Can Smart Filtering Save Both Us And Google Buzz?

Robert Scoble today brought up an interesting idea on one of his postings to Google’s new ‘Buzz’ service:

THE MOST PRODUCTIVE thing I’ve done this week is to use Gmail’s “More Actions/Filter items like these” to rid my inbox of spam and bacon emails, which makes my inbox much more useable.[…] I so want this same feature for Google Buzz. Imagine if you could say “get rid of Scoble anytime he talks about Twitter.” Or, if you could filter out something like any message that includes the words “Tiger Woods.”

Wouldn’t you want this too?

buzzI’ve been thinking about filtering a lot since I became a regular user of Twitter and Friendfeed in 2008/2009. Here is my riff on this question, expanded from my initial comments over on Buzz:

Yes, intelligent filtering is the future. If Google Buzz can pull off per keyword, per user (or per group) filtering, they will win. It is a huge flaw in Twitter that I basically still have to view all (follow) or nothing (unfollow or block) from a given user, and if I choose “all”, then everything arrives with the same priority.

This is simply not how we’re going to overcome information overload. Remember that in an information economy, attention becomes the only scarce resource. So it is worth saving and protecting your attention. On Twitter or any other social media or wider “information stream”-type of service.

(Yes, that includes Email as well. Your email is simply yet another inbound information stream you consume. Sometimes you reply to something, sometimes you forward something.)

Whoever does the best job in helping you to do this has a true business proposition, and will be rewarded by the marketplace. (Here is a nice summation of the problem by Louis Gray in slide deck format.)

Now the reverse case is also important: Per user (or per group) surfacing (“track”) of keywords, that pops items of key interest to you to the top of the heap of your inbound stream, past all others.

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This SiliconAlleyInsider Sub Headline Reveals Why You Must Move The Freeline

Stop Whining About How Elitist And Expensive TED Is [Just Because] You Didn’t Get Invited
Feb. 15, 2010, 9:17 AM

>> Too bad you missed it! Larry Page gave everyone a free Nexus One.

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via Silicon Alley Insider.

(Minor edit for colorful language.)

What is amazing about this (the subhead sentence after the headline), is not what it says about TED, but what it says about the future of content creation, and the question of charging for it.

Yes, Larry Page is a multi-billionaire who gave away free Nexus Ones created by his Fortune 500 (currently ranked #150) company, Google, to other well-to-do folks who were able to afford to pay $6,000 for the exclusive TED Talks experience. In doing so, he is following word of mouth (WOM) marketing model 101, of getting your product into the hands of key influencers, and hopefully winning them over, and getting them to evangelize your product.

But aside from all of that, he is showing what the future really holds: With ever cheaper reading & communication devices such as the Nexus One, it will become increasingly common to give those away to users, JUST to have SOME influence over what content (and thereby advertisements) they consume.

In essence, such a give-away represents A PAYMENT of the consumer for consuming content on the “gifters” platform. That is how important it is to get some, any slice of the attention pie. The getting of some of which implies that you will have opportunities down the road to do business with the “giftee” in the form of offers (ads or otherwise) that can be embedded with the content.

Note that it is taking for granted that a lot of content itself cannot be charged for. Why? …

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Warning: Before You Do Anything Else, Search!

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, because the topic is so important. Search, in any of its forms, is fast becoming one of THE skills to master for the 21st Century. I first heard Rich Schefren a few years ago at a private conference refer to it as “search literacy”, and the idea has stuck with me ever since:

Given the overwhelming, ever-exponentially-growing flood of information in the age of the Internet, being able to perform sophisticated searches is becoming so important that it isn’t too far-fetched to call it a literacy issue. Without these skills, you are in a sense in danger of becoming functionally illiterate in this brave new world.

Those individuals (and by extension businesses) with advanced search skills will be running circles around those without, because it saves so much time to search intelligently, and because a lot of answers can be found that are simply impossible to find otherwise. In a way, this separation into the search haves and have-nots has already been occurring over the last 5+ years.

And by the way, all of this isn’t simply about Google. Not at all. In a moment, I am going to walk you through a number of examples of advanced searches, and some of the tricks and techniques underlying them. But before I do, let me stress one other thing:

Even if you do only the most simple of "everyday" keyword searches, you are already going in the right direction. In fact, if you aren’t doing it already, make it a point for the next two weeks to stop yourself at every turn and ask: "Could I be doing a search right now to speed this up?"

I think you’ll find that the answer is almost always YES, and that it will be well worth your while to develop this as a new habit (a habit takes about 30 days of repetition to form).

Simply search for everything, and avoid using "manual" searching, i.e. avoid scrolling through documents, web pages, and lists both with your mouse and visually, asf. to find passages/names/etc. you’re looking for. Search options exist in Word, in your browser, on blogs, on Twitter, on Facebook, everywhere. Yet often we don’t use them, and the authors of software/Web tools don’t put sufficient front-and-center emphasis on search capabilities/ease-of-use.

For example, in your browser, never again manually search through long Blog comment threads or other large pages/articles manually, use your browser’s "Find" function and type the first few letters of your name or keyword, etc.

Granted, Gen-Yers on average are likely far ahead of all older generations when it comes to matter-of-cause use of Google, etc., however I doubt that even they know in large numbers about the kind of in depth, advanced search I am about to show you.

General Search Operator Considerations

Let’s first consider the most important search techniques by way of the so-called search operators. These may sometimes be accessible indirectly through a Web form under the heading of "Advanced Search", but originally they represent a kind of mini-programming language for telling the Search Engines what you want them to bring back. (Search Engines from here on shall include the "Search Function" in Web services other than stand-alone search engines.)

These are the "logical"/Boolean operators you may remember from math class or Logic 101 (fun, I know, but you really want to know a leetle bit about this, at least in these practical applications). Why know about these when you could also get most of the same results from using the Advanced Search forms?

Remember, this is about LITERACY. You want to become fluent in a secret language of sorts, and true command and mastery only come from truly delving into the heart of the matter. Plus, you will find that it is almost always faster to type queries into one search box than typing bits and pieces into Advanced Search forms which tend to look a little different for each service.

So let’s get started. I have made all of the examples clickable links, so that you can study the results. All results should be very similar on Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft’s Bing (formerly Live):

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