Search and Clustering
Alex Iskold writes about Clusty and its search clustering technology. He starts by discussing what is perfect search.
It is interesting to ask: What do we expect when we enter a term into a search box? Ideally, we’d like to get the perfect answer right away. Often, we have an idea what that perfect answer should be, and when computer does not get it for us we are disappointed. But are we being reasonable? Can we expect the “perfect” answer all the time?
Consider for example, our interactions with an Information clerk at the mall. When we ask for a location of a store, she may or may not give us the “perfect” answer. She might not know where this store is, she might not understand us or we may not understand what she said. So for many reasons we may not get the “perfect” answer right away.
What is qualitatively different between our experience with the Information clerk vs. a search engine is that with the clerk we have a dialog. When she does not understand what we asked, she has a chance, to say Excuse me, what do you mean?. Google does not do that, it just gives us the results. If we do not like the answer we have to start from scratch.
The problem is that human interactions are fundamentally iterative, while our interactions with computers are mostly stateless. Perhaps we could get to the perfect search results if we could have a dialog with the computer? Clustering technologies, particularly the one offered by Clusty, give computer a chance to clarify: Excuse me, when you searched for Alex Iskold, did you mean to look for Read/Write Web or AdaptiveBlue or perhaps you where looking for static analysis tools that Alex worked on while at IBM?.