An attempt at fixing People Search

Hachi helps you in leveraging your combined network (Facebook, LinkedIn, Gmail, CRM contacts, etc.), to reach out to people who matter to you – be it for professional, social or personal reasons. We do a holistic search across all your social and professional networks, and we optimize the results based on relevance. Like most search sites, you can search using the top search bar, or the advanced search feature where you can search category-wise.

Top search box

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Advanced Search

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We noticed that very few users used the “advanced search” feature. Google searches have made us lazy, and we expect the website to figure out what are looking for, and search category-wise, and give us the results. Most good sites will give you relevant results, but you will also get a large number of unwanted results. If you search for “Jeff,  New York”, you might mean “Jeff who lives in New York (currently, or in past)” , and not the “Jeff who has New York in one of his job descriptions”.

Our goal is to give you the most pertinent results, instead of large number of unwanted results, and to make semantically relevant content appear on top. To achieve this, we implemented a self-improving algorithm which mainly does two things:

  1. Disregarding keyword count while ranking the results.
  2. Search categorization

 

Disregarding keyword count while ranking the results

“Searching for people” is different from “searching for articles”, because an individual has properties like location, title, profession, etc. At Hachi, we believe that the “query keyword” count should not be a metric for ranking search results.

We noticed that on LinkedIn, many users hacked their search ranking by including certain keywords multiple times in their profile. Mentioning a keyword like “SEO expert” multiple times in their profile doesn’t make a person a better “SEO expert” than a person who mentioned it only once. Similarly, a person mentioning her company name multiple times in her profile doesn’t make her profile more relevant than the person who mentioned it only once. Both work in the same company, and both should be given equal search ranking in this regard.

We give boolean scores to profile properties. A profile can have a certain property (or not) – and based on that, a score of 0 or 1 is given. If we cannot establish this, the probability of having that property is computed. For instance, a person mentioning “iOS developer” multiple times in her profile is given the same score as a person who mentions it only once. Both get an equal search relevance when “iOS developer” is searched.

 

Search Categorization

Here, we simplified the search for users by automatically categorizing the query instead of asking users to do so. We tried to guess what the user “meant”, to give her the most relevant results. We used the existing data corpus to classify the query into categories.

  • “IIT Delhi” can be classified as both “IIT Delhi[Education]” and “IIT[Education], Delhi[Location]”. The algorithm which we implemented categorized “IIT Delhi” as “IIT[Education], Delhi[Location]” and “IIT Kharagpur” as “IIT Kharagpur [Education]” where Delhi and Kharagpur are both locations.
  • Christina from Cambridge mostly means Christina who studied at Cambridge[Education] (even if Cambridge is a location)
  • John from Minnesota mostly means John who is from Minnesota[Location]

Categorizing ambiguous queries is difficult. When user searches IIT Delhi, it can mean both “IIT Delhi[Education]” and “IIT[Education], Delhi[Location]”. We devised a scoring algorithm based on the existing corpus, and that algorithm is handling the categorization here. This algorithm categorized “IIT Delhi” as “IIT[Education], Delhi[Location]” whereas a similar query “IIT Kharagpur” was classified as “IIT Kharagpur [Education]”. Now here, Delhi and Kharagpur both are locations. So, why the difference in categorization here? As per the current logic, there are more number of people who studied at IITs and are living in Delhi, so Delhi as a location gets more score as compared to “IIT Delhi [Education]”. On the contrary, very few live in Kharagpur, so “IIT Kharagpur [Education]” got a higher score. We feel there’s scope for improvement here, and we would love to hear your views on this. Do share!

 

You can check out these and a few more improvements in our search algorithms, at http://www.gohachi.com/. Please do send in your comments, suggestions and ideas at feedback@gohachi.com. We would absolutely love to hear from you.🙂

 

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I know someone who knows someone

image credit: dcJohn via flickr

Image by dcJohn via flickr

We talk about how claustrophobic the world is today. Can’t step on to a bus without meeting someone you know, can’t meet someone new without discovering several people in common. Why, just the other day, I was at the local supplies store and the manager told me my flat-mate had already bought the soya milk so I won’t be needing any just then.

That someone on the bus, that someone new you met and that nosy manager with the soya milk…they are all more important than our best friends in many ways. They’re called ‘weak ties’. Mark Granovetter has been researching and writing about the strength of weak ties since 1973. While it was earlier argued that strong ties are the ones that lead to innovation and get you the results you want, it has been proven over several years of study, that this is not just untrue but further, in several cases it is a weak tie that will serve you well. Without even having to get into the debate, let’s understand that the premise on which most social networks were based and subsequently succeeded, was one that understood the strength of the weak tie.

A strong tie is like the driveway that leads to your own home and a weak tie is like a bridge. While the driveway speaks of everything that is warm, familiar and loving, it is the bridge that helps you connect to newer experiences and worlds. I am a big fan of everyone new. I run a charitable trust for animal welfare and spend a large part of every day talking about it and asking people for donations. It’s been three months and, so far, only one person who qualifies as a strong tie has made a donation. Everyone else – and we’re talking hundreds of people – are folks I’ve either never met before or bumped into once or twice. Here are some tips that have helped me strengthen my weak ties.

Serendipity is the name of movie you’re likely to have very little patience with. We don’t live in a world where we often meet the most important people in our lives through notes written in a book. We live in a world where someone you barely know will recommend an e-book on a forum. Meet new people through people you already know. Networking is what it is today, because it helps you find more ideas, associate with people who work for you (and who you work for) and keeps your career moving ahead. Don’t shy away from meeting new people. Ask to be introduced.

Find something in common that will help you stay in touch. With our strong ties, we’re likely to have a lot in common. This is what comes in the way of our expanding our horizons. When you meet someone new, you’re likely to have less in common. This gives us the opportunity to discuss a lot of new things, garner several new opinions and widen our sphere of interests. That said, there’s always that one thing that will draw you to a weak tie. Make sure that interest isn’t your primary area of work. You’ll never get to really know someone if you’re going to discuss how terrible your Monday at work was. A shared interest in gardening, an opinion on the same new book you both read, a shared cause you’ve always wanted to work towards. When you meet someone new, try and find that shared interest. It’ll help you stay in touch with them.

Create the right environment. I remember this story about a famous cricketing hero. He was writing his autobiography and wanted another cricketer to write his foreword. To formally invite him to do so, he suggested a meeting in a bookstore. I love this story, because it’s exactly what I mean about creating the right environment. At work or at a social gathering, it isn’t always possible to create a bond. When trying to hit that right note with a weak tie, suggest a meeting in a place that has some bearing to why you connect with that person in the first place. It could be dinner, it could be coffee, but it could also be the bookstore or the museum or animal shelter that got you talking in the first place.

It’s not only important to recognize the power of weak ties, it’s just as essential that you pursue and connect with them. So get proactive, ask to meet your weak tie, ask to be introduced to someone you’d like to get to know. Then, keep in touch with them through something besides your primary area of work that has touched both your lives. And make that meeting worthwhile by making the meetings meaningful. You never know the person behind the colleague, the acquaintance or the friend’s friend till you forge that bond and build that bridge.

Posted in Networking Tips | 2 Comments

Don’t shy away from being shy

Mahatma Gandhi

Afraid to speak in front of a room full of people? Terrified about making a presentation? Clam up when you’re around more than four people? You’re an introvert. Congratulations! No, really.

It’s been a popular myth for too long now, that the most successful people in sales are extroverts. According to Wharton Professor, Adam Grant, extroverts are not by a long shot the most popular candidates for sales roles. They talk too much, listen too little, worry about the impression they’re creating rather than the goal they’re expected to meet and don’t end up getting the drift of the customer’s need.

If you’re an introvert, you’re in great company. Some of the most outrageously successful people share your personality trait. Mahatma Gandhi, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Michael Jordan, JK Rowling, Eleanor Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, Emma Watson…need I say more? Don’t let people discourage you or talk you out of your aspirations. Instead, realizing what you can and can’t do can be hugely empowering.

If you’re an introvert, there’s absolutely no way it implies you’re going to be bad with people, bad with sales, unsuccessful at teamwork. It just means you have secret weapons that extroverts don’t.

I spent most of school being terrified of the classroom, most of college shuddering at the thought of a presentation and, later in life when I discovered I could sing, the full horror of my introversion manifested itself in that colossal over lit nemesis, the stage. I tried the conventionally touted route of imagining that my entire audience was naked. This did not work out well; for weeks after a performance, I’d wake up in a cold sweat, having dreamt of too many dour critics judging me in their birthday suits. So I did something that worked for me. First of all, I accepted that this was who I was and there was no reason to change that. Then, I imagined that the entire auditorium was filled with my Golden Retriever, Bruce, who for years had fallen asleep to my singing. Coming straight from the heart of a (quietly) proud introvert, here are some tips to help keep your shy eye on the ball.

Listen up. Most introverts can’t stand chitchat or at least have no idea how to engage in it. Never discount the introvert’s ability to be a good listener. If that’s what you do best, make it your greatest tool in sales. Ask questions. Choose them wisely, because the answers will help you understand what your customer needs. Ask a question knowing that you will listen to and fully register the answer. Don’t multitask, look away or show any signs of impatience. And please don’t look at your cell phone. Remember you’re trying to close a sale, not make small talk with your neighbor while retrieving your morning paper.

Prepare well in advance. Introverts tend to get tongue-tied when required to speak. Turn this into an advantage and know exactly what you’re going to say. This will help you be in charge of the direction in which the conversation is heading, even if you’re only speaking 20 percent of the time. A methodical plan along with the reassurance of knowing exactly what you want is worth far more than an endless stream of words.

Concentrate on your breathing and speak slowly. In my misinformed youth, I once enrolled in a debate competition. I had three minutes to speak and ended up rushing through my argument in a minute and twenty seconds. I was out of words, out of breath and I’m pretty sure there are still photographs being circulated of the hair on my hands standing on end. Nerves are an introvert’s worst enemy. Remember to take deep breaths. Write it down on your palm (or palmtop) if you have to. Taking deep breaths slows down that crazy thing thumping away inside your chest. Speaking slowly helps you collect your thoughts and say only what you have to.

Write. A lot, and whenever you can. If you think I “say too much” when I write, you’ll be relieved if you ever meet me in person. Writing helps organize your thoughts. It gives clarity and direction to all the little bullets of ideas that zip about in your head aimlessly. If you have to make a presentation, write down the order of things you’re going to talk about. Then write down exactly what you want to say. If you want to say “thank you” at the end, write it down. The written word is the single best way of practicing the spoken word.

To sum up, listen well, prepare well, question wisely, watch those nerves and buy a nice fat fountain pen. It’ll help when you want to read-rehearse what you’ve written. You don’t have to make a noise to be heard or create a storm to be noticed; you simply have to speak and act with conviction.

Posted in Business Insights | 1 Comment

How to be a person behind the suit you wear

I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that, if you’re reading this, you have friends. And colleagues and business contacts and a big fat juicy bone of a social network. You’re probably well connected and know the difference between a business lunch and a family brunch, knowing full well how to steer clear of one while you’re at the other.

Here’s the thing. We may all be aware of how to talk to people, win friends and win the confidence of a fresh face, but we often forget that they don’t know that we know. You know? What I’m getting at is that it is vital to remind ourselves every now and then of a few basic rules on how to stay genuine and human. Let’s call it worktable manners.

First of all, don’t be a suit. Be a person. You may have a charming smile, a firm handshake and a gaze that convinces the person you’re interacting with that you really care. But if you don’t have the ability to deliver on that handshake or that smile, those attributes just become what Tim Klabunde calls wrapping paper on a bad gift. Keep in touch with your contacts. Write emails. Find ways of being useful to them in the way that you think they should be useful to you. Have lunch with that senior sales manager you think is boring, but is right on top of your influencers hit list. Have that lunch because you know you’ll discover more about her that will turn that ‘contact’ into more than just another task on your to-do list. And don’t ever write that mail or have that lunch if you think your motives are insincere. You have to assume that everyone out there is at least as clever as you are and that they’ll see through you.

Don’t cast a wide net just because you want to go fishing. I know a man my father’s age who owns a start-up. I met him over coffee to discuss some work in the same week that he just happened to meet two other friends of mine. For the next fortnight, we all got messages exactly at 10am and 10pm that said, “Happy morning/night. Hit me up if you need any help in any way.” Thing is, he ended up sending these texts to three single women twice a day, every single day. While the urge to ‘hit him up’ more literally than he meant was strong, I realized what he was trying to do and I actually felt a little sorry. No one cares what kind of company you have or work with. No one cares that you need to meet more people in order to get ahead. Don’t network with everyone at the same level, certainly not people you’ve met once. Remember, you’re not a stalker and The Police did not write that song as a manual for corporate communication skills. Write a polite, warm email establishing online contact. Write two, perhaps a week apart. Stay in touch. Don’t try to become someone’s best friend when you barely know the person’s last name.

The line between being confident and pompous is not thin. A friend of mine is the CEO and Managing Director of one of the biggest media houses in the country. She’s a personal friend and gets invited to birthday parties and weekend dinners, where she often meets other people from her line of work. I’ve seen her work the room. She will gently drift through the room, wearing her Buddha smile. She won’t speak to everyone, she won’t gather people around her and I’ve never heard her guffaw at every desperate joke. But at the end of the evening, she’s always made an impression. She leaves with just the number and kinds of contacts she needs and, more importantly, who need her. She hasn’t yet exchanged numbers with this other person who’s also always invited. The one who drinks too much, laughs too loudly and slaps too many still-aspiring backs. While networking, it always helps to be easy on the ears. It’s important to be noticed, but you don’t have to assault people with your presence. You aren’t on stage, you’re not a performer and you’re definitely not a stand-up comedian. Your ‘stage persona’ isn’t going to inspire a single business deal.

To sum up, you’ve got to make friends first and remember that they are, in fact, your friends. If you’ve established contact with someone, stay in touch without inviting a restraining order. Don’t be pompous and self-serving: remember, everything you can do, someone else can do better.

You aren’t here to make lifelong friends, but you don’t want to be the person whose fall every ‘friend’ secretly applauds.

Posted in Business Insights, Networking Tips | 1 Comment

INTRODUCING – “Get Introduced”

Social and professional networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn make it easy to keep in touch with people you already know, but what if you want to connect with someone you haven’t met? You ask a mutual acquaintance to make an introduction. And, some introductions are bound to be more effective than the others, because of the relationships between people making the introduction.

Not only does Hachi tell you about the best person in your entire network (across all social and professional networks) who can get you an introduction, now we also facilitate that introduction. We just went live with our much-awaited “Get Introduced” feature. This feature is one of the core value Hachi promises to its users – helping you get successful introductions.


Get Introduced: How does it work?

Ask the best person in your network for an introduction

 Hachi will tell you this (based on a ranking algorithm that measures how well one person in the path knows the next person)


Track your introductions

 


Get introduced to people you’ve been wanting to connect with!

 

Making introductions happen is not easy – it’s not merely a technical feature, there are behavioral factors involved. In the coming weeks we’ll be addressing some of these aspects. And we want to hear from you as well. Do share your experiences on what has helped you get successful introductions. Also, tell us how we can make Get Introduced feature work better for you. Email us at: feedback(at)gohachi(dot)com.

http://www.gohachi.com/

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Get successful introductions!

Social and professional networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn make it easy to keep in touch with people we already know, but what if we want to connect with someone we haven’t met? We ask a mutual acquaintance to make an introduction. And, some introductions are bound to be more effective than the others, because of the relationships between people making the introduction.

We recently did a survey where we found that 64% professionals prefer being contacted through a mutual acquaintance. And 78% folks are okay with people reaching out to them through Facebook (and similar social networks) friends, even for business / professional work. The world, as we know it, is changing. As Techcrunch recently wrote in a feature about Hachi – “The line between our “professional” lives and “personal” lives has blurred to where it no longer makes sense to only think about maximizing our business-only connections to reach out to people we want to meet.”

So, what does it really take to get a successful introduction? We just need to find that one best contact in our network, who can get us the introduction. Ofcourse, the purpose of introduction also matters.

How do we find that one best contact in our network who can get us a successful introduction? We need to sift through all our acquaintances/contacts, and find out who amongst them knows the target person the best, either directly or through one of his/her contacts. Then, request that contact for an introduction. Sounds simple? Not really. Our network has become a maze and we need something like a GPS to sift through our connections spread across various social and professional networks, and other places like our email address books, our smartphone address books, that spreadsheet of contacts we once maintained, our CRMs, etc.

Here’s where Hachi comes in. As our friends at MakeUseOf described us –
Hachi works by searching your connections in multiple networks in order to find the strongest connections to the person you want to meet. It will then recommend the most appropriate person to speak to in order to gain an introduction to the person you’d like to meet. In short, Hachi makes networking simple and effective.”

Not only does Hachi tell you about the best person in your network who can get you an introduction, now we also facilitate the introduction. We just went live with our much-awaited “Get Introduced” feature. This feature is one of the core value Hachi promises to its users – helping you get successful introductions.

1. Search people who matter to you – for business, social or personal reasons
2. Find the appropriate people from across all your networks
3. See the different ways you can reach out to them, and discover the smartest way (based on a ranking algorithm that measures how well each person in the path knows the next person)
4. Ask the best person in your network for an introduction.

GET INTRODUCED IN ACTION

Ask the best person in your network for an introduction


Track your introductions


Get successful introductions with people you’ve been waiting to connect with!

Sign up for our private beta – www.gohachi.com!

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…Then, I got introduced to Hachi. Sun has risen in the sky.

 

Another Hachi user sharing his experience with Hachi..

 

“Networking, networking, networking. I hear it a lot. I thought I did it a lot. I had many connections, managed in many places (LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, …). Then, I realized all these sites are rolodex, most of the time. No more. Mining them for targeted information is so difficult. First time I tried to do something important using these networks, I stumbled. All the sites threw up a lot of data, with no organization and no intelligence.  No way to make sense across all this raw data.  It was a nightmare. Then, I got introduced to Hachi. Sun has risen in the sky. And, the nightmare is over. I now know what I have, at my fingertips. 

To start with, the clutter that got removed and single Hachi window to look at all the connections/data from different sources, that in itself a relief. Then, this concept of rating the connection quality (Path Score) is way to eliminate a lot of connections/paths. And, the team’s ability to relate and implement a business solution for offline working is extraordinary. You can tell, I am a fan of Hachi.”

– Subrahmanyam Vempati,
Founder – Indiverein Enterprises, ex Vice President & GM – Hewlett Packard

 

 

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