AI

Around the Water Cooler: Shared Discussion Topics and Contact Closeness in Social Search

Abstract

Search engines are now augmenting search results with social annotations, i.e., endorsements from users’ social network contacts. However, there is currently a dearth of published research on the effects of these annotations on user choice. This work investigates two research questions associated with annotations: 1) do some contacts affect user choice more than others, and 2) are annotations relevant across various information needs. We conduct a controlled experiment with 355 participants, using hypothetical searches and annotations, and elicit users’ choices. We find that domain contacts are preferred to close contacts, and this preference persists across a variety of information needs. Further, these contacts need not be experts and might be identified easily from conversation data.