May 4, 2009
Finally, we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief! It’s been by far and away the most requested feature since we first launched Plurk less than a year ago. And now, thanks to many days and nights of tireless coding, we are glad to present you all with the first release of our real time conversational search engine.
What is Real Time Social Conversational Search?
Let’s backtrack a bit and discuss the search space in high level. In the taxonomy of search engines, everyone is already familiar with structure based static web search engines such as Google or Yahoo. These search engines, which have been around for about a decade, use search engine spiders which conduct link-based analysis to crawl, index, query and rank static textual data found all over the web using an algorithmic approach. And they work super well.
A search after swine flu on Plurk Real Time Search.
Over the past several years, there has also been the emergence of a new branch of more social search/news/recommendation services which mine the collective intelligence and behaviours of many to present crowdsourced results that allow users to get a more filtered or personalized view of things that may appeal to them. Think of services such as StumbleUpon or Delicious which mine the browsing/bookmarking habits of a general and more techie audience respectively, or services like Digg and Reddit which let users pull the most salient and buzzing day to day news pieces, or a social recommendation service like Last.fm which crawls and analyzes your musical-DNA to find other users who have similar tastes or helps you find other music that may appeal to you.
Fast forward now to social real-time conversation search. Social conversation search differs from existing forms of search in a couple of ways. There’s a big emphasis here on recency—that is, Plurk’s conversational search lets you get almost instantaneous feedback and reaction from real people on the issues and events shaping the world today. Want to know how people are reacting to the latest Swine Flu outbreaks? Just search for it and get in the conversation. The other benefit of social search comes from the ‘social’ part of the experience. Social search is more about human interconnectedness, subjective inquiry (asking and getting a view into more touchy/feely topics rather than questions that have hard answers) and is a more open window into the experiential lives of others than existing forms of search.
Plurk – It’s Much Bigger than you think
Of course, the biggest problem that Plurk Search attempts to tackle is the one of social discovery. It allows you to find and connect with people just like YOU by giving you a window into how BIG the Plurk community really is. While Plurk has grown steadily bigger each and every week since we first launched, the problem for users has always been that they could not easily see or benefit from this growth themselves– Since users ONLY see their own timelines 99% of the time, it has not always been easy to quickly find other like minded people or participate in real-time conversation that interest you unless a lot of your in-real-life friends were on Plurk or you were a major celebrity. Plurk Search finally solves this problem and opens up access to the vast pool of public conversations taking place over Plurk, helping make you more social, which has always been our underlying goal. Now it is easier than ever to connect with others who share your interests, passions, perspectives and feelings and see how rich the conversational experience is on Plurk all around the world.
Some Notes About Plurk’s Real Time Social Search
Plurk Search will be a rapidly evolving product here at Plurk and as we’ve mentioned, this first release is moreso an effort for us to stress test and tune search to scale to tens of millions of day to day user queries or more. Once we are comfortable with the performance of Plurk Search, we plan to quickly add more advanced features such as response indexing, on-the-fly language-to-language translations (After all, we are a global focused service aimed that aspires to make accessible all real time conversation, no matter in what language), date/timeline filtering (only retrieve matching Plurks between a certain time period), trending topics/phrases, and deeper, more accurate sentiment matching. Some other things to keep in mind:
Plurk search respects your privacy: One of the most important things Plurk Search does is ensure that the results returned are tailor matched to YOU. If you have private Plurks on your timeline, you can rest assured knowing that only you will be able to see those results in any searches conducted
Plurk search does not currently index responses: For this first release, queries are only matched against root Plurks. If you searched for ‘food’, at this time, we do not currently return results where the word ‘food’ appears in a response. Why? With this initial release, we want to ensure a stable and consistent experience which we can do so by keeping our total search index size manageable. Plurk is well on its way to reaching over 1 Billion aggregate responses, and if we were to index these at this time, it would likely put a damper on the quality of the search experience.
Sample Search Queries:
Below, we have provided some sample queries which will give you a good idea of how to make the most of our new search feature:
- YouTube videos that Plurk users love:
- Most recent plurks about the swine flu:
- There are thousands of Plurker’s that celebrate their birthday each day:
Once again, we want to thank you our loyal Plurkers for having the patience to wait with us all this time while we built out our search product. We can tell you that this is just the start of a wonderful new extension to your Plurk experience. Take it out for a spin, tell us what you think, and let’s continue to work together to make Plurk even better for all the wonderful, new people that discover our little slice of heaven on the web.