Blog Archive: 2009

Call center collaboration


In their JCDL 2009 paper titled “Cost and Benefit Analysis of Mediated Enterprise SearchWu et al. described a cost-benefit analysis of call center activity. The goal was to understand when an experts should help “consultants” who are handling phone calls from customers. The idea was that experts could make improvements in search results of queries run by consultants by identifying useful documents; the challenge is to make effective use of the more expensive experts’ time.

This seems like a great opportunity to implement a collaborative search interface that would mediate the collaboration between the people handling the phone calls and the technical experts. In addition to screen sharing (to help the expert understand the problem), the system might provide the expert with additional tools to facilitate searches and to reuse previously-found results.

Expanding query expansion

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Looks like I missed a good paper at JCDL 2009: A Polyrepresentational Approach to Interactive Query Expansion by Diriye, Blandford and Tombros. As with many good ideas, this paper describes an approach that is obviously useful once described, but one I had not come across before.

Manual query expansion can be useful when relevance feedback fails because it doesn’t know why a person found a document relevant, but people are often reluctant to use the suggestions offered by information seeking systems. This paper offers a new twist on these recommended terms: When suggesting query terms for expanding a user’s queries, they show terms with some representation of the context in which they occur. Evaluation showed that this contextual information allowed users to understand query terms better, and that it improved their ability to make relevance judgments with respect to documents that contained the suggested terms.

In Cerchiamo, we offered users term suggestions based on relevance judgments made by search partners. While the suggested terms were useful for identifying other relevant documents, they weren’t always used. It’s likely that term recommendation in collaborative search situations would benefit from these techniques even more than in the standalone search because in the collaborative search case term recommendations may be based on documents that a searcher has never seen.

Tweeting at JCDL

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I attended JCDL 2009 this week, and had the opportunity to do some live tweeting of several papers and panel sessions. It was an interesting experience that I thought was worth summarizing here. Overall, it was difficult to get the messages right, it was a challenge to listen and type at the same time, the 140 character constraint was an issue some of the time, and my tweeting had a couple of effects on my Twitter network. And of course there is the question of utility of this endeavor.

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Exploring exploratory search

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Bill Kules and Robert Capra have an interesting poster at JCDL 2009. “Designing Exploratory Search Tasks for User Studies of Information Seeking Support Systems” describes a study that evaluated an algorithm for determining whether a search task makes a good exploratory or known-item search candidate. They evaluated their approach by having 18 study participants run candidate queries (four exploratory and two known-item). After performing the specified searches, participants answered the questions about

  1. Familiarity with the topic
  2. Topic difficulty
  3. Their confidence that the task was fulfilled
  4. The degree to which answering the question required finding multiple documents
  5. The extent that the person’s understanding of the topic changed during the session

The study reported the following significant differences between the two conditions: People said that they found exploratory tasks more difficult, they had lower confidence that the task was fulfilled, they had to find multiple documents to fulfill the request, and their goals changed during the search session.

This is a nice summary of the distinctions between exploratory search and known-item or navigational searches, and underscores the need to build interfaces that support the differences among these tasks.

Update:  The poster one page description is now online, as is the poster handout.

What do ABBA, the Wikipedia, picture books, Indian villages, and exploratory search have in common?


On June 18th, I am chairing the morning papers session at JCDL 2009. The session includes three full and to short papers covering a wide and interesting swath of research. The first two look at how content is tagged and created, the second two describe experiences around designing for mobile access to digital libraries, and the last paper presents empirical results of a study of a faceted search interface for exploratory search.

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Google as Library Redux

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Google claims to want to organize all the world’s information, a role that at least in some part has traditionally been filled by Libraries. Thus it was with some interest that I saw an announcement that there will be a panel  discussion at JCDL 2009, “Google as Library – Redux,” featuring Michael Lesk, Clifford Lynch, and Gretchen Hoffman.

This is surely likely to be a contentious topic, and one that would benefit from contributions of those who may not be able to make it to the conference. Thus the organizers have created a form to collect questions and comments to pose to the panelists.

Please post your questions! Alternatively, please feel free to add them as comments on this post, and I will forward them to the organizers (with or without attribution — your choice!). After the conference, I will summarize the discussion and highlight the interesting bits.

JCDL 2009 and Second Life

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The ACM/IEEE Joint Conference on Digital Libraries (JCDL)  2009 program is up. The conference will take place June 15-19 in Austin, TX.  It looks to be a good conference, featuring two keynote speakers:  Christine Borgman, Professor & Presidential Chair in Information Studies at UCLA and Gerhard Fischer, Director of the Center for Lifelong Learning and Design and a professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

There is a new wrinkle to the Poster Session: In addition to the physical posters at the conference site, there will be a parallel Second Life session  that will allow remote participation from those who were not able to make it to the conference. Once the (virtual) poster selection is finalized, instructions on how to get to it through Second Life will be posted on the conference web site (and echoed here).