I am seeing an interesting not-quite-yet-a-trend on the emergence of collaborative search tools. I am not talking about research tools such as SearchTogether or Coagmento, but of real companies started for the purpose of putting out a search tool that supports explicit collaboration. The two recent entries in this category of which I am aware are SearchTeam and Searcheeze. While they share some similarities, they are actually quite different tools.
Archive for the ‘collaborative search’ Category
We are about to deploy an experimental system for searching through CiteSeer data. The system, Querium, is designed to support collaborative, session-based search. This means that it will keep track of your searches, help you make sense of what you’ve already seen, and help you to collaborate with your colleagues. The short video shown below (recorded on a slightly older version of the system) will give you a hint about what it’s like to use Querium.
We are organizing a third workshop on collaborative information retrieval, this time in conjunction with CIKM 2011. The first workshop, held in conjunction with JCDL 2008, focused on definitional issues, models for collaboration, and use cases. The second workshop, held in conjunction with CSCW2010, explored communication and awareness as related to collaborative search. This third workshop will focus on system building, algorithms, and user interfaces for collaboration.
It’s intern time again! I am looking for someone to help me run an exploratory study of a collaborative, session-based search tool that I’ve been building over the last few months. Session-based search frames information seeking as an on-going activity, consisting of many queries on a particular topic, with searches conducted over the course of hours, days, or even longer. Collaborative search describes how people can coordinate their information-seeking activities in pursuit of a common goal.
The intern for this project will help frame a set of research questions around collaborative, session-based search, and then take the lead on an experiment to gain insight into this rich space and to help understand how to improve our search tool. The intern will also participate in writing up this work for publication at a major conference such as CHI, CSCW, JCDL, etc.
I am pleased to announce that the Special Issue on Collaborative Information Seeking of Information Processing & Management is finally (almost) published. That is, it will be published on paper as the November 2010 issue, but is available online now. Congratulations to all the authors for their hard work and for their patience with the publication process!
I’ve been re-reading a paper by Joho et al. that explored the effectiveness of a number of strategies with respect to collaborative search. The paper finds that
…looking at the top 20 documents in more queries was more effective than looking at the top, say, 100 documents in one fifth the number of queries.
This finding, supported by some of the observations by Vakkari, suggests that encouraging users (working individually or collaboratively) to issue multiple queries, and supporting them in subsequent sense-making activities should improve overall effectiveness of the search process.
Frequently, particularly when searching for work related to possibly novel research ideas I or others at FXPAL have had, it is not easy to determine when to stop searching. This dilemma comes up any time anyone is searching for something we are not sure exists. After doing N searches, and finding nothing, how certain can we be that it isn’t there?
An unusual example of an existence search came up as I was doing background research for my review of N. David Mermin’s book Quantum Computer Science that was recently published in ACM SIGACT News. As part of the review, I wanted to give a sense for the extent that Mermin’s thoughts and writings have influenced scholarly and popular thought on quantum mechanics. I thought I remembered that he was the originator of the “Shut up and calculate” interpretation of quantum mechanics, but I wanted to fact check before putting it in my review. Would this search be a hard or easy one?
The Enterprise Search Summit is taking place right now, and I am sorry to be missing it. The program looks quite interesting, including keynotes by Marti Hearst and Peter Morville, among others. Marti’s talk this morning, related to her recent book on information retrieval, was summarized by Daniel Tunkelang on his blog. While she did touch on topics covered in her book, including some of the collaborative search work done here at FXPAL, she has shifted her focus somewhat to address the more social issues around information seeking. While I don’t the details of her presentation, she did mention similar topics when she participated at a recent panel on search at the WWW2010 conference. The twitter streams from both events capture her “socialize vs. personalize” comments. (Since Twitter search sunsets quickly, here are the TwapperKeeper archives for #ess10 and the www2010 Search Is Dead panel.)
Peter Morville should be an interesting speaker on information retrieval-related topics, some of which he covers in his books Search Patterns and Ambient Findability. I wrote about some of his ideas earlier, but am curious to hear how he is presenting his work.
I hope that both talks are recorded and made available on the web.
Update: Daniel Tunkelang’s summary of Peter Morville’s talk
Yesterday Google announced that their bookmarks can now be shared. So far, so social media. What’s interesting about it is the motivating scenario:
Sharing lists can help you collaborate with your friends on common interests or activities. Let’s say you’re planning a group trip to Paris. With a list, everyone can contribute useful links and resources, such as packing lists, hotel links, flight information and attractions.
The key characteristic that distinguishes this scenario from typical “ask (or mine) your social network” types of search is that here you and your friends have a shared information need, and you are all contributing your efforts and expertise toward that goal. The system doesn’t have to figure out that you all are planning a trip to Paris together — that would be a hard inference to make. Rather, you tell it, explicitly, what you’re doing, and it helps you work on that information need together.
Jeremy scooped me in his recent post where he commented on a recent SXSW panel on social search that included Marc Vermut, Brynn Evans, Max Ventilla, Ash Rust, and Scott Prindle. Jeremy pointed out that in addition to asking for help and embarking on a solitary search, was the possibility (discussed many times on this blog) of embarking on (an exploratory) search together. Searching together, collaboratively, is often appropriate when faced with exploratory (rather than known-item, factiod, or trending topic) information needs. Collaboration works best when information needs are shared, and when the results need to be created rather than merely re-discovered.
In an exchange on Twitter, Brynn pointed out that instances of true collaborative search comprised less than 10% of the instances she and colleagues had recorded in their study of Mechanical Turk respondents. But that argument misses the point.