the query is the new content

I look forward to see facebook graph search coming and settling into user behaviour. I think it will start “educating” users in their search-behaviour in a new way. I would imagine once it’s rolled out we’ll see quite some posts where users share formulations of search queries. A well-put query is not just a filter, it becomes content in itself. Of course it is still just a filter but it will be perceived as a pattern, a lens, a magnet to catch certain particles. Queries will become attractors that in turn stimulate the creation of content that will match the query. The first small effect of that will be that millions of users will polish up their profile, their likes, their photo comments, geo-taggs and so on – simply to be found in the right queries.
In the early days of networking hardly anyone could imagine how much the graph of connection is worth. But it turns out that knowing who is connected to who is worth real money – and a lot of that. Pure knowledge about connectivity has become content in itself.
In days of Instagram, Pinterest and alike, people are (overly?) aware of their self-branding through being a unique filter of the internet. “This is me” because i like this and post about that. There is enough stuff online so that simply by choosing from the existing stuff i can make very clear statements about who i am (or at least as who i want to be perceived).

I’d venture the thesis that the “next level” of this is to show how you derive meaning out of your filter. What do you do with it. What’s your “lense” through the internet worth. What can i learn when looking through your “eyes” into the vastness of omnipresent information. What good does your composition of queries/filters yield when i apply it on my stuff.
This is, i believe, what facebook graph search will kick into motion as a learning curve on grand scale.

In Excel you can tick filter-criteria until you only have one result left. The same can be done as a thought experiment reversed. Pick any one golden piece of information and think how the search query would need to look like to find this within an ocean of other stuff. It is this two-way bouncing as a thought experiment,  from the query to the result and from a result to (a possible) query, that helps getting your teeth into the subject.
A bit like the game of starting with an answer and then coming up with possible questions that fit to that answer. Once you’re getting into this it liberates quite some creativity in my experience as domain jumping analogies will flood your awareness almost inevitably. Depending on the level of the answers abstraction an almost infinite amount of questions in various domains could fit.

But then again, one must not loose sight of the utter importance of salient information. An “ocean of stuff” is only good as a step towards a more salient representation of it.
Improving the speed and ways of communicating and sharing (and the ability to store anything) has no effect on the value of the content that is travelling in those ever-improving channels.


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Benjamin Aaron Degenhart

Currently pursuing a Masters in Computational Science and Engineering at TU Munich.

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