Search Vs. Social - Personal Brand Takes Center Stage
by Mike Levin SEO & Datamaster, 03/01/2012
I write, therefore I think. Sometimes you don’t fully know what you think about a topic until you try to verbalize it. This blog post became an article comparing the very nature of search versus social. I didn’t know it was going to start out that way, but I started thinking about “big picture” because I have a strategy session coming up later today with a client, who based on their success you would think INVENTED strategy in the digital age. Hmmmm. Actually, they did. So, expectations are pretty high, and the quality of my thinking has to be pretty high… therefore, like I said, I write therefore I think!
I started out this blog with the mission of turning it into the distribution point for my own derivative of Linux. But as the weeks march on, I understand that my daily journal will always be pouring out. I will always have something to say right now, so long as I adjust my writing a little bit for a public audience. So, this post is my progressively thinking out loud, starting out about this site, then onto my life, then to my field of SEO, and onto figuring out what lurks beneath the shallow labels of “Search” and “Social”.
Soon, I’ll be pushing out a public version of my work—this work is aside from my personal Linux distro. It’s sort of an SEO/Social experiential mash-up engine. The industry I’m in is in fluctuation, so I needed to develop a tool like this to keep my edge in my field. In addition to these professional stresses, I’m just finding my legs as a new daddy and homeowner. With a wife, baby and mortgage, I simply cannot f*** it up, if you know what I mean. In so many things, you work through failures to forge onto better, more solid success. Well, I think those failures are behind me, and it’s now time to buckle down and do everything on average correctly.
And my secret weapon to do that, is this online work journal. Thinking things “out loud” forces you to sub-vocalize in your voice tubes, even though no sounds come out. Some day, we’ll be instant messaging this way. Verbalization activates parts of your brain that are not normally active during more intuitive thinking. I’m all for intuition, but once you have the deep intuitive insights, you have to tease out the rationale for it, using your rational mind, or else you simply won’t know the reasons you want to take actions. You “just know” it’s right. It’s better to be able to articulate it to those around you. So, here I go.
I won’t repeat the mistakes of the father—distant with family, and allowing an industry to gradually dry up underneath him. He was in textile manufacturing in NYC, commuting from Philly while the whole industry moved overseas. As a result, he bought a laundry-mat and check cashing store, and ran them in a hard lifestyle up to his retirement age, saw me graduate college, then died. Why do Jewish men die young? Because they want to. I’m constantly worried that the changes in my field of SEO is analogous to how all the textile plants moved to Asia during my Dad’s life. He didn’t adapt. Not having the feeling of control in your own life I believe causes stress, erodes happiness and shortens life.
Instead, I’ll be following the model set out by a man I had the privilege to briefly know—Bernie Samith, my wife’s great grandfather and member of the greatest generation. After fighting Hitler by clearing out booby-traps during the invasion of Normandy, he switched from career to career, living in every borough of NYC, and died at the age of 95, still happily married and a modest millionaire. Point is, he continually reinvented himself during the toughest of times—from soldier to chicken farmer to trolley car driver—all while saving money, having a kid, and keeping a marriage working.
As turbulent as things may be today in the information age in the the field of technology, and as fast as Moore’s Law is shrinking and accelerating hardware, and the Internet is giving knowledge and voice to the underrepresented, the societal changes are nothing compared to mobilizing to prevent us from becoming a Nazi planet. We lose sight of this perspective without stopping to reflect. And it’s even more impressive when you stop to think the role that technology actually didn’t play. The Allied powers had basically won the war through conventional means, by mobilizing Russia and the United States with a comparatively inexhaustible supply of conventional resources: people and weapons. It was a victory of people and society—or dare I say, “Social”?
Against that backdrop of social activity, reality was being reinvented through technology. Side-bets were being waged on super-bombs that could end the war in one stunning moment. The power of the mind, and intellectual pursuits rather than social pursuit reshaping the human condition. The bomb was built on observation of our world, trying to solve problems by deconstructing them down to their essence, and people trying to better themselves in general—or dare I say, “Search”? The bomb’s rise to prevalence and artificial suppression of civil wars for a half-century was roughly equivalent to Google’s rise to prevalence over Yahoo, and temporary suppression of hierarchically organized directories, taxonomic or ontologically-driven endeavors. There just isn’t enough time to humanly organize the billions of online resources when an algorithm can do it well enough.
During the war, the bet on high tech super-weapons did in fact pan-out—thank God on our side—but the war in Europe had been won by that time, and all that was left to do was demonstrate to the world the new reality. Intolerant nationalists plant the seeds of their own destruction by driving out the very talent they need—that is, if we didn’t already kick their asses old-school already. The bomb just sealed the deal for the rest of the world.
And so you see, Social is more powerful than Search, because Social arises from human nature, while Search… while still arising from human nature… uh… requires something like the desire for self-betterment, which is somewhat rarer than the chit-chat machine. Plus in a pinch, Social can manage to mobilize itself into a Search machine. Specifically, a group of people can always find the individuals, knowledge and answers within its own body to solve the problem and task at hand. For this to happen, Social must allow the freedom to organize and congregate into sub-groups, thereby allowing spontaneous new organizational structures to spring up, with their own rules and permissions (a.k.a. the Manhattan Project).
It is within that Social context out of which new technology occasionally explodes. As anti-social as Einstein may have seemed, he was both charming and a patent clerk… i.e. social. Plus, let’s not forget, Google’s own stellar success was built on the back of email and water-cooler chit-chat—how word-of-mouth happened back then before Facebook and Twitter.
It’s Google that is actually the anomaly. Search and a self-betterment engine taking center-stage over the social chit-chat machine is an anomaly. Even using search for shopping is an act of taking the reigns of your own life and making a positive difference. Compare this to Social, which is fulfilling a basic human need for connection to tribe, regardless of what other missions you may have in your life. Social is akin to hunger or the sex-drive, which simply must be carried out (or replaced with some sort of surrogate) in order to be happy.
Some might say “bettering yourself” is in the same basic human need category, and maybe so, but I would say that is is the difference between a soldier and Einstein. Everyone makes a difference, and it was indeed this old-school banding together as a tribe (a tribe of tribes) that primarily won the war and kept us from becoming a Nazi planet. But Einstein and a much smaller team at Los Almos, a couple of airplanes and pilots could have done it too.
The conclusion? Search needs Social. Social doesn’t need search. You can see this in how Facebook doesn’t do much over their deal with Microsoft Bing for “normal” search, while Google’s doing everything in its power, to the point of contradicting their decade-long dogma to make Search a more social experience. Underneath all this, the most important dynamic is how spontaneous new social structures can organize themselves to get things done. Imagine people just connecting with like-minded people just as a by-product of search (privacy-issues aside). Would Facebook pages, where you have to “be in the know” stand a chance?
People are the new master record in the entity-diagram of the Web, having recently replaced websites and pages in that coveted spot. Why? Websites come and go. People are “who they are”, more or less, from the day they’re born to the day they die—and that makes a pretty good master record. Plus, there are only 7-billion or so of us on this planet, which is a fairly easy quantifiable number in the digital age—compared to the now nearly infinite number of web pages and websites. Structuring data around people is just a better way to organize the world’s data. Personal brand is taking center stage.