Greg Notess said something that caught my interest about searchers using more than one search engine. He told a story about how he had an email address but wanted to know the name of the person to whom it belonged. He tried some of those other search engines but got no results. Then he tried Yahoo! and boom, there it was. We’d indexed a comment that the person had made somewhere, and the person had included their name along with their email address, so Notess got the info he needed.
Why is this interesting?
1. Do professional searchers really know that they need to use more than one engine? Really? REALLY? If so…
2. This was the closest I heard any of the speakers get to evaluating core relevancy. I know this particular anecdote was in Yahoo’s favor, but I realize it could just as easily have gone to MSN, Ask or Google. (The other thing Notess did mention was that he thinks MSN’s results are the freshest right now. He didn’t provide any examples.)
The exhibit hall this year was snoozeville. There were no start-ups, no cool technologies being shown off. Just database providers. Don’t get me wrong, database providers are appropriate for this conference, but nonetheless some variety would’ve been nice. And I also know I’m not the target audience for vendors at this conference, but maybe I should be. Why not?
I was glad to see my alma mater, SJSU SLIS , along with the University of Washington Information School had booths. But otherwise I didn’t stop at a single display.
And the food lines were so long and the food disappeared so quickly! At least the beer was cold.
Some photos from the conference
Notes from Chris Sherman regarding social search.
The web itself, as created by Tim Berners-Lee, and early things on the web, like the Yahoo! directory, are examples of social search. Links and directories involve human-recommendation systems. HTML meta-tags were another example, but they lasted all of about 2 months before spammers ruined them and search engines were forced to basically ignore them.
He thinks algorithmic search has plateaued and innovations are few and far between.
He gave a great recommendation for My Web as a resource for team projects because various people can save and access content together.
I also liked his mention that although it doesn’t get much airplay these days, the Yahoo! Directory is still going strong and is growing.
Other topics: on Wikipedia, external links are becoming more pervasive. Popurls.com – a helpful tool. Yahoo! Answers – beginning to rank and filter questions by quality.
Chris Sherman discussed search. Notes:
Ask – increasing R & D budget. Goal of being #2 but with a dedicated following. Think of Apple’s computers.
Google – company ranks top 100 projects using some kind of cool ranking algorithm (not sure on details). 75% of projects are search and advertising-related. 20% are pain-points on the internet. 10% are “blue sky”. Google Books is a project that will teach Google how to read. Think about it.
MSN Live Search – great new features marred by confusing and inconsistent interface. He thinks their image search is the best on the web.
Yahoo! – he thinks Yahoo! is having a lot of internal debates right now about company direction. He thinks Y! has not lost any ground technically, but the company is having some communication issues around what we’re doing. I like the way he expressed this. I think it’s fair. He also pointed out that we have 12 Economics PhDs on staff. I presume they’re in Yahoo! Research Labs.
He also mentioned that search engines (I believe he specifically mentioned Yahoo! and Google, though presumably it applies to all four) take privacy very seriously.
I liked his talk, but wanted him to say something, anything, about core relevance and quality of web search results.
I spent yesterday in Monterey with a thousand internet librarians. I was disappointed with the day. Why?
1. Duplicatation – I attended a few talks about search and there was too much duplication of content in the talks. I don’t blame the speakers for this, I blame the organizers. I agree that Exalead is a respectable search engine, but I don’t need three speakers telling me about them.
2. RSS and blogs – If you’re attending IL 2006 you should know what a blog is. You should know how to find them. You should know how to subscribe to them. Blogs were cutting edge (kinda) in 2004; they were still cool to talk about in 2005; but in 2006 we need to move our conference topics onwards.
3. Crowded – I tried to get into one talk and it was too crowded. That’s disappointing.
4. Keynote – J. A. Jance, a mystery author, gave the keynote. She gave an interesting speech. She discussed her life and some of the troubles she’s faced. She was funny and appropriately serious. But why was it the opening keynote? In 2004 Chris Sherman discussed the state of internet search; last year Lee Rainie of the Pew Internet & American Life Project discussed online demographics. Those are appropriate keynote topics for Internet Librarian. Sarah Houghton has a write-up of the talk itself.
5. My expectations – and lastly, to be fair, I should say that in 2004 and 2005 I loved this conference. Really loved it! (My IL 2005 write up on ysearchblog) I was inspired by it and by the collective excitement of the attendees. Maybe this year, having worked at Yahoo! now for a couple of years, my perspective is different and I’m looking for more in-depth talks about search. I feel a kindredness to the other attendees, but most of them are real-life librarians working in public, academic, and special libraries, and their needs are different from mine.