Mar 21, 2012

The Social Component and Challenges of Social Data Mining

With the introduction of Web 2.0, technology the world entered a new era of Information. Web 2.0 did what the television and radio could not accomplish for more than 100 years since the first anthropogenic radio signal was transmitted. A drastic shift in the computing paradigm is steadily submerging the world into the Cloud. The “Sharing made easy” concept is constantly testing the boundaries of the established legal systems around the world.

The public at large is no longer a passive consumer of media, but rather it is an active participant, shaping the Internet, expressing its voice, and setting the trends. Rapid proliferation of social media is, by far, one of the most significant milestones in the evolution of the Internet. It would be  foolish of any government on the Globe to underestimate the power of social media. There are lessons yet to be learned from the role of YouTubeTwitter, and Facebook in the Arab Spring that dominated the news feeds in early 2011.

The sheer number of Internet users and the amount of information they generate each day is astonishing. At the time of writing this article, Facebook, for example, connected 840 million active users; that is 12% of Earth’s population. Many of those users upload hundreds or even thousands of pictures and videos.  The modern IT industry is facing difficulties coping with its user base of unprecedented proportions. As a consequence, major Internet operators even developed their own solutions to the data storage, retrieval and processing problems that became the industry’s standards. We already discussed the NoSQL paradigm used in scalable and highly distributed data systems.  The advance of these data systems has allowed for the continued success of platforms relying on connecting and storing data for millions of users.

Social media is tantamount to establishing profitability through advertising revenue. Selling ads has always been a profitable business, however, the social aspect of the Internet gave a new breath of life to the online advertising. It has been well understood that whoever has access to the user generated content will have a competitive edge over their rivals by means of targeted advertisements. Personal user information contains a wealth of data revealing many trends that currently prevail in our society. Facebook is a pioneer, and so far, it has been the leader on the social media horizon. The recent valuation of $100 billion on the brink of its IPO placed the company among the top giants of the IT industry such as Apple, Microsoft,  and Google. Among Big Oil, Big Pharma, and Big Tobacco, a new force on the stock market is emerging dubbed Big Data. 

Despite of its enormous potential, the social domain of the Internet is not completely explored. The unknown lies ahead of it and no-one can predict the path and the shape it will take. Although successful, some companies are having challenges in the social market. Twitter has become an important player and a major news source. Nonetheless, it is having difficulties to monetize itself. Google is struggling trying to make YouTube profitable. At the same time being late to the game, it is trying to tap into the treasures of private data by relentlessly promoting its own social network via Google+. Google’s efforts in this direction so far have been in vain

Privacy related legal issues are hindering the social media all over the world. In the wake of  legal troubles, many social networks started allowing their users to have more control over their privacy. Facebook is playing a balancing game trying to remain within legal boundaries and yet attempting to collect as much information as possible.

Privacy issues became important not only to social network operators, but sometimes even to their users. Thus social evidence is becoming admissible in the court of law. Insurance companies are denying health coverage based on the information stored in social networks. Posting certain information can be very costly and often dangerous

Searching social networks is challenging for any search engine primarily due to the proprietary nature of the collected information. Naturally, any enterprise will try to reduce or eliminate competition. Social networks are not willingly ready to share their information with the outside world. In addition, social network users become more aware of the danger related to having personal data public. As a result, this information is available to the members of the same network only. 

Resultly does not underestimate the “Power of Social”, and social search is an integral component of Resultly. It is hard to imagine a real-time search engine without social interactions. And thus, the search becomes social with Resultly.