A bit over a week ago, John Battelle asked his readers to describe the Perfect Search. I didn't have a chance to respond when I first read his request, but knew what I wanted to say. It just took me a little time to find what I was looking for (yeah, I see the irony in that).
Back in college I took a class called "Computers and Society." It was offered as Sociology 320 and taught by one of my favorite professors: Dr. Jerry Wicks. He was one of those guys who was several years ahead of nearly every other instructor on campus when it came to technology. But that's a topic for another post, really.
In class one day, he showed us a video that was produced by Apple Computer. The idea was to depict a possible future of computing 10 or 20 years in the future. I eventually found the video of Apple's Knowledge Navigator (14MB Quicktime), thanks to a post nearly a year ago from Jon Udell. The video quality is poor, but it's the only complete copy I could locate. Others were better but contained only fragments of the original.
It's interesting to note that Jon first saw that in
1998 1988 and I first saw it in 1994.
Anyway, the video illustrates things quite well.
To me, asking for the perfect search is a little like asking what the perfect job would be. I'd rather not need a job in the first place! And I'd rather have a high bandwidth link right to my brain, so I can just "remember" things.
But if we must search, I believe it should be a very natural and conversational thing--much like what you see in the video. Notice how the query refinement in the video is like talking to a friend that also happens to be a kick ass librarian or a research assitant? That "search engine" talks back and it works quite well.
Of course, that's all a made up fantasy from the mid 90s. But I think it's one worth going after.
So to answer John's original question: Just ask Apple about the Perfect Search. Someone there had it figured out at least 10 years ago.
Posted by jzawodn at September 18, 2004 08:54 PM