Saturday, June 6, 2009

A baker's dozen for Search 2.0

[Re-reading several years later, it's clear that several things have changed.  I'm not going to comment on them specifically since, obviously, this relates to Google's core business.  I would, however, encourage anyone who finds this series interesting to retry the experiment with whatever's currently available.  You should also try the kinds of searches Joe Andrieu mentions in his comment on this post. --D.H. Jan 2016]

As mentioned before, there seem to be a number of next-generation search engines coming out which claim to go beyond merely looking for keywords and delivering up documents. I have no idea how these perform, and the only way to know is to find out. So here are 13 questions, off the top of my head with very little method behind them, which I intend to pose to various engines. I suspect many of them are not really fair questions for search engines, but I could be wrong. Again, that's why we run the experiment.
  1. How much energy does the US consume?
  2. How many cell phones are there in Africa?
  3. When is the next Cal-Stanford game?
  4. When is the next Cal game?
  5. Who starred in 2001?
  6. Who starred in 2001: a Space Odyssey?
  7. Who has covered "Ruby Tuesday"?
  8. What kinds of trees give red fruit?
  9. Who invented the hammock?
  10. Who played with Miles Davis on Kind of Blue?
In these next three, of course, the implicit question is "Which Bangor?" or "Which Paris?"
  1. How far is it from Bangor to Leeds?
  2. How far is it from Bangor to New York?
  3. How far is it from Paris to Dallas?

1 comment:

Joe Andrieu said...

I'm curious to see how your test goes. These are good, semanticly relevant questions.

However, notice that all of your questions have clear, unequivocal answers. In fact, the "searches" are all closed-ended questions.

What about open-ended searches that may not even be questions at all?

Search for a new job.
Search for a new car.
Search for understanding about your child's newly-diagnosed life threatening disease.

I suppose all of those could be transposed into questions, but none of them would be closed form. Not until after a searcher has explored enough of the space to feel they had reasonably exhausted the alternatives would he be satisfied with the results.

Nobody's going to stop a search for a new job just because the first result they found looks amazing. They can't know its the best they can find without further sampling.

I'd like to see how the latest batch of Search tools help with THESE kinds of searches.