MENLO PARK, Calif. – Software engineer Lars Rasmussen could be a poster child for the slogan pasted on the walls of Facebook’s headquarters here: Fail Harder.
After getting laid off from his first startup, the Berkeley PhD in computer science teamed up with his brother to make digital maps a platform, hoping to leapfrog Mapquest. In the wake of the dotcom bust, funding was hard to find, but Google liked the idea, and bought the startup. Code Rasmussen developed became the basis for Google Maps.
Rasmussen’s next big idea for Google was Wave, pitched as the follow on to email. It landed hard as a belly flop.
For the last two years he has been at Facebook, where he has been put in charge of search. The social networking giant has long hoped it could find a more personal road into Web data that could accelerate it past archrival Google.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg seeded staff with ideas he liked. Rasmussen presided over several prototypes, one of which he showed to Zuckerberg more than a year ago, as a barely working proof of concept of a natural language querying capability.
“Mark said, ‘You will never get that to work, but if you could it would be awesome,’” recalled Rasmussen, who was motivated by the implicit challenge.
The project started weekly meetings, many of the attended by Zuckerberg. But it was really at the end when the founder got more involved in the project.
“I started getting messages from Mark at 2 a.m., asking us to change this or that,” said Rasmussen. “We use Facebook messages here, not e-mail,” he said.
I traveled extensively around the world and the first rule is: Never visit a restaurant that's advertised in the booklet left in your hotel room (unless you want a so-so meal).
I'll ask at the hotel's front desk where's a good place to eat. When they come back with the standard recommendations from the hotel book, I immediately follow up with 'Where would you personally eat?' and the responses are ALWAYS different. Locals tend to know the best meals, deals & places to go. Brochures only promote those that paid to attract business. Great places don't need to advertise because word of mouth will keep them open or close them down. Locals are the key because they live there and visit these places themselves.
Sure, I could check someones facebook page and hope they recommended something in the town I'm visiting ... call me old fashioned, but I'd rather talk to them directly about the full experience. That way, I can better understand why they rated it high or low.
@Frank---absolutely right. I always asked what do the locals do, and followed there.. I ask my friends and recently scour places like Reddit or Facebook what _they_ like to do in their town because, obviously, they aren't going to follow standard guide advice.
There is great potential here, but it sounds like it may take years to realize that potential.
Graph Search does however, seem like an essential "third pillar" for Facebook. One of the biggest problems with the timeline & newsfeed is their linear chronological nature. In theory, one could scroll down indefinitely through his newsfeed or a friend's timeline to look for a past event of interest, but that is far too cumbersome and time-consuming for most people.
In addition to the examples mentioned in the demo, vacation travel is another good one that comes to mind. If I'm planning a trip somewhere, I would find it very useful to be able to search my FB friends to find out who has been there, where did they stay, etc., and then contact them for advice and recommendations. Such personal recommendations from trusted sources are an advertiser's dream.
Thinking beyond the initial release of this function, it looks like Facebook is venturing beyond the search into "Search-based Applications". I've been learning about this through Exalead, a company that was acquired by Dassault Systemes (where I work). It's been very interesting learning about SBAs. What I've learned from experience and from customers over the years is that getting data into a system is one problem, but the key value is how to get information out of a system. The more intelligence that can be added to that process, the more useful the data. Pretty cool and useful stuff. Feel free to check in with the Exalead team. But I applaud the efforts.
Well put, I see it more of a way to monetize personal searches. If I can strategically place an ad/link for a product that one of my friends has talked or posted about, then chances are I'm more likely to click on it. And since facebook really has no real revenue source, you can bet your shareholder equity that this is a no brainer.
Facebook has the unique position of OWNING all the personal data that you're willing to post about yourself. Age, maritial status, sex, location, likes, dislikes, friends, hobbies ... you name it. It's a marketer's wet dream. Monetizing that information is one of the biggest reasons for facebook having its IPO. Social Graph is merely one step in the process.
I see two sides of this coin:
Facebook has some wonderfully personal data sets tied to the hearts and minds of its users.
But those data sets are inherently subjective, limited to Fbook users.
In any case, I am interested in the software workloads that are driving 1) the cloud and 2) software engineering and Facebook is one of a handful of the big drivers.
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