Search and Social Networking

November 5, 2007

With Hakia releasing a new social networking feature on their search engine (see entry in Read/Write Web) and Google sponsoring OpenSocial, clear strides are being made to integrate the search and social networking spaces. To many, including us, this almost begs the exclamation “About time!”

Social networking, for the most part, has been built around imitating (and hopefully positively effecting) the physical relationships we already have in the real world (think LinkedIn, Friendster, Facebook). Only very recently has progress being made in linking people based on their interests (think StumbleUpon to a degree and third party applications like uPlayMe, etc) and now with the recent announcement of Google’s OpenSocial we expect this to accelerate the development of a richer, more meaningful social networking experience. There is still significant work that needs to be done in terms of connecting us to people we ought to be connected to. This is why we at Youlicit are excited about the “Meet Others” feature on Hakia which is being called a “peer-to-peer transactional platform” and are further building upon this concept at Youlicit.

Richard McManus poses an almost rhetorical question on his blog entry asking if search and social networking go together. We believe that the purpose of a search tool is to help you find the information you need with the least effort possible (see Relevance/Effort metric). To this end, if there is someone who has, and is willing to share, the information or expertise you are looking for, then what better medium to connect you to him than that in which you already go to find your information. Granted there is a spectrum of modes that different users fall into depending on their personality types (and time constraints) ranging from solitary to the very social (as pointed out by Charles Knight in his blog). In the end everyone can and wants to benefit from accessing the information (and people) they need as quickly as possible. This is why we are including “Related Users” for every query you perform on Youlicit (this feature is soon to come and can currently be seen on your Personalized Recommendations and User pages). We are using this as a base to build out a social networking aspect to our website recommendation service.

As you read this, we are working hard to better determine what users are interested in as well as allow users to share with others what they are recommending on a certain topic. The end goal is to become an enabler of collaboration between users to better facilitate the discovery and sharing of information. Building a social network based on your real world relationships with people you already know can help improve and extract more value out of those relationships but isn’t the most effective means to introduce you to other people you ought to know. A higher value social network connects you to people who share your interests and can help you not only discover the information you need quicker but ultimately increase your productivity and introduce you to more “meaningful” resources in your area of interest (see Expert Systems entry).

This is obviously not an easy feat to accomplish (otherwise it would have already been done!) and there are many hurdles that need to be crossed. How do you learn a user’s interests while safeguarding and protecting his right to privacy? How do you maintain the credibility and quality of such a “transactional platform” (i.e. how do you prevent unwanted information such as spam from diluting the quality of the service)? How do you enable varying levels of collaboration (from direct synchronous communication to asynchronous communication) with minimal distraction and effort from users? How, if possible, do you most optimally monetize such a transactional platform that will incentivize further collaboration?

The creation of such a platform inherently requires the cooperation of users (and of course technology) to make it all happen but we are confident that this is possible and have no doubt that a need for such a platform exists and must be met. As we develop and roll out this platform, we would love to hear your thoughts on this matter and get your feedback on what you would like to see on such a platform.

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Search vs. Recommendations

September 12, 2007

In an interesting blog entry by Seth Godin, he states:

“The fact is that search engines are very good at fairly simple searches, and very good at finding information about single products, services, people and ideas. But they’re terrible at connections, at rankings, at horizontal results… They can’t help me find six products that are viable alternatives to something that was just discontinued.”

These are precisely the problems we are trying to address at Youlicit. Our primary focus is drawing connections between horizontal results, or to put it more plainly providing “recommendations” on topics, through user provided data.

While Google and Yahoo! are “search” engines, Youlicit is a “recommendation” engine.

What’s the difference between search and recommendations you ask? Search is when you precisely know what you are looking for, whereas recommendations are when you aren’t entirely sure and would like some guidance on where to go and what to see. A great example is visiting your local department store. Search is the equivalent of going to the store and saying, “I’m looking for a navy blue dress shirt with thin vertical stripes.” Recommendations are when you walk to the mens department, pick up a blue shirt and say, “Can you show me more like this?”

As applied to web content, when you can accurately guess the keywords that are likely to occur on the pages you’re looking for, use search. But when you’re not quite sure how to describe what you’re looking, but you know it’s related to what you’re currently looking at, that’s when you Youlicit More recommmendations!


Youlicit – Just keeps getting better!

September 12, 2007

As some of you may have already noticed, we gave our front page an overhaul. Part of the reasoning for this was that the original look was too “Google-y” and we wanted to try and steer away from coming off as a traditional search engine. We are not a traditional search engine. Hence the new look was created to help show you guys at a glance our value prop, how we work and why you should care.

In addition to this, we completely re-did our back end to make it work a couple of orders of magnitude faster!! You can now enjoy Youlicit’s great results faster than you can say “Wow!”. (Some of our older user’s may notice that we arent supporting tagged-based searching – we are still upgrading that functionality to the new technology and should have that back up for you soon).

We have also released a new and updated toolbar! If you still have the older version of the toolbar, please update it with the new release. Some of the functionality includes: Light up features to denote that there are recommendations for the given site you are on, an updated “Recommend” or A-Ok button that lights up to denote that you have recommended the site you are on.

Also, Digg users, now you can upload your recently dugg sites into Youlicit to jump start your experience here – get personalized recommendations on them, a user profile and find users with similar interests! Just navigate to your settings page (requires registration) and upload away!

As always, we love to hear from you so please feel free to provide us feedback, criticism or love (and don’t hold back).

– The Youlicit Team


In the Blogosphere!

July 12, 2007

Youlicit was just reviewed by Mashable yesterday and I thought it would be nice to make a list of all the places we have been reviewed:

English:

Non-English:

We certainly do appreciate the coverage and the reviews. Our thanks goes out to all of you guys for finding us out and reviewing us.

 


Enter Youlicit

May 25, 2007

Welcome, everyone, to the Youlicit blog. We recently received some unexpected press from two separate sources–StartupSquad, and KillerStartups–so it’s time to give a blog to our name and tell you a bit about ourselves and the problem we’re trying to solve.

Information overload is a huge problem on the Internet today.  In the real world, when there’s too much information, you don’t take the time to search and sort through every piece of information.  You simply solicit recommendations from people who know.  This is the experience Youlicit is replicating online.

Our mission is to connect you to the information and people you’re looking for.  Youlicit gives you one-click access to the information and users most relevant to your immediate context.  Found a site you like and want to find more like it?  Just one click on our button is all it takes.  No more thinking of keywords to describe the concept.  No more guess-and-check searching.  No more digging through links looking for that proverbial needle in the haystack.  Just one click, and that’s it.

How do we do this?  The web is teeming with “user-generated relevance” data, which are simply clues about which sites people found relevant.  These include things like links, keyword searches, tags, ratings, browsing patterns, etc.  We aggregate all of this data, extract the wisdom of the crowds from it and give you the closest thing to a democratically generated version of the truth that you can find on any given topic.  For instance, when you click the “Youlicit More” button, you’re effectively saying, “Hey Youlicit, show me more like this site.”  Youlicit then determines the concept of that site, analyzes the user-generated relevance data and returns conceptually similar sites that people liked the most.

“Ahh, so you’re like StumbleUpon then?”  Well, yes and no.  When you stumble with StumbleUpon, you pre-select your topics and discover well-liked sites within it. We are certainly fans of this experience-and no doubt, it is so cool that it’s got over 2 million users and a fat cash out courtesy of eBay-but we aim to take that experience to a whole new level.  You don’t have to tell us what you’re looking for anymore.  We’ll figure it out for you.  Consider it your guided tour through the entire Web.

So what are you waiting for?  Try it out at http://www.youlicit.com/