I just didn't understand. Why would anyone spend so much money building a place like that in a neighbourhood like this? Later I got into conversation with the hostess. "Do you like it here?" I asked. "It's the best place I've ever lived", she replied. "But I mean, you know, is it an interesting neighbourhood?" "Oh ? the neighbourhood? Well-- that's outside!" she laughed.
The incident stuck in my mind. How could you live so blind to your surroundings? How could you not think of "where I live" as including at least some of the space outside your four walls, some of the bits you couldn't lock up behind you? I felt this was something particular to New York: I called it "The Small Here". I realised that, like most Europeans, I was used to living in a bigger Here.
Part of Eno's point is that what we mean by "here" has a sliding
scale to it. Sometimes "here" is the room you're sitting in; sometimes it's
your block; sometimes it's your neighborhood; sometimes it's the
Greater Metropolitan Area. We make those spatial adjustments all the
time without thinking about it. When we're looking for a paperclip
nearby, the "here" is even smaller than Eno's friend's; but when we're
looking for a new apartment, the scope widens dramatically.
The trouble is that fluid sense of "here" hasn't entirely migrated online
yet. Search doesn't yet reflect those shifting definitions of where we
are, the true radius of our interest. Yes, you can search a map at
Google or Bing or on your iPhone--along with a thousand other directory
sites. But those results are almost exclusively made up of businesses:
restaurants, dry cleaners, doctors. In fact, that kind of query is so
dominant that it has become the standard definition of "local search." If you're doing local search, you're looking for a dentist or a car mechanic.
For the past six months, our team has been working incredibly hard on an entirely new platform for outside.in, one that allows true geographic search at lightning speed. It went live on the site late last week. Now every page at outside.in contains two search fields: "what" and "where." This lets you do all kinds of queries that are impossible on other platforms that aren't natively aware of geography. You can do Radar-style queries: show me everything related to "crime" or "playgrounds" within one mile of my home address. You can search an entire neighborhood: "music" or "condos" in Adams Morgan, DC. You can search an entire city for the latest mass transit developments. Or if you're just looking for a nearby Italian restaurant, or a good pediatrician, you can do that as well.
You can see the dramatic difference this makes when you compare results for the same query at outside.in, Google, and Google News. Let's say you're looking for the latest news or conversation about real estate in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood. Type that query into outside.in, and this is what you see:
We've got more than 300 stories on this topic, with multiple stories from the past few days, many of which don't even mention the phrase "Back Bay." If it's a story about a building in Back Bay -- the Hancock Tower, for instance -- our system understands that the story belongs in the Back Bay neighborhood, even though the original text doesn't use the phrase.
Search Google with the same query and you get this:
The first six results might as well be ads: they're all just the home pages for real estate agents in the neighborhood. (Nothing wrong with that, of course: some people may indeed be looking for real estate agents.) Only the 7th result is an actual news story about Back Bay, which explicitly mentions the phrase "Back Bay" in the title. But of course, when you're searching geographically, you're not necessarily interested in the concept of Back Bay, you're interested in all the things contained by the region of Back Bay. Keyword-based indexing only gets you so far. You have to include geography in the index for the system to mirror the way we intuitively think about location. It's like asking your neighbor what the scoop is on local schools in Park Slope, and having him restrict his answer only to schools that include the word "Park" or "Slope" in their names.
You can see the limitations of non-geo search most clearly when you search Google News for the same query. You get more timely stories, of course, but more than half of them have nothing to do with Back Bay. The number one result happens to include the word "back" alongside the phrase "real estate."
Needless to say, if you're interested in an even smaller "here," and want to search for "crime" or "music" news around your exact home address, both Google and Google News just break down entirely. But thanks to our experience with Radar, we perform that kind of search as easily as we do any other geographic query.Right now, outside.in geographic search is only available on our core site, but you should expect to see it rolled out soon out soon to the media partners and bloggers using our Outside.in For Publishers and Geo-Toolkit platforms. Yes, some markets have more data than others, and you'll find occasional errors in our geo-tagging -- and of course, for the time being we are U.S.-only. But this platform is going to incredibly fun to build on in the coming months and years. And, needless to say, all the advantages of true geographic search are going to be equally appealing to local advertisers, who have their own sliding definitions of what "here" means.
So whatever size your "here" happens to be, you can now search it at outside.in.