7 responses to “Notes on User Driven Search”

  1. alecmuffett

    I posted a comment on http://blog.joeandrieu.com/2008/07/12/towards-user-driven-search/ which precedes this; it sounds to me that what you are proposing above is “spy in the cab” meets “clippy the paperclip”, with promises that it won’t really leak stuff to marketeers unless you really want it to.

    “Honest. We swear.”

    Again in this scenario, exactly as before, the user is in the position of supplicant, or at best is having their little search-turds recycled into composty goodness which someone else profits from and/or sells on their behalf.

    How is this “User Driven” as-per the comment in the previous posting?

  2. alecmuffett

    If you think of Firefox’s browser history as spying on your activity, you’re right. And if you think of advanced features on the client side as “Clippy the paperclip”, you’re right again.

    Strawman alert! Strawman alert! 🙂 Actually I see a slavering corporate beast looking to make money off-of all my search history, to be desireous of spying upon me: “All that untapped intention- and attention-marketing information, it must be mine bwahahahahahaha!” So you see, what I am talking about is the mindset of those who wish to build a new business atop other peoples’ information.

    Currently, the entire web is watching where you surf and you have virtually no control and no way to leverage it for your own value.

    “All these people, producing this good stuff and not letting us use it to sell them stuff getting benefit from it – how tragic and uninformed they are, we must help them.”

    Giving users control over that information and providing an explicit means for direct improvements in their search results is user-driven at the very core. The whole point is to liberate users from the isolated data silos at Google and Doubleclick and NebuAd

    In what way would this be Liberation, precisely? For instance, AdBlockPlus is liberation in my book – unshackling me from crap I am otherwise forced to endure. Google goes to great lengths to ensure that the crap is me-centric, to be sure, through contextualisation and whatnot. But it is still crap.

    giving them a tool that lets them bundle their behavioral and explicit Search data into a representation that they can edit and release on their own terms.

    To whose actual benefit, and for what reason would I want to do this, given I am of the AdBlockPlus mindset outlined above?

    Having “little search-turds recycled into composty goodness” is precisely what is happening out there, on the Internet, currently, with essentially no input from the user. Your phrasing is perhaps belittling, but you’re missing the point. The way that we search, what we look for, what we find, what we keep, all of these comprise a better representation of what we are actually looking for. The paltry keyword started losing its glamor when Google started personalizing search results based on your Search History. Given that such tracking actually has the potential to improve our search experience, isn’t it time to give users control over it?

    Doubtless; you make a good case for (eg:) Google to refine its search algorithms to profile user-searches and start trying to second-guess the user; and I agree with an implicit proposition that the user should be able to download/access their search history. But given that I’ve just stated the concept in terms of “What Could Google Do?” I have to ask: how is any of this user-driven or VRM-ish?

    As you mention in the comment on the prior post, user-driven suggests that the value is, at least partially, provided directly by the user’s participation in the system, such as with BitTorrent.

    Yes, Bittorrent would not exist without the content which users provide; theoretically the Google search function *could* exist without users making search queries, although they might not continue to exist for very long…

    It is precisely the editability, compartmentalization, and selective disclosure that makes User-driven Search so valuable. Without the user to vet and refine the Search data,

    … for whose benefit? …

    all you really have is an endless jumble of attention data with no direction and no user feedback. Which is precisely what DoubleClick (now Google) and NebuAd work with.

    Yes. So you are proposing that users are masochists who will skim their own search histories for clues about their deepest darkest desires, and use that deep self-knowledge to request advertising for [whatever] – britney spears albums, maybe?

    Of course, if you’d prefer to believe that keywords are good enough, then feel free to opt-out of next generation search, which I realize you may already do. In contrast, most people, I believe, have Google’s Search History enabled

    Actually I have it switched-off for privacy reasons, plus I wonder if “most people” will have that, since the proposition implies that “most people” (say, more than 50% of internet users) have got a Google account, which I find hard to believe.

    and I expect they will continue to benefit from innovations in “composty goodness”. They just won’t have it in any user-driven way until we can extract that Search History in a meaningful way and re-use it on their own terms.

    I love the way you say “WE CAN EXTRACT” and “THEIR OWN TERMS” – who is your notion of “WE” in this context, Joe?

    Finally, “won’t really leak stuff” can be formally bound in access policy and data rights agreements. Of course, today, Google is free to hand over your search history or YouTube viewing history to whomever they please. There are neither legal nor contractual restraints to protect user’s privacy. However, with a fully implemented User-driven Search solution, explicit, contractually binding agreement to data rights policies can and will be required before releasing search data to potential vendors.

    See above comment regards “deep self knowledge”.

    I think you’d agree that technology-based DRM is a waste of time. But legally enforceable contracts with Search providers is another thing altogether.


    At the end of the day, if you want someone to help you with your search, you have to give them something to work with. The point of User-driven Search is to make that transaction seamless, painfree, entirely under user control, and bound to non-repudiatable data rights agreements.

    Yeah. I am just thinking that the added value you are here proposing atop search, does not address customer wants. The tasty ice-cream you are suggesting is also an effective floorwax.

    If you still think that misses the opportunity for User-driven Search, what would you suggest to make Search truly user-driven?

    I wouldn’t, in the same way I wouldn’t try to make a kosher bacon-double-cheeseburger. The result would either be not-kosher, or not-a-bacon-double-cheeseburger.

    [Continuing the thread from the other blog comment]

    Re: inherent, it is the value-creation of user-driven systems that is inherent. To the extent that systems refuse to be user-driven, they are leaving value on the table.

    So when you say “User-driven systems create value inherently” you mean that user-driven systems have the inherent property of creating-value; which given the definition that the user’s input creates the value of a user-driven system, is something of a tautology.

    As for user-driven search, that’s actual the term we used in our provisional patent filing in 2006. I liked Adriana’s distinctions around it, which her post credits to Bob Frankston. However, the user-as-chef remains, IMO, a fairly limited metaphor for user-driven systems. I think we might be in agreement on that, as I don’t believe “customization” is the end-all-be-all of user-driven, where it is at the core of Adriana’s usage.

    I would be very careful to avoid misrepresenting Adriana’s position as a quest for customisation; it’s vastly different and far larger than that.

    So, we may still disagree about what user-driven means, but I think we are in agreement that I’m talking about something substantially different than Adriana.

    Oh yeah. I am not sure that that is good news for you, alas :-/

    I agree that Google is partially user-driven, but it is the ways in which it is not user-driven that are the interesting things to talk about. Which was the point of the post.


    I’m not sure why Twitter is user driven.

    Imagine Twitter without users. It’s easy if you try. It would simply not exist.

    I certainly can’t easily take my Twitters with me. It’s a silo pure and simple. one in which they have demonstrated a willingness to shut down API features at will.

    Ah, but now you are conflating User-Driven with DP and perhaps VRM. It’s a different quality.

    BitTorrent is definitely user-driven That’s a good example of a standard protocol enabling users to create immediate value. And we don’t even have to write our own client to use it.

    …except that, for at least one person, they *did* have to write their own client; and in fact the abundance of clients suggests that many folk actually *did*.

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    […] [this posting continues a comment thread from Joe Andrieu’s blog] […]

  4. ragegirrl

    Joe, you are quoting selectively and narrowing my definition of the concept to something not conveying its original meaning that was defined in more complex manner elsewhere in the same post:


    as well as here:


    and for completeness, also addressed this in comments on your other post:


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