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information, design, architecture; information design + architecture

Return of portal-based navigation?

Omar Elsayed bought up Google’s mainstreaming of the “site:” search function by putting search boxes for major sites in their results, no doubt further entrenching the behaviour whereby people, lacking a URL for, say, the pub they want to meet are, simply prefix the name “Just put in Google… “.

Is disrupting recommendation systems the main thing about this, as Omar discusses, though? By filtering more and more of our information navigation, not only can Google track us, and then sell to us, better, but it can also allow us to store crap automatically, operating across platforms via sign-ins and circumventing TiVO-for-the-webs like WebMynd.

When TimBL(e) slated Phorm for invading his privacy, he was probably right, but people enjoy making their information navigations public, either showing all the music you listen to, through Last.fm, or with a greater degree of control, such as RSSing your bookmarks. It’s a development of wearing certain clothes and performing certain behaviours with an eye to displaying what we do or don’t approve of, or what we are or are not interested in.

Everyone already knows that Google’s view of privacy is an interesting one, but then it’s just as much a commonplace that so is ours. The emerging “lifestream” trends will continue to expand on the RSS feeds made by del.icio.us, etc., that turn a behaviour intended to help you remember things that barely registered in your attention and turns it in to a display of you, your interests, and things you’d like to talk about.

It’s clear that much of what’s outlined in the above link is basically horrible, describing communities of interest passing bits of information back and forth forever, doing little to add to this information or generate anything new. But it’s also clear that people want to display and discuss these behaviours. Systems such as Google allow much of our information use to be captured passively and continuously, and its Social Graph APIs, etc. hint at possible reuses for it. More then what this means for how advertisers can get and use our data, the more interesting thing is what it means for how we can use our data to talk to each other, and how this collective data can be leveraged to supplement the broader information environment.

Filed under: Information use, ,