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“Got kitesurfing on the mind, mixed with some search & classification tech, and a dab of political ranting”

Dynamic Contexts or “tell me what you do and I’ll provide you relevant information”

Posted by direwolff on November 28, 2006

A friend was kind enough to forward me a copy of Bear Stearn’s Media Equity Research PDF report titled, The Long Tail: Why Aggregation & Context and Not (Necessarily) Content are King in Entertainment (11/27/06). Wish I had a link to pass along as it’s a pretty interesting report worth reviewing. While the individual parts don’t necessarily reveal anything that those who pay close attention to what’s been happening on the Internet, would find new, the break down of the television entertainment value chain and its evolution, was useful in making the point of the title. In part, the point of this article was focused on the impact that technology is having on increased competition in distribution (replacing the Economy of Scarcity with the Economy of Abundance) and on content creation (hence creating the Long Tail), it went on to explore the idea that since “Infinite Choice = Overwhelming Confusion”, the role of aggregators and filters likely increases. Some of the listed filters included brands, editorial discretion, ratings, user recommendations, and software. It’s here that the report goes on to talk up the roles of Google/YouTube, AOL, Yahoo! and “Others To Be Determined” as aggregators, and how general entertainment networks are at risk. The report shows some useful stats that help build this case. I also think the metaphor of the growing importance of aggregators and filters can be applied to more than just what’s happening in TV entertainment.

*FLASH*…and suddenly my mind tuned in on a different perspective. In the same way that we’re seeing technology impacting the content creation resulting in the overwhelming increase of content of all sorts (text, music, and video), and we’re seeing its impact in opening up the “shelf space” so as to create unlimited distribution, it is in this vain that I see context getting a tech overhaul as well. Effectively, this means enabling people to create or select contexts dynamically, either on purpose or because of where they are. In other words, still have access to all of the content, but view it contextually which would effectively determine how the information would be sorted and presented.

Imagine if with all of these partner deals that Google and Yahoo! have with site affiliates, they took into account what that site does. Let the site’s topical focus play a role in the sorting of the results of any searches performed from there. If I’m on an autmotive site and I go up to the little search box and type “rack”, the results shouldn’t be the generic search results from an uncontextual search, but rather results that are contextually relevant. If the technology was up to snuff, then the deeper I got into the site, the more context the search service would get. Mind you, there should be controls to either disable this or remove context levels (just because I’m on the engine page of the automotive site doesn’t mean that I want my rack query to be relevant to engines, automotive relevance is just fine).

It’s time that context with its various colors, plays a more important role in information management and search, than simply the aggregation of content or the means by which it’s distributed.  It needs to play a role more similar to what we see with contextual advertising. Some times context is based on the site and some times it’s based on the person (ie. behavioral targeting). While I’m a fan of recommendations or “the people like me bought or listened to or read or watched…this” relevance, I’m not a fan of that in search, which has been termed social search. I’d rather get restaurant recommendations from a real foodie than a friend who prefers to indulge in burgers and hot dogs. But you get the idea, context is important and determines relevance of information.

Going to the next level means letting people set the context they’re in whenever they are going to do an activity or search for something on the Internet. Am I in my product manager role for Dell when I search for “apple” (computer) or in my godfather role helping my 7 year old goddaughter find information for her book report? Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about ;-)

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2 Responses to “Dynamic Contexts or “tell me what you do and I’ll provide you relevant information””

  1. CoRreLate said

    Speaking Appearance at Search Engine 2007

    I will be speaking at Search Engine 2007 in Boston next week. Should be a good conference with a full list of speakers on a variety of different search topics ranging from search experience, collaborative search, business intelligence and generally wh…

  2. Lou Paglia said

    Absolutely correct, contextual relevancy is going to be the key to providing users the right solution in a timely fashion. Understanding the user type is the best way to understand who the user is and what is the task they are trying to accomplish. From there, the application can align with that user type and their goal-based task. It will be an emerging space that is already gaining traction from the general search verticals.

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