Jamie Thomson

Thoughts, about stuff

Can your social groups be used to provide you with better information?

with 4 comments

In my blog entry Live Groups yadda yadda yadda… on 3rd June 2008 I quoted Steve Gillmor as saying:

"From a technical perspective, the largest chunk left to be finished is affinity grouping – taking the atomized identity and social metadata and organizing micro-communities that can act as power brokers in the new information model"

As you can probably realise Mr Gillmor isn’t known for elucidating his thoughts for the layperson so here’s my interpretation of those words. By grouping people based on their behaviour and interests one can infer information about that a member of that group based on the information known about other people in the group. Deriving unknown information based on information that is already known is commonly termed data mining and more specifically the kind of data mining being talked about here is known as clustering. Interestingly Microsoft implement a clustering algorithm in their product SQL Server Analysis Services (a product I use a lot in my working life) which you can read more about at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms174879.aspx and from where I took this clustering example:

“you can logically discern that people who commute to their jobs by bicycle do not typically live a long distance from where they work. The algorithm, however, can find other characteristics about bicycle commuters that are not as obvious”

Why am I telling you this? Well I was reminded of it when I read an article on Technology Review this week called Microsoft Searches for Group Advantage – A new search algorithm looks for connections between people. The article describes how a research group at Microsoft are trying to group people based on their behaviour and derive better search results based on those groups. This is better described in the article by the following quote:

“researchers are exploring whether using data from several members of a social group–a technique that the company calls "groupization"–can improve search results. Their initial findings, based on experiments involving around 100 participating Microsoft employees, suggest that tapping into different types of groups could produce significantly better search results.”

Regular readers will know I have a very keen interest in Windows Live Groups and the reasons are more around the potential of the service rather than what it offers today. I’m fascinated by how the implicit and explicit behaviour of us and our social circles might be used to provide us with a better online experience in the future so I’m pleased to see evidence of research groups actively working in this area and I would hope that the groups we explicitly choose to align ourselves with can play into that research.


Windows Live Tags: clubhouse, story, groups


Written by Jamiet

February 1, 2009 at 7:45 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses

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  1. Explicitly chosen one…I love that…{Smiley icon blushed face here}’Fascination with behaviour- social circs’ … a "Robin thing" too. Lol I have an analytical mind…dyslexic challenges sometimes seem like being ‘Taxed" with adjectives.Why am I telling you this…because I feel fluffy!


    February 9, 2009 at 4:38 am

  2. lnteresting blog Jamie. Group behaviour is fascinating stuff.


    February 9, 2009 at 5:19 am

  3. Interesting post re. pattern recognition in data. Will be interesting to see how/what improves.


    February 9, 2009 at 7:58 am

  4. social networks are exploring these notions – particulary contextual ads. In a way it’s going a step further than a public space where retailers gain knowledge of their audience / groups / users / segments and serve tailored content. Interesting stuff…


    February 11, 2009 at 1:27 pm

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