A couple of nights ago Laura Fitton and Ken E. Kaplan were guests for a small dinner in my home. Laura, known universally on Twitter as Pistachio, gushed for a while about how Twitter had made her lazy. Whenever she needed to now something, she just asked on Twitter and she would get a half dozen answers on anything from tech tools to where to eat while traveling.
Yesterday, I posted a simple Tweet saying that I wanted to know more about China and asking about blogs and books. Within 30 minutes I had an entire anthology. Like Laura, I often ask about what to see and where to eat on Twitter when I travel. I use a great amount of what gets recommended to me and almost always I am happy with the results.
This started me thinking. A real "duh" statement is that search is about the most killer of all killer apps. Scoble and I co-authored a book, writing it in only five months. Among the biggest time savers was using Wikipedia as a research tool rather than a Dewey Decimal System at the local library. I've used lots of online user generated sites to pick restaurants, products or blogs to read. They are all good. Google Search, despite the hair that can be split, is one of the most world changing products of the past few decades.
But I am coming to trust Twitter as my personal search tool more than any of these others, and here's why: I can consider the recommender. Much of the information comes from people I already know and have chatted with online. Most of the rest comes from people I can check out very quickly and draw some sort of conclusion on whether I should take their word on a restaurant, hotel or book.
Digg is an extremely popular place to discover and share. But too often, the people recommending or panning are people who have criteria different than my own. Wikipedia is, from my experience, a highly credible resource, but its entire system is designed for impartiality and often I want a partial opinion. Yelp struggles to prevent it, but it's content can be too easily corrupted by people with vested interests.
But Twitter is like asking a neighbor. The neighbor really wants to share with you something you'll enjoy. The neighbor is someone you'll most likely see again and his r her reputation will have been adjusted based on their recommendations.
Twitter is so many things to so many people. Most of them were not intended by its founders. But as a personal search tool its value, in my book, just keeps getting higher and higher.