Tim Bray On Search

Tim Bray has a series on Search:

Backgrounder: “Anyone who uses computers now uses search pretty well every day, so this is an important chunk of our technology spectrum. This piece covers the business and history angles; future instalments will explain how search engines work and the interfaces to them. I plan to conclude with a description of the next search engine, which doesn t exist yet but someone ought to start building.”

The Users: “What most people want is to have a nice simple field into which they will type on average 1.3 words and hit Enter, and have the result come back to them. So anyone whos building search needs to focus almost all their energy on doing an as-good-as-possible job given those 1.3 words and no other inputs.”

Basic Basics: “Heres a tour through the basics of search-engine engineering.”

Precision and Recall: “Recall measures how well a search system finds what you want, and precision measures how well it weeds out what you dont want.”

Intelligence: “Heres the problem: searching for words isnt really what you want to do. Youd like to search for ideas, for concepts, for solutions, for answers. Instead, your typical search engine moronically sorts through its postings, and tries to solve your problems by looking at which words appear where, and how often, and so on. What wed really like is an intelligent search engine. This essay is mostly about why were not likely to get one any time soon.”

Squirmy Words: “A survey of the fuzzy edges of words and their meanings and the (surprisingly moderate) consequences for search systems.”


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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.