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How helpful will Graph Search be?

January 19, 2013 12:10 am


CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at Facebook's offices. Facebook Graph Search is undergoing beta testing.

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Engine Watch found, however, that 20 percent of Google Knowledge Graph search results for trending key words were outdated.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.

But it would seem that Graph Search could be a boon to local small businesses. It could be much more helpful to both consumers and businesses than the review app Yelp is, because Facebook reaches so many.

It's been suggested that Graph Search may be most useful, at least initially, in searching for pictures.

In terms of privacy, the idea of Facebook image search--or any Facebook search--may seem a little creepier than a Google search, as creepy as Google is. But we all should know what we're doing when we share pictures of ourselves in bikinis. I for one have never made that mistake. And we should know better than to post photos snapped at parties after one too many adult beverages. No comment.

Graph Search should certainly be the best when it comes to searching for pictures of cute kittens in White Oak.

Michael Zitz: 540/846-5163

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