Blog Category: collaborative search

Google Goes Explicitly Collaborative

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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.

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Help isn’t all we need

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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.

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Position papers for Collab Info Seeking workshop


We had a record crop of position papers for the Collaborative Information Seeking (CIS) workshop we’re organizing at CSCW 2010. Underscoring the ubiquity of collaboration in information seeking, the position papers address everything from health care to emergency response to SecondLife to the information seeking ecology within the enterprise. The papers clustered out into several broad categories, although some papers could have been easily classified in more than one way.

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Summer Intern Position in HCIR

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This is one in a series of posts advertising internship positions at FXPAL for the summer of 2010. A listing of all internship positions currently posted is available here.

The focus of Human-Computer Information Retrieval (HCIR) is to help people find and make sense of the information that satisfies their evolving information needs, and to do so with an emphasis on interaction and not just on clever algorithms that attempt to approximate users’ intent. Over the past couple of years, we have developed some novel information retrieval algorithms such as collaborative search. While we have evaluated the work in various ways (e.g., evaluating algorithms offline and testing with people on artificial information needs), we have not tested them on people with real information needs.

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Collaborative Info Seeking, Then and Now

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Collaborative and cooperative aspects of information storage, seeking and retrieval have become a hot topic in recent years e.g. [1,2,4]. The acknowledgment that information seeking is a collaborative activity is part of a trend toward foregrounding the social in system design [5].

We wrote this in the introduction of a SIGGROUP report on a CSCW 1998 workshop on, you guessed it, Collaborative and Co-operative Information Seeking in Digital Information Environments. Plus ça change. The workshop was organized by Elizabeth Churchill, Joe Sullivan, Dave Snowdon and me. It is interesting to go back and read the position papers submitted by Mark Ackerman, Andrew Cohen, Jesus Favela, Mark Ginsburg,  Tom Gross, Timothy Koschmann, Joseph McCarthy, Alan Munro, Kevin Palfreyman,  Volker Paulsen, Alfredo Sanchez, Stefan Scholze, John Thomas, Michael Twidale, Volker Wulf, and Guillermo Zeballos.

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Marti Hearst: Google Tech Talk on Search User Interfaces


Marti Hearst recently gave a talk at Google related to the themes in her book. She does a good job of explaining the challenges and opportunities related to interactive information seeking, including design, evaluation, query reformulation, integrating navigation and search, information visualization as it relates to search, and future trends. While most of this is music to the ears of HCIR types, her discussion of collaborative search (around minute 46) is particularly “relevant:” Marti spends a good deal of time on our paper on collaborative search, describing the various models of collaboration and showing some figures from our paper. The talk is on YouTube, the paper is on the web. Questions and comments are very welcome.

ps: Marti’s mention of Diane “Green” in minute 24 actually refers to Diane Kelly, whose well-received paper on query suggestion was presented at SIGIR 2009.

Preliminary TOC for the IP&M Special Issue on Collaborative Info Seeking

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We are nearing the end of editing the Special Issue of Information Processing & Management, and are proud to announce the papers that will be in the issue. The Special Issue was the result of the 1st collaborative search workshop we organized at JCDL 2008; the next workshop is coming up soon! We had many submissions on a variety of related topics, including field work and other reporting that characterized instances of collaboration in information seeking, evaluation and models of collaborative episodes, and a number of system and algorithm papers.

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2nd CFP: Workshop on collaborative search at CSCW2010


Merrie Morris, Jeremy Pickens and I are organizing a second workshop on collaborative information seeking to be held in conjunction with CSCW2010 on Feb 7, 2010. More details on an earlier post about the workshop, and on the workshop site itself. Look over the position papers from the first workshop (some of which will be published in an IP&M Special Issue soon), and submit one yourself!

Looking forward to lots of good discussion!

Talk at NIST on collaborative search


I am giving a talk today at NIST on collaborative search. Abstract:

In the library sciences, information seeking has long been recognized as a collaborative activity, and recent work has attempted to model group information seeking behavior. Until recently, technological support for group-based information seeking has been limited to collaborative filtering and “social search” applications. In the past two years, however, a new kind of technologically-mediated collaborative search has been demonstrated in systems such as SearchTogether and Cerchiamo. This approach is more closely grounded in the library science interpretation of collaboration: rather than inferring commonality of interest through similarity of queries (social search), the new approach assumes an explicitly-shared information need for a group. This allows the system to focus on mediating the collaboration rather than detecting its presence. In this talk, we describe a model that captures both user behavior and system architecture, describe its relationship to other models of information seeking, and use it to classify existing multi-user search systems. We also describe implications this model has for design and evaluation of new collaborative information seeking systems.


There are references in the slides.

Ode to Google Wave


OK, it’s a sonnet, not an ode, but still. Making Light is one of my favorite blogs, run by science fiction editors Teresa and Patrick Nielsen Hayden; it has a rich subject range and a great community of commenters. I also enjoy its commenters’ tendency to break into verse at the least provocation. Google Wave (which Jeremy discussed here) was the topic of a recent post titled “Panhandling for invites” in which Abi Sutherland offers this delight:

The sea has depths in which no net is cast,
With trackless kelpine forests where great squid,
Like Sasquatch in his mountains safely hid,
Dance dreaming with the fishes swimming past.
And human interaction is the same.
Beneath an email surface lies the deep:
Unmodeled work and social patterns creep
And spread in ways existing tools don’t frame.

Go here to see the whole sonnet.