Wednesday, June 11, 2008

F**K the algorithm! It's time for the human touch

Since the rise of the search engines we've surrendered the nuancing of our experience of culture to the algorithm. In other words, the machine has been in charge of editing our choice.

Google's bots, maths, hard science has shaped what we all get to know about. Increasingly so. Google accounted for 87% of searches in the UK in May, 2008.

When humans get involved, then we start to discover things we didn't know we needed to know.

Blogrolls write this large; very human recommendation lists which extend and share our networks of trust. Trust me from the metadata I express on this blog? You're likely to consider my blogroll less advert and more recommendation.

The likes of Mahalo, Powersets, StumbleUpon and Ditto (disclosure, one of our own) take advantage of this, too. The human element of discovery. Tools for us to use rather than tools that use us?

The robots have played the role of editors of choice. Page 1 or die! In many fields they are very good at it.
But now it's time for the humans to take back a little control - particularly and effectively where things have a human, emotional dimension.

Traditional maths-led search is a little like someone who thinks they are quite well-enough socially connected, thank you, if they have the phone numbers of the people they know.
My question, aimed at tempting them to dip a toe in social media is: "How do you discover new people to call?"
Human-powered search recommends relevant alternative people to call.

We're playing with a list at the moment - aiming to rank the Rock Stars of Web2.0.

We could just google appropriate terms and see who comes out on top.
But somehow, asking you what you think seems more fun - and more appropriate. How do YOU define what makes someone important in this context. Maybe humans are better at doing this than machines?

I'd rather know how human beings are ranked by other human beings - we're complex, more-than-the-sum beasts.

In that context I don't want to be a slave to the algorithm.

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?