Real time search: Not better. Not worse. Different.

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Image via CrunchBase

The value of Real time search is the subject of much debate*.  Here are my thoughts:

Real time search is not better than conventional search, but it is different. The most succinct description of the difference i’ve seen was from Sean-O on Alex van Eslas’s Blog

“Google is for things that have happened.
Twitter is for things that are happening.”

From my past two hours of research, this is the most fundamental distinction I’ve seen.  Here is why it exists:

It takes time for Google’s algorithm to index content and additional time for it to recognize that good content is actually good.  During that time, new and potentially more content may come into being but Google wouldn’t be able to tell you about it.

To use my friend Jordan’s example, if you Google search “best digital camera under $200” you will get a camera that has had several popular blog reviews over the course of the past couple of months.  The problem is over weeks that it took for that camera to be released and favorably reviewed by multiple sites, there may already be a better camera on the market.

This is where real time search comes in.  Search “digital camera under 200” on twitter search to see what people are saying about that subject right now. You can get links to blog posts about cameras written hours ago, way before they become popular enough to show up in your Google search results (one of the main ways Google determines the importance of a web page is by how many other pages link to it).

I have a bunch more thoughts on this but they need to be organized.  For next post…  In the meantime, I would love to hear if anyone reading this has ideas for other good applications of real time search.  Thoughts?

*Pundits such as on one side say that “Twitter is a Google-killer” and that we will soon be querying tweetscoop and the like for all of our information needs.   Extremists on On the other side say that Twitter is just a bunch of people talking about what their cat ate for lunch- a completely useless jumble of information.

I have to admit, when I sat down to write this post an hour two hours ago, I thought it was going to be much easier.   I had the intention of shedding some light on why real time search will be valuable by providing specific examples.   Not just for getting the celebrity gossip before Jenny does or learning about the car chase an hour earlier than you would have otherwise, but for practical, “going to male your life better reasons such as …..

Google must include real time search

Readwriteweb: One riot review

Why the real time web isn’t  important

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9 responses to “Real time search: Not better. Not worse. Different.

  1. Nice info, useful for me… thanks very much… 🙂

  2. well, if you take part in some sort of public event like a protest (or a mass art project or a whitewater rafting trip you noticed a lot of people photographing from the shore, whatever), a time search would be great to see what was posted about it. that way it would pull from flickr, blogs, and news for pictures and commentary (I usually end up searching all those separately). what would really be helpful is being able to enter a set of search terms with a given timeframe and to set an alert on it. I.e. I was at XYZ event last tuesday, i want a daily email that collects everything that was said about it for the next two weeks.

    • Hi Sally. Again, it’s funny that you commented here, because I want to get up with you about an idea i have about using location based services and the real time web to track actual participation in causes (as opposed to what is currently tracked- online affiliation and donation). It would be cool to if the million man march had a counter where people could log in and see it grow. As far as your alert idea, i think inside.out is doing some cool stuff about local reporting. maybe would work for large events but probably not small ones. also, check out for staying on top of people, as opposed to events.

  3. Also press conferences, local public meetings (where actual press coverage is often patchy and fleeting), lawsuits…

  4. The Iran protests are getting crowd-reported by twitter and aggregated by facebook.

    Ironic that free societies are better at covering up the truth than totalitarian ones now that we are on the same global playing field.

    Ahmadinejad’s photoshop skills are piss-poor: []

  5. Timestamped searching would be great. What happened then, rather than what’s happening now or what happened ever.

    Being able look back and put together a running commentary of how things unfolded.

    Tapping in to the collective memory, useful for filling in the blanks, and deciphering illegible notes from a conference maybe.

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