Ricardo Baeza-Yates gave us Yahoo’s view that they do not believe in black boxes as a way to solve the complexities of search but that its more about what can be learnt from users.
Of course nothing new here but he gave a holistic view about how Yahoo is addressing the different areas of the conundrum.
He talked about combining content with the user’s intent, the critical part of relevancy. Exploiting the wisdom of crowds and the new experiences based on the tools that have emerged in the last few years.
Their challenge is to be online and scalable (not unlike Twitter’s) and to tie all the loose strands of the web together by offering shortcuts to deep links and enhanced results.
People do not want to search, they just want to get things done
He stated the shift from a web of pages to a web of objects. Those objects being people, places dates and organisations, virtually anything with an identity. There was also an acknowledgement that there will be noise and mistakes but with enough data they will get enough accuracy
As he progressed to talk about taxonomies, folksonomies, machine learning techniques and classification and extraction, the themes of IA kept on appearing. Indeed, user experience was very much at the core of his talk although never explicitly outlined as such.
Its very interesting how in a different arena, UX is considered as a given, and an obvious consideration in the design of effective systems. No fanfare, no podiums, just laid out how it is. Its a sobering reminder of how tribal communities can become and how necessary it is to attend events that give a sense of perspective.
Building out an open ecosystem
He continued talking about an open ecosystem encouraging contribution from the audience. Citing Search Monkey as a good case of a collaborative environment.
He highlighted SearchPad (trend detection around search queries), Correlator (associations around topics) and TagExplorer (browse flickr through user’s tags), prototypes that exhibit Yahoo’s thinking.
A worry for the startups showcased at this event is that many of their ideas are being worked on by the big companies who can throw huge resources behind these projects and now work in smart, agile ways. That’s a big challenge for anybody involved with the semantic web if they are not either Google or Yahoo.
In summary it did show Yahoo’s focus on people. If the future technology highlighted here doesn’t fulfill peoples needs and desires then it is a fruitless pursuit. It was good to see Yahoo’s dedication to the user.
Tags: the Next Web 09