Interesting 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.