A Search Engine in Every Bathroom

Apr 12, 2005 - 5:42 pm 0 by
Filed Under Usability

Think I'm kidding, do you?

One of the highlights for me at the New York 2005 Search Engine Strategies Conference was the presentation "Searh Algorithm Research & Developments". In addition to Orion's (Dr. E. Garcia) presentation (think Math), I became fascinated with references by the presenters to "personalizing search", "co-occurrance", hubs and concept searches.

Mike Grehan said that keyword search is "primitive", adding that personalization is where the changes are coming.

SEO/SEMs aren't the only folks interested in or studying search engines, algorithms and user behavior.

At the recent CHI 2005 (Conference on Human Computer Interaction, aka HCI), a speaker by the name of Susan Dumais, Senior Microsoft Corp. Researcher, gave a presentation about search engines and user behavior.Microsoft put out an article called Susan Dumais: Changing the Way People Search for Information, Through Algorithms and User Interfaces

One of her projects is called "Stuff I've Seen".

"Stuff I've Seen is a tool that makes it easy for users to find information they've seen before, whether it was seen as e-mail, attachments, files, Web pages, appointments, tablet journal entries or other formats. This is done by providing unified access to different sources of information and providing a fast and flexible interface with quick sorting, filtering, previews and thumbnails."

People like Dr. Garcia, known in SE-land for their algorithm development and research, aren't the only ones working out better ways to organize information for later retrieval. Concept-based information retrieval, called latent semantic indexing, is something Dumais is researching too.

"Latent semantic indexing is a statistical technique for extracting and representing the similarities of words by analyzing large collections of text. The resulting representation is more abstract than individual words, and addresses information access-problems that stem from the nature of human vocabulary and word usage. Twenty-five years later, it continues to be relevant in solving fundamental problems in information retrieval."

The article also states,

"Dumais sees plenty of room for improvement, both in how people specify their information needs and how the results of queries are presented to them. If she has her way, a decade from now people will be able to easily locate the information they need and use the results in "context" without even realizing they're searching."

Given the talk of late about how search engines want to know more about you and your behavior (and are getting this information whether you realize it or not), and the demand by searchers for information that pertains to them, in 5 words or less and in under 3 seconds flat, one wonders where all this research will lead.

We're not going to be frustrated forever. Search engines will change they way they deliver and gather information. Says Dumais,

"(A) 5-inch-long rectangle with a long list of text results beneath it doesn't do much to help people make sense of the billions upon billions of unorganized bits of data in the world."


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