I stopped by the Access Innovations/Data Harmony booth (920) and had a great chat about the search industry with CEO Jay Ven Eman and founder and president Marjorie Hlava. The two are giving a postconference taxonomy workshop on switching from a thesaurus to an ontology. Most of the time these two leave me in the dust with these detailed topics, but we had a great chat about their thoughts on the two different aspects of search, based on very different user requirements.
One kind of search is the discovery phase of information seeking. It involves browsing, and some serendipity—rather like browsing in the stacks of a library. For this, on-the-fly clustering of sources can help in the identification of what a user might like. The other kind of search requires precision and consistent retrieval of the information. It’s the stage when users know what they want and have a defined topic area. A hierarchical (taxonomic) view of the information will ensure that users can retrieve the desired content—it’s all about “persistence” of content. Ven Eman estimates that the typical knowledge worker wants precise retrieval about 90 percent of the time, and is in discovery phase only for 10 percent of the time. Users in the general population would likely spend more time in the discovery phase.
There’s been increased interest of late in taxonomies in order to increase search precision. An ideal search system would incorporate the best aspects of both types of searching—plus include the added benefits of social tagging and search log analysis. Interesting food for thought.
News Bureau Chief, ITI