A Frank Interview with Gary Flake

Today marks the first of what I hope will become a regular series of Q&A interviews on Searchblog. The format is simple – I send an opening question to the luminary in question via email, they respond, and we go from there. First up is Gary Flake, a veteran…

Gwf-SmallToday marks the first of what I hope will become a regular series of Q&A interviews on Searchblog. The format is simple – I send an opening question to the luminary in question via email, they respond, and we go from there. First up is Gary Flake, a veteran of Overture, Yahoo and now Microsoft’s vaunted research labs (he’s founder and director of the new “Live Labs.”) Gary and I have known each other since I first began work on the book, and he’s always had a refreshingly frank outlook. I expected that to be tempered by a year at the world’s largest (and oft-criticized) software company, but I was wrong. If anything, Gary has become more outspoken. I’ve bolded the really juicy bits, but see for yourself….

You’ve been at Microsoft for nearly a year now. Are you satisfied with the pace of development on the core search product?

Broadly speaking, yes, but there is always room for improvement. We’ve been laying a foundation for the past year, trying to solve the hardest problems first. Frankly, we’ve left some low-lying fruit hanging on the vine, so to speak. On the good side, we have a rock-solid 64-bit backend architecture (probably the only one in the industry) that can scale almost indefinitely on multiple dimensions. Our relevance framework, built with machine learning technology from Microsoft Research, is now picking up steam and is getting close to parity with the competition. We even have some real product differentiation that we’ve just launched with virtual earth maps, search macros, and the image search experience. But to be honest, we pretty much blew it with the GUI for the past year. Why? There’s no good reason, really. The truth is we’ve had so much going on over the past year that it was simply more fun to focus on the core issues first, which is a mistake typical of engineers. I think the whole industry has been in a bit of a rut with respect to the user experience, and we are more guilty than most, but the good news is that there is a lot of room for improvement and we are now in pretty good shape to experiment more.

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Reader Mahlon Writes…

Reader Mahlon Writes…How long before Google does a joint venture (or more) with Amazon to expose their content the same way in exchange for access to their massive customer base and recommendation IP?…

< ![CDATA[Reader Mahlon Writes…How long before Google does a joint venture (or more) with Amazon to expose their content the same way in exchange for access to their massive customer base and recommendation IP?]]>

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The Rebirth of Google Scout

Back in the late 1990s Google launched a feature called Google Scout, which showed you links related to a link you chose on Google. It was a clever use of PageRank, but it never caught on. Well, Google has relaunched the concept, this time as…."related links," and instead of…

Back in the late 1990s Google launched a feature called Google Scout, which showed you links related to a link you chose on Google. It was a clever use of PageRank, but it never caught on. Well, Google has relaunched the concept, this time as….”related links,” and instead of making it a feature on Google’s site, you can put it on your own site. Innaresting.

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The Best of 25 Tech Voices In One Feed

Caveat: Totally self serving FM-related promotion ahead…. If you wished someone would help you edit down the best of the best voices in technology blogs, look no further than Federated/Tech, the "metablog" FM recently launched. Check it out here – editor Bill Brazell reads all our authors' feeds and…

Fm TechCaveat: Totally self serving FM-related promotion ahead….

If you wished someone would help you edit down the best of the best voices in technology blogs, look no further than Federated/Tech, the “metablog” FM recently launched. Check it out here – editor Bill Brazell reads all our authors’ feeds and selects a mix of posts each morning for your perusal. He then updates the site throughout the day. I’ve added its feed to my feedreader, I find it indispensible. Another cool feature is the ability to pick dates to see the front page on any given day, a sort of growing daily archive of what’s up in the technology world (the date picker is on the left, below the fold). Enjoy!

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Old School: Interview With Greg Hartnett of BOTW

What is domain specific search? Well, it's either spidered, or it's human edited. The man behind one of the original human edited directories (Best of the Web) is interviewed here. It's worth the read….

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What is domain specific search? Well, it’s either spidered, or it’s human edited. The man behind one of the original human edited directories (Best of the Web) is interviewed here. It’s worth the read.

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The Last Name Test

Folks who have a blog blessed with lots of link love enjoy the ego boost that comes with entering their own name into Google – in most cases, the result will be that person's blog at the top of the list. Scoble noticed my post about Ask and did…

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Folks who have a blog blessed with lots of link love enjoy the ego boost that comes with entering their own name into Google – in most cases, the result will be that person’s blog at the top of the list. Scoble noticed my post about Ask and did the last name test, and found that Ask failed it, at least for Scoble (mainly because it listed his old blog first, rather than his new one). He also found that MSN did a better job than Google. But this only proves one thing – that it fails it for one person – Scoble. It doesn’t fail for my name, or probably a lot of others. Every name is going to be different. But I think the last name test is flawed – Ask’s ranking is not leveraged as heavily over pure link love. It uses an authority model, along with click pattern technology, to identify the most relevant results. Turns out, for my name, there is arguably a more relevant result – a well known research and development company bearing the same name. It may not be more relevant for *me* – but web search, at present, is still a brute force application. The question is not whether it’s relevant for me alone (though it should be…), the question, at present, is whether it’s most relevant for the *most* people. Thanks to how Ask works, what I’ve learned is that for the query “Battelle,” more people find the institute relevant than my blog. And somehow, that feels just about right.

Update: a minor skirmish is forming.Anonymous combatants are circling this post from all side, I fear for my inbox. Note how Ask manages to find (or not!) a product like Google Finance! Yahoo does a better job! But wait, Ask’s not so great, sez Marissa. Hold on, the feature she bashes gets a lot of usage, an anonymouse Jeeves insider tells me.

I say we put all these folks in a room at Web 2 and have a smackdown. Who’s in?

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And The Search Goes On…A Year of Coverage In One Post

Well, chalk one up for wishful thinking. Back in December I did my annual predictions post, and in it I wrote: I will not write another book, but my publisher will ask me to update the one I did write. I'll point him to this site and leave it…

Book Open-4Well, chalk one up for wishful thinking. Back in December I did my annual predictions post, and in it I wrote:

I will not write another book, but my publisher will ask me to update the one I did write. I’ll point him to this site and leave it at that….

Well, I’m still not writing another book (though I will admit, I miss the process of writing terribly); but a portion of this prediction is coming true: My publisher has asked me to update the book, for the paperback, due out this Fall. However, my flip response of pointing him to the site and leaving it at that was not well received. In other words, I have an Afterward to write, and damn pronto. In true authorial fashion, I’m already very late on it, so I’ll be outlining it early this week, and hope to have a draft quickly.

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