The Word of the Day is…Ambient

No, not Ambien or ambiance. but ambient as in ambient findability.

Two items caught my attention this weekend. The first was a post by Oscar Berg at The Content Economy about ambient awareness and findability. The second was a presentation by Marianne Sweeny, posted at Ambient Insight, about SEO for Web 2.0.

An excerpt from Oscar’s post:

I am however more fond of the term “ambient awareness” and I am especially interested in how ambient awareness relates to findability which has traditionally been focused mainly on active methods of finding information such as searching and browsing.

I dare to say that humans are lazy by nature and that we are likely to use the method that requires the least effort when we look for information. We even tend to use less reliable information if it’s just easy to find and use. Instead of actively looking for information we prefer to passively monitor the flow of information in our environment. In fact, some say that actively looking for information is a relatively new phenomenon in human history. So, just being in an environment and becoming passively aware about things that happen in it is something we find very natural and convenient.

It’s an interesting point. Most of the systems we build for finding information presume an active information-seeking motive, but perhaps such systems are not optimizing for the way people are used to obtaining information. Still, I think that, until systems can passively surmise what information people need, we are stuck with requiring at least some active expression of that intent.

That leads us to the Sweeny presentation. It traces the history of search from an SEO point of view:

  • Human-Mediated
  • Human-Mediated plus Catalogs
  • Machine-Mediated
  • Human-Directed / Machine-Mediated
  • Human-Like Machine Mediation (aspirational)

It’s a nice presentation, and I recommend you give it a look. I’m delighted to see someone in the SEO community express a version of history and vision that is largely in line with that of the information seeking support folks.

By Daniel Tunkelang

High-Class Consultant.