friends.

Google's Maureen Heymans is excited:

Your friends and contacts are a key part of your life online. Most people on the web today make social connections and publish web content in many different ways, including blogs, status updates and tweets. This translates to a public social web of content that has special relevance to each person. Unfortunately, that information isn't always very easy to find in one simple place.


A lot of people write about New York, so if I do a search for [new york] on Google, my best friend's New York blog probably isn't going to show up on the first page of my results. ... We've taken steps to improve the relevance of our search results with personalization, but today's launch takes that one step further. With Social Search, Google finds relevant public content from your friends and contacts and highlights it for you.

Daniel Tunkelang gave it a whirl:

I gave it a whirl, search for “noisy channel” and then restricting the search to content from what Google considers my social circle. The results are as promised, and could further refine to results by author name, selecting from a familiar list of Neal Richter, Jason Adams, Daniel Lemire. Ken Ellis, and Joshua Young. ... Cool! Except that there are a lot of names missing ... and, more importantly, I can’t further refine or even sort the search results. Indeed, the ordering of search results seems quite arbitrary–a phenomenon I’ve noticed more generally for search engine ranking of social media content.


In short, Google Social Search is a welcome initiative, but there’s a lot more work to do before I would find a productive use for it. Given the mismatch between social search and black-box relevance ranking, a little bit of HCIR would go a long way towards making this feature practically useful.

Kim-Mai Cutler finds something odd:

Conspicuously absent from the list is your Facebook network. Google says it doesn’t incorporate Facebook friend lists because they’re not public. But really, Google could have your Facebook network (or at least the public pieces of it) if it wanted to. Facebook’s public search listings randomly generate photos of eight random friends. Crawl it enough times and presto! You have a rough social graph.


Of course, it lacks the richness that Facebook’s social graph data can deliver ... whose profiles you look at frequently, whose posts you comment on and “like”, and whose photos you end up in. Still, Google has some of that in Gmail. ... For those of us who do use Google’s e-mail service, the company knows our closest and deepest contacts because it has years of lengthy personal e-mails and knows who we write most often. By comparison, Facebook knows our weaker ties.

Kaila Krayewski also ponders privacy:

The question is, how will the public respond? Some people may not be comfortable with their status updates being made publicly searchable. Some people may also be uncomfortable with their contacts being made available to Google for its Social Search. However, privacy settings will be made available to stop the user’s status updates from being publicly searchable, should they prefer so. In addition, it’s possible to simply refrain from taking part in Google’s Social Search.

So what's your take?

Get involved: leave a comment.

And finally...


Richi Jennings, your humble blogwatcher
  Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You can follow him as @richi on Twitter, or richij on FriendFeed, pretend to be richij's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email:

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