This week, Microsoft Research held its 2008 Faculty Summit. This event brings together faculty working in the wide disciplines of computer (related) science. Part of the tradition of this event is to have smaller gatherings on the day immediately following – called day 3 events. This year, Marc Smith and I hosted a Social Media day 3 event (see this CrowdVine for a selection of attendees).
The gathering brought together around 50 people interested broadly in social media. There was a reasonably even mix of academics and Microsoft researchers and product people, and this mix lead to a healthy discussion about research in the space, sharing data, where product groups are looking for solutions, methodologies and so on.
We structured the day with two panels on state of the art research (link based research, hosted by Lada Adamic and content based research hosted by Tim Finin). In addition we had a panel of leaders from Microsoft product groups. Interspersed with these presentations and discussions we had a number of community run break out sessions.
Of all the discussions, ideas and brainstorming that went on, one thing really seemed to emerge as a clear near/mid-term goal: transition from a web of documents to a web of people. I think this has been on the minds of many in both the research and industrial sphere. Issues of trust, influence, authority when applied to the web are essentially people based issues, the content being in a sense an artifact of these individuals. The PageRank era is marked by a very simple link with no explicit meaning and a simple assumption (a positive endorsement).
Things are about to change!