Finally, A Reason To Join Facebook?

Facebook has begun testing an entirely new way to search for people, places, events and so on — and this can be a useful new resource for info pros. Facebook Graph Search focuses on surfacing connections amongst things, rather than on retrieving individual FaceBook posts. Your search results will be unique, based on your network; the emphasis is on tapping into what you have in common with others.

Judging from Facebook’s own search suggestions, you might think that the only way you can search is amongst your friends and their connections. The examples on Facebook’s blog include queries such as “my friends who are engaged”, “photos of my friends before 2009”, and “friends of my friends who like Kevin Bacon”. Not only are these not likely to be common searches, but they also all include the qualifier “my friends”.

Fortunately, you can search for “people who” as well as “my friends”. While Graph Search will still rank more highly people, events or groups that are more closely connected to you, you will also see people who are not your friends or their friends. In fact, you can refine your search by limiting the results to “not my friends”. (If you want to learn more about how the indexing and ranking of Graph Search works, you can read the extensive post from Facebook engineer Sriram Sankar.)

Graph Search supports a limited version of natural language search queries. In general, you need to specify what you want (people, friends, groups, restaurants, and so on), then a characteristic they have in common. Search examples include people who work at Westpac, restaurants nearby that my friends like, and librarians who have visited Bhutan. Graph Search is useful to the extent that individuals share their activities; it relies on people indicating their Likes and Favorites, checking in while traveling, joining events and otherwise noting their experiences.

Following are examples of searches that could be of use to researchers, particularly when the goal is exploration and discovery rather than searching for a specific group or person.

  • Friends (or friends of friends) who work at a specific organisation, as a first entry point when contacting an expert in an organisation, learning about the corporate culture, or looking for a new job
  • Places where [engineers] who work at a particular organisation used to work at, as an indicator of the background and experience of current engineers at the organisation
  • Journalists whom librarians follow, to find interesting people for you to follow
  • Journalists who live in a particular city, to identify a possible source for information on a local event or person
  • Pages liked by MLS students who graduated after 2010, and groups they belong to, as a way to see what new info pros are thinking about
  • Favorite books of people who like Sir Peter Jackson, since this eclectic group seems to read interesting books
  • Books liked by current employees of [your organisation], as a collection development tool
  • Restaurants liked by people who work nearby, a sometimes helpful indicator of a good lunch spot in an unfamiliar town

At this point in Graph Search’s development, it has some unusual and unique uses for information professionals and researchers, with the caveat that Facebook search are always filtered based on your network and the privacy settings of the people being researched.


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