Monthly Archives: October 2006

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Advanced? Search

Instead of calling it Advanced Search, search engines should call it something like:

    Simple Search
    Easy Search
    Guided Search
    Helpful Search
    Asissted Search

My point is that most users don’t want to learn advanced query formulation; they try and get away with simple keyword searching in a generic search box. But it’s those users who need the “Advanced” functionality the most. They are the ones who don’t know to use quotes and therefore need a search box called “the exact phrase — “. Calling this Advanced Search intimidates the average user, the very user who needs it the most!

Ms. Dewey

Have you seen Ms. Dewey yet? She’s a human face for search. Far as I can tell it’s MSN’s search results with a twist.

That twist is Ms. Dewey who is played by actress Janina Gavankar. Enter a query and before she gives you the results she’ll make some “clever” remark about your search. Note “clever” is quoted. The remarks tend towards the flirtatious for no reason that I can tell.

Is it useful? Not anymore so than a regular text-based search engine.
Is it memorable? Yeah.
Is it cool that a librarian is the face of search? Damn straight.
Did it crash my browser? Yes.
Is it offensive because she’s an attractive woman? You decide.

What does it all mean? I think it’s a viral campaign to get attention. Good thing I didn’t fall for it.

The Swift-Boating of Yahoo!

Normally I wouldn’t do this, but it’s so unusual to find a rational view of G and Y, that I can’t resist pointing out this article:

The Swift-Boating of Yahoo!

The Drift
October 19, 2006. Issue 14, Volume 1


Today’s simple Internet story line goes like this: Google is the source of all good things in the digital world; the company that can literally do no wrong. Google is the charming politician who people just want to like. One needs only look at Fortune’s recent piece (“Chaos by Design”) to see the celebration in full flower. In the story, Larry Page thanks a manager for her multi-million dollar mistake (“I’m so glad you made this mistake… Because I want to run a company where we are moving too quickly and doing too much, not being too cautious and doing too little. If we don’t have any of these mistakes, we’re just not taking enough risk”) and the business operations guru celebrates chaos as a virtue. With the story framed this way, every product that fades into oblivion (Google Local, Froogle, Google Print, et al) becomes a badge of innovation, every failed business deal a triumph of experience. When objectivity is suspended, failure ceases to exist as a story element.

Unless you’re Yahoo! The other side of today’s simple story line features Yahoo! as the wounded, dancing bear. Gosh they just can’t seem to get anything right! Poor Yahoo! What’s become of them? It’s Yahoo! as Al Gore, circa September 2000. Last week, Saul Hansell of The New York Times played this out in a piece of reportage (“Yahoo!’s Growth Being Eroded by New Rivals”) that accepts and supports virtually every negative assumption about Yahoo!. Hansell notes that Yahoo! “…has suffered some embarrassing setbacks in its sales of both display and Web search advertising.” True that Yahoo! lags well behind Google in terms of both search dollars and the monetization of search results, but last I looked Yahoo! was still the dominant player in online display advertising, raking in a huge share of all the marketing dollars currently invested in the online channel. Slowing growth? Well, that tends to happen when you’ve got a huge market share, doesn’t it? The New York Times article then helpfully points out that “Many advertising industry executives say Yahoo!’s lead in working with big marketers has eroded as other companies have built up popular Web sites, sales operations and advertising technology.” Huh?

To support this new conventional wisdom he quotes David Cohen, senior vice president at Universal McCann, about Yahoo!’s shrinking lead. This is the same Universal McCann that handles advertising for MSN, a big Yahoo! competitor.

Let’s suppose for a minute that Yahoo! — not Google — had done a deal for YouTube last month, as has been widely speculated (but never confirmed… there goes that darned echo chamber again.) How would the business press have reported it? “Yahoo! Does Desperation Deal for Video Site” or “Yahoo! Bets 15% of Cash Reserves to Try to Keep Up with Google.” You see how it works? The same fiscal discipline and considered judgment that put Terry Semel on the cover of Business Week for Yahoo!’s miraculous turnaround is now being portrayed as slow-footed stodginess. Framing is what it’s all about. And today we’re being served up a story that’s been very poorly framed.

Memo to the business press: Take a breath. The truth is that both Google and Yahoo! are really good companies with smart people and some pretty terrific assets. You do a disservice to both — and to your readers — by canonizing one and Swift-Boating the other. They’re also different enough from one another that they don’t need to be cast as hero and villain. Maybe if you do your jobs and read something besides the stock ticker and each other’s stories, you’ll realize the digital future is plenty big enough for two.

Internet Librarian 2006: Greg Notess on using multiple engines

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.)

Internet Librarian 2006: the exhibit hall

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

Internet Librarian 2006 chrisfillius’ Internet Librarian 2006 photoset

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