We’re all drowning in information. Emails, Twitter streams, facebook feeds, corporate databases, blogs, the list goes on. Information is the coin of the realm today, and search engines are the primary tool we have to make sense of it all. But they leave a lot to be desired.
this is today’s search, the infamous “ten blue links”. You punch in your keywords, roll the dice, and hope what you’re looking for is on the first page. if not, you kinda screwed. Try again. search engines are very 1 dimensional today and I’m going to explore how they could be better.
I’m dreaming here in the middle of winter, but what if I wanted to find a beach on cape cod. Google has no concept of “beach”, it just knows the word – so I get a bunch of listings for vacation homes with the word beach. I don’t want a list of URLs, I want a list of BEACHES.
Imagine going to a restaurant with no menu. What are my choices? How do I decide? what does everything cost? That’s what an empty search box on a search engine is like. What if I could have a dialog and explore all my options?
How would that dialog be organized? By context. Context for me is: Time / Task / Location / Identity. Plus a constant chatter of things like news, weather, etc also influencing context.
So this is starting to happen today. Here’s a simple example of a search I ran during the final four. Google recognizes the context – there’s a tournament going – and knows that the word “Duke” has some meaning in that context. If I ran that search today, I’d get a different answer. This is the engine explicitly recognizing & using time as a context.
Search tools are might also use time as an explicit context provided by the user – this is an example from my company’s site – Goby lets you provide a time range, and interprets the query relative to the indexed pages to show you meaningful, relevant content – in this case, Jazz concerts in NyC this coming weekend.
Here is an example of another kind of context- Task. If I know what you a trying to do, I can give you a deeper experience. In this case, as I’m searching for travel destinations, I can get navigational aids that are task-relevant. In this case, I want destinations that are “beachy”, good in August, and within 8 hours of my location. Your father’s oldsmobile – the ten blue links - can’t give you this kind of experience.
Task: find something to do with my kids this weekend.
Identity is the next key element of context – both my personal identity and my network’s identity. Hunch is a new york startup I am a big fan of – creating what they call the personal taste graph – what am I interested in, what do I like, and who are people who share my tastes…. as I use Hunch, it learns more about me, and can do a better job of serving up information.
Google’s social search experiments – when I search for iPad, content from my social network makes it’s way into the search results….. Remember Mike’s picture – we’re going to come back to that….
Milo – they make use of location in two directions – my location as well the things I am interested in – so they can show me digital cameras in stock in stores near me – they also of course make use of task as a context – I’m shopping.
there’s probably trillions of web pages, but there’s not that many “things” a lot of those things have pretty natural “actions” I went & saw robert plant at the house of blues. heard he was on letterman. went to google: Where’s my save to fios button?
explain context creation. then transition to “What’s really going on here?” Blurring of the concept of a search engine Search engines will morph into rich applications Focused on fulfilling needs, not answering keyword queries More like personal assistants Powered by context Time, Task, Location, Identity & Social Network, Weather, News, ….
Further out into the future, Google Goggles & a startup called Layer and others are chasing “augmented reality” – basically an information system overlaid onto the real world….
Siri is a great app, you can ask it to do things for you and it will do things like book a cab. More like personal assistants or lifestyle recommendation engines I don’t know about you but I don’t like wandering around talking to my phone out loud…