We Will Survive the Linguistic Shift

Keywords or questions: is the difference really that remarkable?

**Keep this in mind: Anyone familiar with the game of Jeopardy knows that an integral part of getting the answer right is the ability to quickly frame it as a question….

A couple of sources I’ve recently read have tried to make a valid argument against any seamless implementation of a semantic or natural language web. An arugument? People are trained to keyword search. I hesitate to consider really the root of their beef–are they saying we won’t make the shift from phrases to questions? That’s the bare bones difference between a keyword (Google-type) search query and a natural language (Hakia, Powerset) search query. Query being the actual thing you type into the search field, the “prompters” intended to stir up the information for which you’re looking.

Okay, I know that journalists and pundits are in the biz of creating talk, the more controversy the better, but an arugment like this–that we’re already patterned to work in a keyword inspired environment, just seems lame to me. It also relegates our species back to that of caveman. Remember the Jeopardy rules…

Steven Pinker, in his brand new book, The Stuff of Thought, argues that even as children we are driven to instinctively emulate simple to complex language patterns even well before we have formal instruction. Linguistic pattern as a right of belonging, as part of our human-ness, is elementary, it is fundamental in our collective DNA.

So, NO, we’ll catch on quickly if and when a natural language engine rises to the top. AND if our businesses rest on it, you better believe the learning curve will be short-lived. I mean look at AdWords….when it first launched only the very maverick web marketers and SEOs took to it–were able to instantly rope and tie it. But now, just a few years later (and, yes, many millions of businesses make their money from it) it’s an absolute essential component in any savvy business strategy. If people can learn: how to build a marketing strategy with AdWords, how to navigate and sell everything on eBay, and shop for anything online, then casting a search query in natural language, framed as a question, seems quite….um, natural.

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True Knowledge: Natural Language Search Engine

Making a natural language search engine for the masses–keep it on the DL.

True Knowledge is an internet search company that has produced as a key product, a new natural language search engine, although they don’t say that. Also missing is “semantic.” I only mention this because it seems to me thattrue knowledge new search True Knowledge and Freebase before it, have put high-level techno terms like these at arm’s length. Maybe it makes them more palatable, maybe it is less intimidating, maybe everyday folks will be a lot more inclined to add such a search engine to their daily search habits if it looks and smells not too unlike another.

Here’s what True Knowledge proposes to do: deliver “direct” and concise answers to natural language queries. For example, TK’s example “is jennifer lopez single?” received a direct “NO” — parsed from the data existing in the SE’s database, plus highlighted results for the natural language query, PLUS ordinary keyword search results in case TK is unable to find the information–“at least you’ll have the results you’d have on any other given day.”

Right now the engine has just launched a private beta version, so it’s anyone’s guess how long it will be before she’s open for business. But if you’d like a preview of the API and the technology behind this newest search engine effort, then take a look at the site. There’s a video introduction that gives about a 7 minute run-down of the features and benefits of True Knowledge.

Ask.com Commercial Challenges Current Search Audience

Less challenge to competitors and more challenge to search audience.

This recent Ask.com TV commercial asks the audience “Does your search engine do this?” Answer: an Ask.com search results page that combines text results with image, video and even music, an assortment of mixed media.

Will messages like this create search users that demand more from search engines?

Semantic Web Has Spawned Trivia

What ever happened to Hexbot?hexbot

Semantic web actually has a growing bunker of trivia tidbits.

In spring 2004 a steady barrage of press releases heralded HexBot as an all around digital life form that was designed to do it all. But what happened to this semantic web prodigy? The domain name has been sold– Hexbot MIA.

Hmmmm. Maybe the demise of the former natural language search engine could have been portended in the word “secratery.” Can’t spell can’t sell the next big thing in search I reckon.