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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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.

How to Properly Query a Semantic Search Engine

I have been using Hakia.com when I wax completely wigged out over some info I cannot dig up via Google. Hakia, is a semantic search engine in a Beta phase. I was just reading the blog “over there,” which has an intriguing post on the proper way to test new semantic search engines. The biggest lesson I took was this:

“A proper “test” case must include all possible variations of a query/question as listed in the table below. The column called “sampling” indicates the minimum number of cases to be tested for each variation.”

Table-1: Query Types Sampling
keyword, phrase, sentence, what, where, when, how, why, which, who, is/was/does 11+

from the Hakia blog

hakia.gif

The Next Big

next big   The next big, humongous, large, giant, monstrous, gigantic, monumental…

The current biggest thing around is really Google. But if you read anything about Google’s history, you quickly realize that the company that has come to revolutionize the way we find information on the internet, how we shop, and even think, was literally spawned from the doctoral work of a couple of computer geeks at Stanford. Add a bit of innovation, a heaping cup of hutzpah, and voila! A culture is ignited. However, given the idea that what is on top rarely stays on top, one has to wonder: what’s beyond Google? What academic is out there already ruminating on the how, where, and how much, of the next big search engine? Deep web search trawler?

I’m interested in trying to examine some of the ideas that may be percolating along the periphery of technological research. Right now, and thanks to innovators like Google, significant databases of scholarly papers–ie, Google Scholar–are available, as well as a wealth of information on dynamic sites, like blogs. This is what I’m up to with The Next Big Humongous…