KMW2006 – Making Choices in Enterprise Search

Steven Arnold is a kick 🙂 He came into the room and was just exuding friendliness. He asked people their names and where they were from.

Steve started by offering $1 to each person who asked a question after his talk – much better than the tiny candies I got at IL for asking a question 🙂

I guess you want to know what I learned from Steve – well here we go.

First off, he is no fan of the word findability – he feels that data should be pervasive. He said that people don’t want to search for information – they just want it to be at their finger tips – which I guess is why when people search they only use one or two words in their query. The other problem is that each year search becomes more complex and precision isn’t going anywhere. The challenge to raise precision.

Steve showed us some examples of search engines. He started with Exalead with I wrote about earlier. While Exalead is impressive and offers amazing filtering options – Steve feels it’s too overwhelming for the average searcher – it’s too complicated and too much is going on on the screen. I guess I’m just optimistic in thinking that people would learn to use and when they had they wouldn’t want to use anything without filtering options.

Next, he went over (Microsoft). He said that if you do a search on you’ll get you results faster than you will on Google – but the reason is because the content is all cached on the servers – so you’re not searching live up to date info. He mentioned (and I have no experience with this) that if you use the same search technology in SharePoint it will take forever.

Lastly, Google. Apparently Google is working on way to refine their search results. They did some studies and came up with a much simpler interface – one that I don’t like at all – for filtering results. They will be providing 2 pull down menus above the search results list – so if you search for recipe you’ll get a box with cuisine and one with course – this way you can narrow it down to the type of recipe you’re looking for. This contradicts what I heard last week about web design – which is that users don’t like pull downs. So, where is the data in the pull downs coming from? It’s generated based on search patterns found in the Google databases.

The question is, will this help? My answer is “No” – for the reasons I just stated – If I have to scroll through a pull down menu of filtering options – I ain’t gonna do it – and if I’m not going to do it – who’s to say someone who’s unfamiliar with search technologies is going to use it?

Steve did make one last point that I think you’ll all appreciate – he said not to forget about librarians, they go to school to learn how to find info – use them.

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