We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat: The Race for Conversation Search

Yahoo, Live Search, Ask.Com, Technorati, Feedster, and even Google are all missing a boat.  Not one of them offers a true conversation search.  I’m not talking about a link ranked blog search.  I’m not talking about Usenet search.  I’m also not asking for a general web search.  I’m talking about doing for human conversations across the internet what services like Froogle do for shopping. 

Let me listen in to, learn from, and absorb every IRC chat, blog entry, forum post, and newsgroup thread, and wiki article, that’s publicly accessible on the internet and that I participate in privately.  How would this be different from a standard web search or blog searches of today?

1. You could be smarter about your conversation search results. 

  • Conversations have a form and structure.  How many forum sites do you know that employ roughly the same structure?  This structure can be leveraged to populate common data stores about conversations so that site A can show the same results mixed with site B. 
  • How many of them have some notion of questions associated with answers?
  • People involved in conversations have localized reputation system that lend weight to their posts. This reputation could be implicit… I’ve replied 3k times on this board… or explicit… people have rated all my posts very highly. 
  • The islands that host conversations also have a reputation that could add/subtract weight to the participants in their conversations.  This means leveraging a mix of classic page rank along with author profiles to improve relevancy… which answer or opinion do you trust more?
  • You could search by similarities in conversations.  Enter a phrase or a question into a search engine… I bet someone has entered this before.  The problem is that today I can’t tell what results are from a conversation and what’s a press release.  Leverage the knowledge you have about the structure of human conversation to tell me what’s a real discussion I could get engaged with and what’s simply a press release… or all the conversations about the press release no matter where they took place. 

2. Not everyone wants a blog to talk to other people.  Even Robert has to know that only a small % of internet conversations happen in the blog world.  If I want to know about the best HDTV system and issues with the TV I’m about to buy I’m probably better off getting involved in the discussions on http://www.avsforum.com/ than I am doing a blog search. 

3. Imagine also including co-comments functionality and a smart client to go with it, but for any conversation…not just blogs. And don’t just let me read, but also post replies through your service to those conversations I want to be engaged in. 

4. My conversation search results could leverage my public and private conversations, learn what my social circle is, and use those patterns are to deliver me better results. 

Whoever does this would not be engaged a me-too move.  I’m honestly shocked that google didn’t approach blog search by augmenting their usenet archive, archiving non-usenet forum posts, and even IRC chats.  Even google has segmented the world of conversations. 

If search services can gleam product information, pictures, prices, and reviews from shopping sites there isn’t much of an excuse for not being able to cast a search net that truly captures a majority of the worlds on-line conversations. 

Thankfully the race isn’t over yet since I don’t believe anyone’s built a boat yet.  I’m guess I’m making the case that Microsoft shouldn’t copy google for groups, yahoo for answers, and technorati for blog searches… get them all and more an one big bang… otherwise it’s not innovation… we would just playing catch up and not even be recognized as second movers.  We’d be more like the kid who gets the “participation” ribbon in the race for a indexing the worlds conversations to make the best search.