Stephen Baker

The Boost
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Microsoft search puts us in groups

January 30, 2009Tribes

Search has hit a plateau, according to Microsoft researchers. Figuring out the most relevant Web page based solely on the search query isn't advancing much beyond the state-of-the-art established in the last decade by Google. (And common wisdom is that Microsoft and Yahoo have caught up in quality, if not speed.)

Now Microsoft researchers, according to this story in MIT Technology Review, are attempting to group Internet searchers with others who have similar patterns. The idea is that we search for the same things as members of our behavioral tribe, and that with this added analysis, the search engines will deliver more relevant results. (They're going to present their study at a search gathering in Barcelona next month.)

One challenge will be gathering the data. For their study, researchers used a group of 100 colleagues who had agreed to participate. More details:

The researchers grouped people using explicit factors, such as their age, gender, participation in certain mailing lists, and job function. In some cases, implicit groups--such as people who appeared to be conducting the same task or appeared to have the same interest--were inferred. The researchers acknowledged that gathering such data in the real world could be tricky. But it could perhaps be collected through registration, by caching previous searches or by tapping into social-networking software.

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