Eluma: Merging Personal Productivity with Social Search

Article ImageOrganizing your online life just got a little easier. Launched on Oct. 30, Eluma 2.0 is a new personal web organization tool designed to aid personal productivity. Founders Richard Buck and Paul Christen created Eluma with one goal in mind: to combine the various elements of personal productivity and then marry these elements with various search features.

Eluma is an end-user desktop application that allows users to collect and share online content. Similar to del.icio.us, a tool that stores bookmarks, Eluma users can create and share collections of web content with customer communities. Unlike del.icio.us, however, Eluma users' collections go beyond bookmarks to include RSS feeds, Flash content, podcasts, and video. Says Joe Lichtenberg, Eluma's VP of business development, "I subscribe to feeds, I collect bookmarks and podcasts, and all of these things combined make up who I am on Eluma."

Personal collections, once organized, can remain personal (solely for the collector) or be made public and available to anyone. Those made public can then augment others' searches.  

For instance, before shelling out $2,500 for a plasma television, most do a bit of research. Eluma allows users to gather and store the searches and information found most helpful into a collection that can then be shared with others who are also interested in buying a plasma television.

Social search is a hot topic and attracting an increasing number of traditional searchers. However, as Lichtenberg points out, scalability remains a major problem with social search.

Most people are not content creators. "Almost all users are lurkers," Lichtenberg says. While this is true, it is also true that most users have favorites, bookmarks, and go-to sites they rely on to meet their needs. With this new product, Eluma is trying to cut out the middle man by allowing private searches and their results to go public if an Eluma user so chooses.

Traditional web search engines can be limiting and tedious. If you were to Google "Bruce Springsteen," for example, the top results are fairly static. On Eluma, top results are constantly in flux, as they are rated by other users. A Bruce Springsteen collection gathers all of the best hits as determined by another Eluma user, complete with website summaries written by the collection's creator. Eluma presents the searcher with algorithmic search results, along with social search results.

However, an issue that arises with social search solutions is evaluating the quality of others' collections. Eluma users can tag, rate, and comment on collections, and collections with the highest ratings and most positive feedback are the most prominent.

Furthermore, Eluma employs tools that plug into a browser. If a lot of people visit a certain site, that collection rises to the top. "We put the tools in place so that the community can be self-policing," Lichtenberg says. "Sites like Wikipedia don't police their contributors, and that's the risk."

Whether or not social search will prevail as the most effective approach to finding information remains to be seen. What is clear, though, says Lichtenberg: "The read/write dynamic is being included into all elements of the web, and that's what search is on the brink of. We at Eluma just want to put control back into the hands of the users."