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Ramesh Jain: The Search Steering Wheel

By - September 22, 2004

jainInteresting interview with Ramesh Jain in the ICM journal Ubiquity came across my desk. In it he refers to the idea of a “steering wheel” for search – he longs for another mechanism by which he can control his searching and finding. This is consistent with the emerging meme of new search interfaces that I’ve pinged on A9 and MyJeeves. Jain is professor of computer science at the Georgia Institute of Technology and founder of Virage, among other companies.

JAIN: Current search engines like Google do not give me a “steering wheel” for searching the Internet (the term steering wheel was used by William Woods in one of his articles). The search engines get faster and faster, but they’re not giving me any control mechanism. The only control mechanism, which is also a stateless control mechanism, asks the searcher to put in keywords, and if I put in keywords I get this huge monstrous list. I have no idea how to refine this list. The only way is to come up with a completely new keyword list. I also don’t know what to do with the 8 million results that Google threw at me. So when I am trying to come up with those keywords, I don’t know really where I am. That means I cannot control that list very easily because I don’t have a holistic picture of that list. That’s very important. When I get these results, how do I get some kind of holistic representation of what these results are, how they are distributed among different dimensions.

UBIQUITY: What would that kind of holistic representation be like?

JAIN: Two common dimensions that I find very useful in many general applications are time and space. If I can be shown how the items are distributed in time and space, I can start controlling what I want to see over this time period or what I want to see in that space.

(Thanks, Vuk.)

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6 thoughts on “Ramesh Jain: The Search Steering Wheel

  1. What about the personalization slider in Google’s Personalized Web Search? Seems like that’s getting there.

  2. Ken Norton says:

    I thought you already posted about a steering wheel for search a few days ago:

  3. My God! What a great comment! You are so right! Those visionaries at RAND, my hat is off to them. We DO need a steering wheel for navigating information.

  4. ID:entity says:

    Well it certainly works on the ipod, and makes me think solutions like vivisimo are a new wave of front end solutions to the backend index problems.

    Combine Google + Vivisimo + flash + a touch pad….getting very close.

  5. Dirk says:

    What does he mean by ‘space’? A 3D map of the world with the URLs on it?

  6. Jonathan says:

    “I have no idea how to refine this list.”

    Er – following the advanced search link might be one way.

    Seriously, I respect his wish to see results delineated by time and space, but who’s to say anyone else wants to see them like that? What he means by “space” seems rather opaque to me as well.

    This is an issue I have with all these data visualisation musings you read. They all seem to be catering for very specialist, or individual, needs. Give me my share portfolio as a herd of wildebeest so I can see which ones to cull – great idea. But applying that to another form of data might be a complete non starter.

    The way I see it, the key is to examine information retrieval from the point of view of end use and allow people choice. He can have his time and space thing. But I like my stack of a million hits (refined a bit by date, or some Boolean criteria) just fine, thanks.