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Summary:

Despite all the hype and excitement around the real-time web, access to real-time information online is hardly a new phenomenon. That fact stuck with me after talking to Chris Cox, Facebook’s product director, last week at the social networking company’s headquarters. As he noted, “Real time has […]

pushing rock up hillDespite all the hype and excitement around the real-time web, access to real-time information online is hardly a new phenomenon. That fact stuck with me after talking to Chris Cox, Facebook’s product director, last week at the social networking company’s headquarters. As he noted, “Real time has been around since [the launch of] Technorati,” referring to the blog search engine founded by Dave Sifry in 2002 that aggregates hot stories from across the web. Yet seven years later, we still haven’t figured out how to handle the inundation of real-time information.

With the constant stream of status updates flowing on the web, it can be easy to miss the stuff we care about. Facebook and Twitter have yet to figure out how to help users easily scan the glut of news streamed in real time without missing information from earlier that they need or want to see. As Om pointed out last week, this influx of status updates often results in a series of disjointed conversations that lack context, making it hard to piece together and decipher what it all means.

Cox, the man behind Facebook’s recent redesign and the creation of its News Feed feature, said the social network has been experimenting with ways to balance what’s going on right now with day-old (or older) information. Cox detailed this in a blog post about Facebook’s redesign this spring, which pushed the feed of friends’ older activity (e.g. photo albums they’ve posted or groups they’ve joined) to the right side of the home page and placed the stream of friends’ real-time status updates and activity in the middle. At some point, Twitter is going to have to deal with a similar dilemma, said Cox. Even more to the point, he added that, “It’s hard to get right.”

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  1. Yep, it is definitely hard to get right – I don’t think anyone has nailed it yet.

    All the more proof that search is still 95% unsolved.

    :-)

    Dave

  2. I am trying to understand the importance of some social sites like technorati and how it is different or better than some other online tools.

  3. There is no doubt, we need access to information in near real-time. I am afraid, real-time web might get over hyped.

    I would like to open standards to built and deploy, so everyone can do things in consistent way – it would be more useful then.

    Facebook’s new design, where old activities are shown in sidebar is totally smart move. I seem to be looking at it first then main activity-stream, which is like changing every second, I find myself little slower or lazy to follow every update. I rather prefer to sit and read a lot of them together, which requires me hitting “more” or whatever, to read what happened some hours back.

    I feel, it’s really important to have old data along with real-time, individual preferences might be different. Just like, how we read emails, some read as they receive, while some allocate time to read and respond.

    Thanks for nice post and summing up various ideas and related posts together.

  4. context is more relevant to real time search then anything else
    if technorati does get twitters firehose feed and integrates it with their search they will still have the best open real time search out there
    what people do forget in real time fight between twitter and facebook is that both are very much closed platforms and both are creating a lot of uncertainties in the developer communities recently
    it will be interesting to see who will nail real time search ;)

    1. I agree completely here. Analysis in the search arena will require a consideration of context and the implications of the search. I also agree that basing search on social constructs is interesting but as of yet, not proven to be of value in any sense. Great, a link! Is it a valuable link or a dead link?

      Fascinating though…

    2. Natalie Michelson fritz Thursday, August 20, 2009

      “context is more relevant to real time search then anything else” – agree!!!

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