Newslet #2 – Google, I want to search WITH you!

No one seems to be raving about the new Personalized Google Search now on trial in the Google Lab. Perhaps if Google and the searcher could work more as an intelligent search team, the search result would be much better. Let’s explore how that might work.

Most search engines try to produce an answer that the human searcher will find relevant. Ideally they attempt to do this keyword search in a single operation. Even with Advanced Search, most search engines require you to specify a number of parameters or filters. Then the search engine produces a single page of results that hopefully satisfy the searcher.

Google now has expanded this notion in its Personalized Search by requiring you to create a Profile before the search. You then have a slider bar, which you can set anywhere from No personalization to Maximum personalization. As you move the slider, you can see how the search results change. Although this increases the complexity of the information you give to Google, the Search still works the same way. Step 1 – you specify your search. Step 2 – Google gives you the answers.

Most of the search engines work the same way. You ask your question: the SE responds. Of course, there is an acknowledgement that you may not get it right straight away. So some SE’s try to give you some additional information to help you loop around again. One very popular one, Teoma, has been giving you suggestions on how you might refine your search and a list of additional resources. A new kid on the block, MooterSearch, shows you a list of clusters for your keyword phrase and you then open up one of the clusters.

However it’s still like a tennis match. You lob the ball, and the SE lobs it back. It’s sometimes difficult to remember quite how you got to the final answer. Hopefully you’re satisfied with it. Normally you will be picking one from a list of references, with some obviously wrong entries in the list. You’re never sure, if you had enough stamina, whether there would have been some additional “good” entries among the Next entries. However life is short!

It’s interesting to compare this with how a librarian helps you when you go into a library. You ask for books on a certain topic. The librarian may well not give you any names of books at that moment. Instead she or he often asks you what exactly you are trying to do. In some cases, there may be an interchange of questions and answers before the librarian and yourself together determine what may be the best book or books.

Perhaps if Google or another search engine tried to work with you like that librarian the results might be better. Let’s call the process, Intelligent Team Search. The aim is to work in a team way with the Search engine. Suppose you had a Control Panel in the lower half of the screen to “drive” the whole process. The Control Panel would allow you to put in some of your own personal parameters, perhaps including regional parameters, your key words, and the type of information you’re looking for. You then click on ‘Go‘. The first time around the SE does not try to serve results but, in a Mooter kind of way, modifies the Control Panel to show some clusters that may be relevant. Like Teoma, it could also add in some ways of refining your search.

You would then click appropriately on the relevant “radio buttons”. This time the SE would deliver back some relevant web pages in the top half of the screen and confirm the current settings in the Control Panel at the bottom of the screen. So you would now “drive” the search process forward for as many loops as it takes. Ideally when the process is finished, you would have say 6 very relevant web pages in the top half of the screen and your Control Panel settings in the lower part of the screen.

This is all much more complicated to describe than it would be to use. Such a process may be the only way to get truly relevant results. So Google, is this a way you want to go? Or must we wait for someone to go with Gooter?

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