Chautauquas

Blabberings on technology, the web, mobile world, India, books, events, communities and everything else (Chautauqua: An old-time series of popular talks intended to edify and entertain, improve the mind and bring culture and enlightenment to the ears and thoughts of the participants)

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Saturday, February 18, 2006

LinknSurf - Automating word of mouth


Just for the sake of this discussion, let’s classify the mechanisms through which we receive information into two categories (a) Push-based and (b) Pull-based.

Conventional forms of media like TV, newspapers and radios would apparently be classified under the push-based mechanisms. You have no control over what you get, except maybe turning the TV off. Advertising in all its forms would also apparently be classified as a push-based mechanism. Also, a friend telling you something about his/her experience, or recommending a restaurant is pushing you information.There is no way for you to pre-determine the relevance of this information except its source.

When you go looking for certain information, you’re pulling information. So, web search, going to a library and looking for stuff or simply calling someone and seeking information – all the means get classified as pull-based information gathering mechanisms.

Given the above descriptions, where does the present-day-and-age RSS fit in? Is it push-based or pull-based? Well, I’d say that it is push-based because it is like subscribing to a magazine in some ways, only now you can pull it from all sorts of sources instead of a single source. However, someone may argue otherwise and I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

However, getting to the point, in some ways each of the conventional information mechanism has been automated in the web world. In the push-based mechanism, print media translated into Web 1.0 and now into RSS feeds and syndicated content which includes the blogosphere. Pull-based mechanism saw the advent of web search and now we have social search and social bookmarks and even tag-searching.

Yet, in both push-based and pull-based mechanisms, what in my view has not been automated is peer-to-peer communication. There is information that exists between me and the people I know, and I will not have access to this information unless someone shares it with me or I specifically go looking for it. I will never know that Joe started a blog on mobile technology unless he tells me or I go looking for it. I will never know that Emily met a common high-school friend after years unless she tells me about it. Is this information relevant to me? Yes, it is. What will you call this information?

I see a big opportunity for applications that can somehow facilitate this process. We already have a starting point – social networking. How we leverage a social network to facilitate flow of information and increase its relevance is to me an interesting problem.

With LinknSurf we have tried to address a little bit of it – just a tiny little bit.

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