Jon Udell and Ross Mayfield have are talking about the use of social software and trust-circles as tools to find relevant and authoritative content on the web. Sounds familiar. I’ve long thought trust circles (amongst other trust metrics) are key to addressing the “Internet Trust Anti-Pattern“.

It may sound incredibly un-hip and reactionary, but to hell with the wisdom of crowds. Watching the crowd might be entertaining, but when I need to work, I can get far better results if I constrain that crowd to a few people whose opinions I have reason to respect. I’d use the word “authority” again, but the word is overloaded. Just as the open access community struggles with “free as in beer” and “free as in freedom”, the user-generated-content crowd struggles with “authority” as in “power” and “authority” as in “expertise.”

(Take deep breath. Wipe foam from my mouth. Stop goose-stepping)

Anyway, Jon concludes that he had been optimistic about the progress that would be made in exploiting trust circles inferred from social software tools. He says:

“Before we can search transitively across trust circles, we’ve got to be able to search within them”

I would just add that, before we can search within them, we need to be able to identify the channels of information being generated by each member of the trust circle. I’ve talked about this before, but I want to be able to go to somebody’s blog page or email signature, click on a button like this:

…and automatically subscribe to that person’s, Flickr, iCal, and blog feeds. “Brain subscription” seems like a perquisite to trust-circle nirvana.