Type of Engine: Clustering.
Overall: Good.
If this engine were a drink it would be…an Anderson Valley Oatmeal Stout. It’s thick and sweet but most people won’t ever get to taste it.

Clusty is a new search tool made by Vivisimo. It’s a meta-search engine so all results are provided by other search tools. Its distinction is that it clusters results so that you can refine your query by clicking on a more focused topic.

UI and Features
Right now in Web Search there’s a drop-down menu that allows you to cluster as follows:
Source – by engine.
Topic – the heart of Clusty which is clustering by subject.
URL – sort by .com, .org, etc. Also by country code and occasionally by a particular domain though it seems inconsistent as to when this shows up. This is an interesting feature, but I’m not really sure what to do with it just yet. I suppose if I were doing a search for government documents it might be useful to look only at .gov results.

Other tabs, such as News and Shopping, have different clustering drop-down options. I’ll let you explore each of these on your own.

Not only can you set which tabs are seen, but you can also customize which sources are searched. For example, for News searches you can choose Reuters, BBC, CNN or other news sources. Very nice.

If you click on News, Encyclopedia or Gossip, then Clusty will generate a page with related content on it. This is a helpful feature but the front-page of Clusty should let you know about it.

To see specific recall information for each engine that was searched, click on the Details link above the results.

Icons – in the search results you’ll see the following helpful icons:
New window – opens result in new browser window.
Show in cluster – this highlights which cluster on the left contains the site.
Preview – opens the site within Clusty’s search results page.

Query Examples
The more I played around with Clusty the more I liked it. For example, try searching for tickets to an event. I tried the query Black Rider tickets, as in the Tom Waits play, and thought the clusters were pretty good because it successfully showed me a selection of sites where I could buy tickets to the play.
Clusty currently errs on the side of higher recall for its clusters, so many of the clusters are irrelevant. This can be OK if it leads to discovery, but I think the major area Clusty can improve upon is tightening the relevance of the clusters. For my Black Rider tickets query one of the clusters was Game which meant nothing to me. Another ambiguous cluster was Your tickets ready. Both of these clusters were poorly titled and the results contained within were not very relevant. I know, it’s only one query example and you can’t judge from just one query. But feel safe that I’ve conducted many other queries and most of them have been similar to Black Rider tickets. There have been useful clusters as well as clusters that make you scratch your head.

Clusty clusters on a horizontal plane and that’s what they do well: they surface information which lets you scan the breadth quickly. However, I’d like to see them go a little bit deeper into the categories. I didn’t see any categories below the second level. In other words, you do your search, click on one of the categories, and then can click on more category and that’s all. I certainly don’t want them to get carried away by overloading the depth of categories, but I think a couple more layers would be helpful in some cases.
I really wish they’d chosen a better name. Why would you ever name a search engine something that rhymes with lusty? But nonetheless, they’re on to something here. I think clustering is a powerful tool that can let searchers discover similar topics or refine their queries. In the future I hope clustering engines will combine with human-created web directories.