How do I find the best content?

Last week I wrote a post asking: what happens to old content on the web? This post continues from the thought process in that prior post.

When a person searches for information on the web, they only care about one question: how do I find the best content?

Because most of the best content is old content, the question often becomes: how do I find the best old content?

It gets more complicated. What does ‘best’ mean? What is best is often subjective. Suppose I am looking for relationship tips. You can’t really find a best set of tips. It may depend on many factors including my age, sex, cultural background, maturity, outlook on life, etc.

So the question really is, how do I find the best old content for myself?

Search.

As of now, search is probably the best option. Search relies on the fact that that over time, the structure of the web points towards the best pieces of content. That is, the best content has the most and best incoming links.

Search looks for the one best set of results across the web. As I said above, for many queries, there is no one best set of results. We are all different people, and the best set of results will differ between people.

This must be one of the big reasons Google cares about social. Personal information enables personalized search.

How good can personalized search get? Who knows. Even if you have a lot of information, as Google does with Gmail and G+, it must be tough to develop the algorithms to automatically determine the best results.

Recommendation engines.

Many startups are working on being the best recommendation engines. Usually, the challenge is the find the most relevant new content to present a user. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. For example, Pandora is great at finding old music that you might like.

I’m not well versed in the recommendation engines that exist, so it may mean that there is no clear winner for general content yet. But, it could be interesting for an intelligent recommendation engine to suggest the best old content.

Social.

It is possible to discover great old content via social feeds and social networks. Usually people don’t search for content on social networks though. Instead they stumble across good content. Most of the time, this content is new content. However, people occasionally post great out stuff. And if you were so inclined, you could ask your social network a question and hope for pointers to the best content.

A big problem with finding great content on social is that not all content is shareable. People share what they are proud about, but won’t share what they are more ashamed of. For example, if someone is searching for the best data on sexually-transmitted diseases, or birth control, they most likely wouldn’t broadcast this out on their social networks.

Aggregators/communities.

Aside from social, there are great link aggregators/communities that are largely anonymous. The largest that springs to mind is Reddit. Through anonymous aggregators, you could find great content on almost every niche of the web. On Reddit, simply search all of the subreddits and you’ll find communities on all kinds of obscure and dark niches on the Internet.

Similar to social feeds, you tend to stumble across information on these aggregators. And most of the links are new links. But, if there is a social discussion component, things may work out. If one was searching for embarrassing information, the best bet would be to find the right subreddit, and ask. Because you are anonymous, the people won’t know you, but if you ask the right way, you may find the best old content for your query.

Curation.

Recently, curation sites such as Pinterest have popped up. On these sites, people manually curate their favorite content. A big plus is that if you can find a person with your tastes, you may find the best content on the web specific to your liking. The downside is that you need to find the right set of people to follow. This takes upfront investment.

Also, with curation sites, you aren’t really asking a question. Instead, you follow people and stumble across what they have curated for you. The one X-factor here is that large curation sites provide a great data set for search. For example, I’ve recently started using Pinterest search for finding recipes. It is surprisingly good. Of course, Pinterest search doesn’t cover all verticals, but it is interesting that can be useful as a search solution.

So, how do you find the best personalized old content?

There are many ways to start going about it, and there are a bunch of startups tackling parts of this. Still, as a consumer, I don’t have a great solution.

The opportunity seems large enough that solving a sliver of the problem would make a great startup. And solving more than just a sliver? That would be huge.

If you have some thoughts, I would love to hear them!

(Photo credit: Mark Probst/flickr)

P.S. This is post number #54 in a 100 day blogging challenge. See you tomorrow!

Follow me on Twitter @alexshye.

Or, check out my current project Soulmix, a site for sharing the best of the web.

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