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Automating Affinity

One of the key outcomes my project at work seeks is to assist employees in finding people and information relavant to their needs. One way that we are attempting to accomplish this is by bringing social search results onto the same page as our intranet search results. We will be displaying "Related People", "Related Communities" and "Related Bookmarks" in a right-hand panel. The relatedeness is based on the search term(s) the user entered.

This is a first step in the right direction, but in the minds of many might seem primitive. If you are a member of Facebook, you have no doubt seen the "People You Might Know" section towards the bottom right of the home screen. While cool, this is based on some simple factors – age, schools and employers seem to be the primary drivers (although I'm sure there's a little Friend-of-a-friend logic factored in as well). While on the surface this type of algorithm may seem like it fits the needs of the enteprise – it really does not. We are not trying to find "People you may know". The goal is to find people you SHOULD know in order to share knowledge, build a better product, or have a better workplace.

Is this possible? I have no doubt that it is. I also have no doubt that you need to have a base collection of artifacts, digital footprints if you will, in place to have enough evidence in place to make such a suggestion. In that regard, I believe we are approaching the problem domain correctly. Of course as with everything else I have done over the past year, I am sure that there are many more layers to this onion that will throw new wrinkles and challenges my way.

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