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November 06, 2009

Relevance by, for, and of the people...

Have you ever found yourself browsing a search result list, clicked on a result with a promising teaser, and been frustrated that the document didn't live up to its summary? Me too... you mutter 'this search sucks' to yourself, click the browser's Back link, and browse the result list again, hoping for a better result.

It seems the obsession with 'social search' has lead a few of the best known search companies to tie click popularity back into the base relevance engine. Google recently announced  Self-Learning Scorer as a new part of its latest Google Search Appliance update; and Microsoft announced similar interactive behavior ranking capability in both SharePoint and FAST ESP search - Behavioral Adaptation, one engineered called it.

Color us skeptical. We like the concept of click popularity, but we prefer to see it linked with a 'thumbs-up/thumbs-down' feedback mechanism. If people like the document they see, they won't bother telling you what a great job you did; but trust us, if it's not what they wanted, they will spend the extra few seconds to enter a negative vote. We've not been able to find out the details of the Google feature; Microsoft tells us that the recommendations have a 'time to live' of 30 days, so at least there's hope that crummy documents with great summaries won't fill the top spots of your search result lists.

What do you think?



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Search has become utterly corrupted.

I can't trust any of the search results to deliver me the best results. Paid placement has completely ruined the ability to actually find valuable content on the deep web.

And it is because of paid placement that the big search engines will never allow user ranking.

Something must change. It is time for someone to put up Solr or Jumper2.0 on the web in a way that actually attempts to compete with Google and Bing!!!
Will, it does seem that the public search engines have all followed Google's 'pay for placement' model.. heck, even eCommerce sites are probably showing you not the best product that meets your specifications - rather, they show the one that meets your specs and has, for them, the highest profit margin that is 'in stock'. Still, I think that if you're aware of what's going on, you're halfway there.

The worst thing that happens to me is that I enter a term, see an interesting link and summary, click on it and the resulting page says ...

"You searched for " and a lot of unrelated content"

or ...

"I saw you came from google and you searched for XXX" and then a lot of unrelated content

It just makes me really angry when I get to a page that doesn't have anything I am searching for and it's only a placeholder. I don't know if that works for them, I don't even browse the site, I hit on the back button really fast and try to find a good result.

Granted, Google has improved and lately I haven't been getting a lot of those, but still enough to be annoying. When I browse google logged in, I have the wiki options, and I DO click on "remove" so I don't see that on my search results anymore.

But usually If I find a really good link at, say, position 20 (if I every get to that one) I don't do the opposite and get the link to the top.

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