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Does History Matter?


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When pursuing complex information needs (e.g., doing genealogical searching, exploring historical archives, planning a vacation, doing a patent search, etc.), people often run multiple queries to discover effective search terms, to break the problem down into sub-tasks, to reflect an evolving understanding of the information need, etc. Such queries often retrieve many of the same documents, but most systems offer no help in understanding this redundancy. In this talk, I will describe Querium, an interactive information seeking system I have been building that helps people make sense of their past interactions, that helps them understand how the current results relate to what has been found before, and thus helps them plan for the future.

These slides are from an invited talk I gave at a NWO-sponsored CATCH meeting by BRIDGE on June 22, 2012 in The Netherlands. For more information on the event, see

NWO: The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research
CATCH: Continuous Access To Cultural Heritage
BRIDGE: Building Rich Links To Enable Television History Research

Published in: Real Estate, Technology
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Does History Matter?

  1. 1. Does history matter? Gene Golovchinsky FX Palo Alto Laboratory, Inc. @HCIR_GeneGThanks to: Tony Dunnigan, Jeremy Pickens, Abdigani Diriye
  2. 2. What this talk is really about Can we use a record of people’s interactions with a search system to aid memory and sense-making?
  3. 3. Hasn’t Google “solved” search?I know what you’re thinking… Do I feel lucky?
  4. 4. Some examples of search tasks Google isn’t very good atPatentability search Archives researchMedical/pharmaceutical Intelligence analysis research Travel planningBusiness analysis Historical researchGenealogical research Academic researcheDiscovery Etc. Why is this?
  5. 5. Exploratory search Interactive Information seeking Anomalous state of knowledge Evolving information need Often recall-oriented
  6. 6. What happens in exploratory search?A person Runs a query Looks at some documents Learns something… and the process continues …but there is a lot of repetition, a lot of redundancy, and a lot of reliance on memory
  7. 7. Overlap as a function of number of queries in a session 0 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16
  8. 8. Questions people might ask of an exploratory search toolWhat queries have I run?What documents have I found?Have I seen this document before?What are the central themes?Was this query effective at finding new information?
  9. 9. How might we answer these?Keep track of queries & documents for a task Structure search in terms of this process metadata
  10. 10. Wait!Doesn’t Google already use machine learning of prior search behavior to improve results? Bing, too!
  11. 11. Google/Bing and historyWeb search engines record clicked-on documentsSystem aggregates clicks, adjusts document rankingsFuture searchers get higher precisionAll searchers get personalization for common queries One key problem:Idiosyncratic information needs do not benefit as much as common ones
  12. 12. A brief history of search history1970s: DIALOG let people combine queries with Boolean operators1990s: Web Browsers keep track of visited documents1990s: Search engines use click-through rates to affect future rankings1997: VOIR (Golovchinsky) shows retrieval histories of documents in a session1998: ARIADNE (Twidale and Nichols) lets people review search activity2000: SearchPad (Bharat) lets people save and revisit queries and documents2005: KonwlegeSea (Ahn et al.) shows prior activity on retrieved documents2008?: annotates results with info from family tree2012: Querium (Golovchinsky et al.) reflects query/document history forexploring search results
  13. 13. DIALOG Dialog Lockheed (1970s)
  14. 14. VOIRGolovchinsky (1997)
  15. 15. Ariadne Ariadne Twidale and Nichols (1998)
  16. 16. SearchPad Bharat (2000)
  17. 17. KnowlegeSea Ahn et al. (2005)
  18. 18.
  19. 19. QueriumGolovchinsky et al. (2012)
  20. 20. QueriumGolovchinsky et al. (2012)
  21. 21. In closing… Memory is uncertain Information needs evolve Queries are approximations Understanding changes Design challenge: Help people planfuture actions by understanding the present in the context of the past
  22. 22. Does this picture look familiar?
  23. 23. Questions?Gene Golovchinsky FXPAL @HCIR_GeneG
  24. 24. Image credits
  25. 25. ReferencesAhn, J.-W., Brusilovsky, P., and Farzan, R. (2005). Investigating users needs and behaviorfor social search. In Proc. of the Workshop on New Technologies for PersonalizedInformation Access (held in conjunction with UM’05), Edinburgh, Scotland, UK; pp. 1-12.Bharat, K. (2000) SearchPad: Explicit Capture of Search Context to Support Web Search. InProc. WWW2000, pp. 493-501.Golovchinsky, G. (1997) Queries? Links? Is there a difference? In Proc. CHI 1997. ACMPress.Golovchinsky, G., Diriye, A., and Dunnigan, T. (2012) The future is in the past: Designingfor exploratory search. To appear in Proc. IIiX2012, Nijmegen, ACM Press.Twidale, M. and Nichols, D. M. (1998) Designing interfaces to support collaboration ininformation retrieval. Interacting with Computers 10(2), pp. 177-193.