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December 21, 2010

A New Kind of Search Experience

Qwiki For a while, we've talked about the ways we think enterprise search can - and likely will - improve in the future. We're big fans of conversational search, a search experience currently implemented with facets and 'related links' technologies that draw the user into an interaction with the human... finding becomes an exploration, not a single-shot event.

We've talked to companies that wanted to create search results that look more like a newsletter or a data sheet and less like the output from 'DIR' or 'ls -l'. Well, this week I've been introduced to a new kind of search experience created by Qwiki.

Currently available by invitation only, Qwiki provides information and a search experience that you can watch. The material on Qwiki is machine generated, and then vetted by humans, presumably a team working at - or for - Qwiki.

My guess is Qwiki starts by federating material from trusted public sources.. I'd imagine they start by scraping content on Wikipedia and other useful information sites. They gather images, videos and text, which is read to you by a computer generated voice that sounds much like SAL 9000 in 2010, the sequel to '2001: A Space Odyssey'.

In a nice video from TechCrunch 2010, Doug Imbruce of Qwiki calls the service 'information and experience I can watch'. I think this could end up being an interested enterprise technology as more and more companies build terabytes of HD video content.



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I'm skeptical about this as the wave of the future. The voice summary would be good while driving or otherwise visually engaged, but I can read a lot faster. A lot also depends on the quality of voice synthesis for unusual terms, I'd hate to hear a lot of words mispronounced.

Visually, it's pretty but not exactly brilliant, as I don't need to see Google's logo yet again. The choices of images really matter, if I was looking up biochemistry, I'd hate to see photos of the universities where the labs are, rather than the chemical compounds.

The main question I have is based on the demo: is there any way to navigate and refine the search? For the San Francisco one, I might want maps or tourist attractions rather than political entities; for the Chipmunks one, I might well want the animal rather than the musical group. The strict sequence of the demos makes me wonder.
All good points, Avi - I think it's a good start in alternative ways of presenting search results, more than simply a great search engine - yet, at least. The 'publication' model, where there are a number of related links, is interesting to me and has been requested by a number of folks I know.. Time will tell, i suppose! /Miles

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