Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Semantic Language Search....

I stumbled upon Powerset while reading a post on the New York Times blog Bits. Naturally I had to check out the Powerset Blog where I was delighted to read posts from Marti Hearst, an associate professor in the School of Information at UC-Berkeley, and Doug Cutrell, a Powerset engineer.

Language has always been fascinating to me, and one of the things that has been frustrating with search engines is having to think through a series of search terms in order to find useful information. I got a crash course in search terms when I worked in online marketing, and after you do it enough, it becomes second nature. You start to wonder what is wrong with people who can't seem to find useful information on the Web. One word searches are out! It's the two, three, sometimes four-word phrases that bring up the results you want. The trick is to find the right combination, or search phrase.

Now working as a communications consultant, language has taken on a different meaning. Writing procedures requires being exact in language, directing the end user through a specific set of steps to achieve a specific end result. A systematic execution, if you will. Search, if you think about it, is random. You have an idea of what you're looking for, and type in words you think apply to the idea and continue doing so until you find useful information. Most people call that trial and error. With practice comes improvement, but in the end, it is still trial and error.

Powerset seems to me to be taking a more systematic execution approach to search, first by removing the guesswork involved and second by appealing to the natural use of language, as in full statements, questions, etc. instead of a random mix of keywords that may or may not produce the desire result.

Makes me wonder if the days of audio search, where I will be dictating a procedure and have to search for something online simply by speaking the phrase or sentence, is closer than originally thought.

No comments: