Wired News wrote recently about a set of visualisation tools which can help refine search results, starting with the premise that “as wonderful as Internet search engines are, they have a pretty big flaw. They often deliver too much information, and a lot of it isn’t quite what we’re looking for. Who really bothers to read the dozens of pages of results that Google generates?” which creates an opportunity for “software now emerging analyzes search results and automatically sorts them into categories that, at a glance, present far more information than the typical textual list.”
Vivisimo sells its technology to companies and intelligence agencies, and offers free at Web searches. Co-founder Valdes-Perez describes his company this way: If the Internet is a giant bookstore in which all the books are piled randomly on the floor, then Vivisimo is like a superfast librarian who can instantly arrange the titles on shelves in a way that makes sense.
Consider it a 21st century Dewey Decimal System designed to fight information overload. But unlike libraries, Vivisimo doesn’t use predefined categories. Its software determines them on the fly, depending on the search results. The filing is done through a combination of linguistic and statistical analysis, a method that even works with other languages.
A similar process powers Grokker, a downloadable program that not only sorts search results into categories but also “maps” the results in a holistic way, showing each category as a colorful circle. Within each circle, subcategories appear as more circles that can be clicked on and zoomed in on.
Groxis, the 15-person company that introduced Grokker last year and released an upgraded, $50 second version in December, is not out to replace Google. Grokker is not in itself a search engine — it only analyzes and illustrates search engines’ results.
Another visualization possibility is offered by TouchGraph, which has a Google plug-in that shows links as an interconnected web, an appropriate image for the World Wide Web.
Search needs some innovations – I’ll be writing about it in a future Tech Talk series.