Ask Jeeves Introduces Zoom and Web Answers

Ask Jeeves Investor Relations: “Ask Jeeves Introduces Zoom and Web Answers”

I’ve been playing around with both of these for about an hour this afternoon trying to get a feel for how and if these work.

Zoom (subtitled Concept Navigation) “offers suggestions to narrow and refine your search (“zooming in”), or expand your search (“zooming out”) to explore new ideas.” The Zoom suggestions should appear on the right hand side of your results page. I found that if you carry out a fairly precise search such as my ‘gin vodka sales UK’ test search, nothing appears in the Zoom section. A search on ‘climate change’, though, suggests that I might like to narrow my search to global warming, global warming causes, global warming impact etc. Alternatively, it suggests I could expand my search using strategies such as Kyoto Protocol, Ice Age theory.

The new Web Answers claims to extend “Ask Jeeves’ direct-answering abilities by mining unstructured data in real time.” This part of Ask Jeeves is apparently triggered by questions, phrases or keywords for example “how….”. “what…..”. I tried what I thought was a straightforward question – how fast can a hippopotamus swim?

It did not help that the top five results were sponsored web results for swimwear and swimsuits at M&S (Marks and Spencers – a UK based retailer). 10 minutes later and when I had stopped laughing I found that none of the “real” links gave me an answer and the Zoom option to narrow my search suggested two queries: how many bones does a hippopotamus have and how fast can a hippopotamus run. Wikipedia comes up with a possible and credible answer straight away.

“Why is the grass green”, a test search suggested to me by Neil Infield, did not do much better until I had worked through two levels of the Zoom searches. The first results were offering me lawn care services, grass seed and astro turf.

In conclusion, I found Zoom to be a useful additional tool. If it does not appear next to your results list then that suggests you are already running quite a precise search. As for Web Answers – pass me that hippo sized swimsuit, I’ve obviously had too many gin and vodka cocktails:-)

Yahoo! Mindset

Yahoo! Mindset: “View Yahoo! Search results sorted according to whether they are more commercial or more informational (i.e., from academic, non-commercial, or research-oriented sources).”

I really like this one! Type in your search and Yahoo! Mindset gives you the first 10 results with a slider bar at the top of the page. At one end of the bar is “shopping” and at the other “researching”. You start off in the middle and can slide the bar in either direction to change the emphasis.

A test search on ‘gin vodka sales UK’ actually came up with a good result at number 1 with the slider in the middle – the Gin and Vodka Association (yes, there really is one and the site has some good statistics!). Moving the slider towards ‘researching’ started to move the Gin & Vodka Association down the list but brought in equally interesting data I might otherwise have missed. As expected, moving the slider towards ‘shopping’ brought up sites selling gin and/or vodka, books on Amazon telling me how to make gin and vodka cocktails and a site with the wonderful name of Dinky Drinks!

More research orientated strategies such as ‘climate change’ and ‘hubbert peak oil’ were not as varied and the shopping side was more about books on the subject. What they did highlight, though, was that shifting the bar in either direction significantly altered the results that appeared in the top 10 and presented pages that one might not have normally seen.

Highly recommended.

Google Print

Google Print

At last Google Print has its own search screen. It took long enough! Previously, you had to use the standard search screen and use the strategy ‘books about…’ whatever you were interested in and even then it only displayed three titles.

Final version of MSN Desktop Search launched

Final version of MSN Desktop Search launched

Microsoft have launched the final version of their Desktop Search. Although it now supports over 200 file types the email search is still limited to Outlook and Outlook Express, and there is no direct support Open Office or Star Office documents. They claim, though, that they will allow developers to create plug-ins for the toolbar that will search other file types.

Dogpile Missing Pieces

Dogpile Missing Pieces

A neat little tool from meta search tool Dogpile that compares the top 10 results from Google, Yahoo and Ask Jeeves. The graphic shows how many results are in only 1, 2 or in all 3 search engines for a particular search and includes sponsored links from the top of the pages.

Dogpile have also produced a white paper (PDF format) on the subject entitled Missing Pieces: A Study of First Page Web Search Engine Results Overlap. The findings are no great surprise to many of us but it is always useful to have our experiences confirmed by experimental data. I find that the degree of overlap varies with the search: sometimes it can be as low as 2-3% in the first 100 results whilst on other occasions it can be as high as 90%. If you want to compare a wider range of search tools and their top 100 results try Thumbshots Ranking.

RBA Training Courses, Workshops & Presentations

RBA Training Courses, Workshops & Presentations
An update schedule of my presentations and workshops has been uploaded onto my web site. I am giving various presentation on search strategies and technologies at Inforum in Prague and then at the WebSearch Academy in Paris on June 1st-2nd.

Back in the UK, I am running workshops on Business Information at Manchester Business School and then at TFPL in London. Details are on the organizers’ respective web sites.

I gather that the Manchester course has been mentioned in The Times (there is a link to the article from the MBS page). The article claims that Dominic Broadhurst, head of the business information services, said “You learn how to go directly to the quality information. It is a business course so it is not about finding the best chat rooms, but we do try to make it fun. Fun?! We’ll have to put a stop to that 🙂

UW E-Business Institute Benchmark Study of Desktop Search Tools

UW E-Business Institute Benchmark Study of Desktop Search Tools

A useful 15 page PDF report comparing the performance of the major desktop search tools.

“… In an effort to help understand the differences between the latest desktop search tools on the market, the UW E-Business Consortium recently conducted a benchmark study of 12 popular desktop search tools. The benchmark criteria that were used for the evaluation included usability, versatility, accuracy, efficiency, security, and enterprise readiness.”

Apart from switching the top two positions, I agree with their final ranking. They have Copernic in the number 1 slot and Yahoo at number 2. I prefer Yahoo because of the wide range of file formats it supports but would agree that Copernic’s dynamic indexing, which means that it detects new and updated files on the fly, is a big plus.