I’ve been thinking a lot about semantic search and what makes something relevant. I realized that, in addition to something “having significant and demonstrable bearing on the matter at hand” (M-W), there are at least two other factors that affect how useful an item of content is.

The first is: Quality. Something can be very pertinent to a topic, but if it’s unclear, incomplete, inaccurate, or just plain bad then it probably isn’t going to do you much good. A blurry image of someone doesn’t really let you know what they look like.

The second is Timeliness. This one is tricky – it has to do with the lifecycle of a content item. The most common offenders on the web are usually really old content (often with no date stamp, so you can only guess how old and out-of-date it is). But premature content can be just as worthless. How many times have you seen something of interest, months before you had reason to act on it, then when the appropriate time rolls around you’ve forgotten about it? Or maybe you read something at a time when you really didn’t understand the significance, then later you couldn’t remember where you saw it, or how to get back to it?

So, if semantics are a better way of expressing relevance, and perhaps social media sharing can help us navigate to high quality content, what’s going to help us determine the timeliness of content?