Your Status – Out in the Open

There was some surprising news last week, as Microsoft announced that its search engine, Bing, will be pulling up status messages from both Twitter and Facebook in search results.  This is not really so surprising for Twitter, which it was recently announced will also be incorporated into Google’s new search feature, Social Search. It is bit of a shocker for Facebook, which has at least been making privacy noises, even if it didn’t mean it. In any case, as a Facebook user, this means that if you don’t go into your settings and make them private, your status updates will be very public.  As a searcher, this means that if you do a search for, say oatmeal cookies, you will find everyone in the known world who’s eaten one in the last day or so, and saw fit to mention it. (Search engines are not permitted to cache Facebook results, so luckily you won’t find everyone who’s eaten an oatmeal cookie from the time Facebook began.) The logic is that if you’re searching for a restaurant rather than a cookie, you will get several recent reviews from Facebook or Twitter updates, which could be potentially helpful. And for those of us who are using Facebook as a self-promotion tool, the likelihood of your coming up in a search is greatly enhanced. If, however, you are looking for actual information, information with relevance and authority, the avalanche of opinion will be even larger than ever, and your search will thus be further obfuscated. One of the big issues that knowledge professionals such as myself have had with the web all along (and Google in particular, since it affords top-ranking status to sites with the most popularity) is that it is difficult to distinguish the most authoritative link from the most popular one.  It’s a sobering thought that the times that we’re living in, based as they are on social interaction, preclude even the possibility that there is an authority other than the most popular.

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