social search – what is it?

Earlier today, David Rothman blogged about the social search article (PDF) by Eugene Barsky and Allan Cho published in the Journal of the Canadian Health Libraries Association. He rightly questioned whether the article actually touched on social search, as it covered searching social software tools like YouTube, Flickr, and, but didn’t cover any of the social search engines. Dean Giustini then responded on his blog, commenting that social search isn’t a term with a fixed or established definition.

Well, here’s my two cents.

First, a snippet of Dean Giustini’s post…

“I am afraid that technology experts believe that this ‘meta’data is unusable because it is an artefact of the mob, and indicative of wisdom of crowds. (David has been an advocate for better editing policies at AskDrWiki based on having experts-only access to changing entries – which I am not so certain about myself.) Will the semantic medical web be organized by doctors, information specialists and librarians alone? Let’s hope not…

I think it’s central to our futures as librarians to consider moving beyond self-limiting discourses, and definitions. We need to consider true mashups of our shifting, liminal ideas around social software in order to do what we do best – creatively opening access and leading our users to information with whatever means we have at our disposal, including blogging about these ideas (for which I thank Rothman et al.)”

Sometimes I wonder where my allegiances lie. I mean, am I in the camp of classification, or am I in the camp of tagging? Am I in the camp of freewheeling wikis, or editorially controlled medical resources? I normally see myself as appreciating both sides and indeed using both types of resource. I’m a huge tagging/ advocate, and I had an email conversation with a tagging aficionado today with whom I had the pleasure of discussing the folksonomy editorial in this month’s Webology with, both of us finding the article somewhat beyond missing the whole point of tagging. Anyway, I am pro-tagging and definitely take issue with those who think that tagging introduces too much relativism into the world. But, reading the above snippet from the UBC Google Scholar blog, I do find myself thinking that there certainly is a definition of social search, and that social search is not really what is discussed in the JCHLA article, as interesting as that article is. ( is definitely social search, though, and a lot of people consider personal vertical search like Rollyo a type of social search as well.)

Anyway, here is a little bibliography about articles that have been written about what I see as social search.


2 responses to “social search – what is it?

  1. Thanks Ratcatcher for your comments re:our recent article on social search tools in JCHLA. The article was intended to be controversial – it was also suggested by the peers who reviewed it prior to publication. I am happy to see that it generated some debate!



  2. I appreciate both your overview of the discussion and your bibliography. Like you and others, I don’t view the elements of the discussion as sides that demand my alliegence or opposition; nor are they isolated destinations like coordinates on a map. We don’t have to choose one and go there. Valuing tagging doesn’t mean that I want to replace controlled vocabulary. Rather, like music or a delicious recipe, we can develop excellent combinations of those.

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