Small Talk Is Big Again

A piece in the NYTimes about real-time search, yields this one liner.

via Ping — How High Will Real-Time Search Fly? by Miguel Helft

Google wants the Twitter data primarily because its mission is to be comprehensive: Google wants to organize all of the world’s information, including the Web’s fleeting real-time conversations.

But real-time conversations aren’t inherently more fleeting than anything else, especially once Google and company start archiving them. The salient attribute is that they are brand spanking new: the new ones were typed moments ago.

And more importantly, at the beginning of some rising trend there is a single tweet, and a small number of followers who read it and then pass it on. The point where the pebble hits the surface of the pond, and the ripples start to spread.

This is the nut of real-time: that small talk is big again. Where tomorrow’s headlines or tonight’s breaking news story starts, or where the first reports of salmonella tainted peanut butter will appear, or where a brand’s reputation begins to fray.

We always lived in a world filled by mouth radio, but now everyone wants to tune in.

So real-time search isn’t about search, at all. It’s about meaning.

Originally published at on 25 October 2009.

Written by

Work ecologist. Founder, Work Futures. The ecology of work and the anthropology of the future.

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