In Search as a Dialogue, Greg says:
For example, let's say I'm trying to find discussions some of the topics covered at Foo Camp. I might start by searching for "foo camp". Not satisfied with those results, I might change it to "foo camp blogs". That doesn't get me what I want. I try "foo camp web feeds". And so on. I'm repeatedly refining my search query, trying to find the information I need.
But current search engines ignore this stream of related queries, this dialogue, instead treating each search as independent. There is an opportunity for techniques that focus explicitly on this kind of refinement process, using all the information to help you find what you need more efficiently and reliably. Personalized search is one of these techniques.
I'm sure we've all had that experience of haphazardly refining a query. It can be frustrating. But what was even more frustrating for me back when I worked on building related search a year and a half ago.
Part of that involved reading search query logs. What I quickly noticed is that you can clearly see when that's happening. While the data was interesting in an academic sense, it was more frustrating than anything else!
Because as a human I usually could tell exactly what someone was looking for by the second or third query. But there were times when it took them far longer than that to find the result they wanted (or they gave up).
Heck, I even see this in the logs for the little search box on the front page of my blog. And I've seen less experienced users fumbling to find something in Google or whatnot, often running half a dozen queries before realizing they might be doing something incorrectly. But at no point does the software really help them.
What this all tells me is that search is a skill but it really shouldn't be. The Microsoft research is shining a light on this fact. Our software needs to work harder to pay attention to and react to what we're doing--especially when we're failing!
If only the search engine could stop after a few tries and say, "hey, I'm guessing that you're looking for something like..." You know, just like any reasonably bright librarian might. (You do remember libraries, don't you?) Yeah, it'd probably freak some people out, but what if it actually was helpful?
Amazon's A9 is an interesting step in evolving search, but it really seems to be going in a different direction. Rather than making search a "lean and mean" operation the way that Google had, A9 is trying to make searching the web a different kind of experience. They're encouraging exploration while also trying to tie in your previous behavior (past queries).
Posted by jzawodn at September 17, 2004 12:44 PM