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How helpful will Graph Search be?
How helpful is Graph Search?

 CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at Facebook's offices. Facebook Graph Search is undergoing beta testing.
JEFF CHIU/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Date published: 1/19/2013

THERE'S SOME debate about how helpful Facebook Graph Search, which is now getting a trial run in beta, will be.

The idea is that the people you trust most for advice are your friends. It's distilled, drilled-down peer review. And peer review is powerful.

Of course, many of your Facebook friends may be maniacs, but that's the principle. If they are, you probably are, too, which means you're likely to get advice that suits your own tastes and needs. Then again, it could kill you if you need a recommendation for a good cardiologist instead of a tip on where you can get the best taco in Stafford County.

Anyway, the argument is that the average Facebook user has roughly a couple of hundred friends and that Google's Knowledge Graph, which has been aptly called "Wikipedia on steroids," taps into a database of hundreds of millions.

A study this summer by Conductor Search Engine Watch found, however, that 20 percent of Google Knowledge Graph search results for trending key words were outdated. And my Facebook friend Jimmy Joe Bob from White Oak is way more on top of trending topics than that.

By the way, Jimmy Joe Bob should show up when you type in "Single men over 40 in White Oak who like beer," a function that could be handy to some.

Graph (demographic) Search is a work in progress. One problem is that much of its functionality has to do with what your Facebook friends "like." And many may "like" something another friend asks them to "like" just so the friend keeps liking them. Not that I've never done that.

Graph Search is a little scary because it seems to continue the trend of narrowing the public's field of vision. Too often, we look for sources of news from media that reinforce our own beliefs. Social media sharing had already thrown rocket fuel on that fire for many.

This could take things down a notch for some in terms of putting blinders on unless we have Facebook friends with diverse ideas about the world.


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