Computers are crap at figuring out what I want to read. Half the reason I subscribe to blogs and follow people on Twitter is to discover new things that I would otherwise never find. This list of trusted subscriptions/follows has been built over time, lovingly maintained and brutally culled to distill what I consider to be the highest quality hyperlinks from a sea of unworthy impostors. There is nothing special about this, everyone I have met that understands how this stuff works has some similar index of people they trust to provide grade-A content for daily consumption. We are in effect selecting editors for our own personal web digest.
Several very smart people and many smart companies (Google included) have been trying to build an engine capable of discerning the quality of digital content. At it’s heart this is what Google’s search engine does. It identifies content that is of the highest quality in relation to a specific set of keywords (your search query). As I’ve written in the past, knowing how to search is a real skill and one that must be taught. Google probably has the perfect answer to your question but you have to be able to phrase it right and Google has to have it indexed right. Clearly this does not always work out and it is the reason sites like Mahalo exist. Mahalo attempts to throw humans at the problem (and does a pretty good job of it) but you still need to know what you’re looking for. Discovery is difficult on sites like Mahalo and damned near impossible on Google.
Which brings me to the App Store and Apple’s recent hire: Matt Casamassina (IGN’s veteran Nintendo editor). His role is to manage the editorial content on the App Store. I gather this amounts to drawing your attention to the gems that are otherwise buried at the bottom of the pile. As anyone who has tried to use the App Store to discover content will tell you, it’s like searching for a needle in a haystack. Having an editor whose job it is to review and rate games with a presumably unbiased and highly trained eye is exactly what the App Store needs. But is it any different for the web at large?
I consider an unedited App Store to be analogous to sites like Digg and Reddit. The App Store (and Amazon as well) has a rating system that roughly equates to the voting system on Digg and Reddit, ditto for the comments. The point is it’s democratic, so every idiot on the internet has the same say. What we need is to be able to pull over our editors from Twitter/Facebook/RSS and only see votes from them. What we need is a reputation bias that skews all these votes and comments so I only see the ones that I (or people I know) care about. It effectively edits the web and adds a new dimension to relevance. Oddly enough I think Google is the most likely place for something like this to work. Google already knows who your friends are and what pages/feeds you are reading. Getting more data is only a couple of Twitter API/Facebook Connect calls away. We could have search results that tell you if your friends/follows clicked on any of the links on the page, or better yet only show you links that they interacted with.
Imagine the live feed on that thing. That’s the real social web.