One of my favorite quotes is from John Naisbitt who said something to the effect "the more global we become in our awareness, the more tribal we become in our behavior." One of the trends I’ve seen over the years that parallels this quote is the impact greater information access has on people -- they become more reliant on peers to make sense of it all. How many times do we clarify information based on the feedback of friends, co-workers, team members or via various collaborative filtering tools? While search engines have gotten better, their precision/recall engines often lack user context.
For those covering the collaboration market, the integration of social software and search puts people (and collaboration) into the relevancy algorithm. That’s what I found so interesting in a recent announcement by Yahoo of its "social search" beta: Search, with a little help from your friends.
As groups, teams, communities and other types of relationship networks become more virtual and loosely coupled, it's important to have sensory tools that maintain a shared awareness. We all have various tribes that we belong to -- some we actively participate in, others we drop into and out of -- others we simply lurk on the edge. Having some peripheral insight into what other tribe members are doing (including the information they interact around), is an important "social tie" that helps bind groups together. See research on the strength of weak ties. Stowe Boyd also makes several good points around trust circles in his posting on the same topic Yahoo Search Goes Social.
It also shows how software is moving beyond "who knows what" (e.g., expertise automation) and "who knows who" (e.g., social networking) types of systems and towards those designed around “who’s doing what”.
If you are involved in collaboration, learning, human capital and/or knowledge management strategies within your enterprise, this announcement merits your attention and analysis. Look for social software to become an embedded component within a variety of application platforms, not only search engines.