Blog Author: Gene Golovchinsky

Looking ahead

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It is reasonably well-known that people who examine search results often don’t go past the first few hits, perhaps stopping at the “fold” or at the end of the first page. It’s a habit we’ve acquired due to high-quality results to precision-oriented information needs. Google has trained us well.

But this habit may not always be useful when confronted with uncommon, recall-oriented, information needs. That is, when doing research. Looking only at the top few documents places too much trust in the ranking algorithm. In our SIGIR 2013 paper, we investigated what happens when a light-weight preview mechanism gives searchers a glimpse at the distribution of documents — new, re-retrieved but not seen, and seen — in the query they are about to execute.

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Client-side search

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When we rolled out the CHI 2013 previews site, we got a couple of requests for being able to search the site with keywords. Of course interfaces for search are one of my core research interests, so that request got me thinking. How could we do search on this site? The problem with the conventional approach to search is that it requires some server-side code to do the searching and to return results to the client. This approach wouldn’t work for our simple web site, because from the server’s perspective, our site was static — just a few HTML files, a little bit of JavaScript, and about 600 videos. Using Google to search the site wouldn’t work either, because most of the searchable content is located on two pages, with hundreds of items on each page. So what to do?

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CHI 2013 Video Previews are live!

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CHI 2013 logoYou might remember a while ago, we solicited some examples of videos for the Video Preview program for CHI 2013. Well, it took a while, but the CHI 2013 Video Previews web site is now live.

The Video Previews are a new feature for the CHI Conference series, replacing the long-running CHI Madness daily plenary session to save time in the over-crowded schedule. But really, the Video Previews is more than just a reason to sleep in a little longer: the goal is to make it easier to understand what the presentations are about, before, during, and after the conference.

The previews were intended to serve multiple purposes:

  • To provide a preview of what will be presented at the conference, so that attendees could plan their schedule
  • To be played on-site on large displays throughout the conference venue to give people an idea of what’s coming up next
  • To be distributed to attendees as part of the electronic proceedings on the USB stick, and on the iPhone and Android apps.

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Details, please

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At a PARC Forum a few years ago, I heard Marissa Mayer mention the work they did at Google to pick just the right shade of blue for link anchors to maximize click-through rates. It was an interesting, if somewhat bizarre, finding that shed more light on Google’s cognitive processes than on human ones. I suppose this stuff only really matters when you’re operating at Google scale, but normally the effect, even if statistically-significant, is practically meaningless. But I digress.

I am writing a paper in which I would like to cite this work. Where do I find it? I tried a few obvious searches in the ACM DL and found nothing. I searched in Google Scholar, and I believe I found a book chapter that cited a Guardian article from 2009, which mentioned this work. But that was last night, and today I cannot re-find that book chapter, either by searching or by examining my browsing history. The Guardian article is still open in a tab, so I am pretty sure I didn’t dream up the episode, but it is somewhat disconcerting that I cannot retrace my steps.

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Slow down!

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The prolific Jaime Teevan has decided to blog, as evidenced by the creation of “Slow Searching” a few weeks ago. In a recent post, Jaime wrote about some ways in which Twitter search differed from web search, among which she included monitoring behavior, running “the same query over and over again just to see what is new.” Putting on my Lorite hat for a minute, this seems quite similar (albeit on a different timescale) to the “pre-web” concept of routing or standing queries. At some point, later, Google introduced Alerts, which seemed to be its reinvention of the same concept. And of course tools like TweetDeck make  it much easier to keep up with particular Twitter topics.

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Anonymity

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The skilled adversarial reviewer can find reasons to reject any paper without even reading it. This is considered truly blind reviewing. [Cormode, G.]

Many conferences request that submitted papers be anonymized by removing the authors’ names, tweaking the references, removing mentions of the authors’ organization in the paper, etc. The goal of the double-blind review process is to reduce the bias (positive or negative) that reviewers might have based on their knowledge of who wrote the paper. SIGIR, for example, included the following on their submission page for the 2013 conference:

Anonymity. SIGIR reviewing is double-blind. Therefore, please anonymize your submission. This means that all submissions must contain no information identifying the author(s) or their organization(s): Do not put the author(s) names or affiliation(s) at the start of the paper, anonymize citations to and mentions of your own prior work that are directly related to your present work, and do not include funding or other acknowledgments. For example, if you are using your product that is well known in the domain and you think it will be easy for an expert to identify you or your company, we recommend that you use another name for your product (e.g., MyProduct_ABC, MyCompany_ABC). If your paper is accepted, then you will replace the original name in the final version for the proceedings.

Papers that do not follow the above Style, Language, Anonymity instructions will be rejected without review. [emphasis mine]

And, apparently, in some cases, they followed through on this policy. In my opinion, this is too harsh.

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ACM DL and Open Access

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Today ACM announced a way for authors to pay for publishing open-access papers in the ACM DL. For a mere $1100 per conference paper ($1300 per journal article) for ACM members, authors can grant free access to their publications to anyone who wants it. I am all for open access to academic publications, but I have my doubts about this scheme.

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HCIR 2013 CFP

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It’s that time of the year again, time to solicit your latest and greatest HCIR ideas in written and poster form. We are happy to announce that this year’s Human-Computer Information Retrieval Symposium (HCIR 2013) will be held on October 3 and 4 in Vancouver, BC. Building on last year’s meeting, we will have both short and full papers, as well as plenty of opportunity for discussion and interaction. Short papers will be presented at the poster session, while full papers will be peer-reviewed to first-tier conference standards, will get an regular oral presentation slot and will be archived in the ACM Digital Library, as were last year’s papers. The deadline for submission is June 30th. For more details, please see the CFP.

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HCIR site gets publication page

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Over the past six years of the HCIR series of meetings, we’ve accumulated a number of publications. We’ve had a series of reports about the meetings, papers published in the ACM Digital Library, and an up-coming Special Issue of IP&M. In the run-up to this year’s event (stay tuned!), I decided it might be useful to consolidate these publications in one place. Hence, we now have the HCIR Publications page.

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Ghosts of CHI Madness past

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Gonzalo Ramos and I are the video previews chairs for CHI 2013. Video previews are a new way of promoting and advertising CHI publications before, during, and after the conference.; they will replace the traditional live CHI Madness presentations.

We would like to put together a small set of short videos (approx 30 seconds long) that illustrate best practices in CHI madness presentations.  These videos will be made available to CHI 2013 authors as examples best practices. If you have a video or a timed slide deck that you would be willing to contribute, please let me know.  We will select a few videos, describe key aspects that we think make them appropriate for this purpose, and publish them along other instructions for the authors.

Thanks for your help!