Friday, April 16

Battelle interviews on search, Siri highlighted

Gord Hotchkiss from SELand has two interviews with John Battelle on the future of search. You can read Part I and Part II.

One interesting point is the knowledge gap when making a complex decision outside your area of expertise. The problem, as John puts it is:
I don’t even know what I don’t know, and to expect search to tell you what I don’t know is expecting more than search can deliver.
Other than solving that hard problem, the interview discusses the shift towards applications (that sometimes utilize search) to solve tasks. In the interview John highlights Siri. Siri is a digital personal assistant accessed via your iPhone. From their website,
You can ask Siri to find a romantic place for dinner, tell you what’s playing at a local jazz club or get tickets to a movie for Saturday night.
Siri builds on expertise the team gained while working on the DARPA CALO project for SRI,
CALO stands for Cognitive Assistant that Learns and Organizes. The name was inspired by the Latin word calonis, “soldier’s servant,” because DARPA’s goal is to create a cognitive system that can reason, learn, and respond to surprise in order to assist in military situations.
SIRI is at the intersection of IR and agent systems. It moves search towards accomplishing possible tasks in your current context rather than simply returning search results. SIRI looks quite young, so we'll see how the vision develops. You can check out Siri's blog for more information.


  1. Michael B.11:40 AM EDT

    The demo video of Siri looks very neat. I wonder if someone has any personal experiences with it...

  2. "Information retrieval" has always been about accomplishing tasks, even if "search" has not.

    The fact that we've forgotten this means that the web has really set the field back in many ways.

  3. Jeremy - I guess I haven't seen that emphasis on task accomplishment in the traditional IR literature; actions being performed. I've seen the goal being framed as "returning relevant information" to satisfy a user information need. This isn't accomplishing tasks explicitly.

    If anything, I think the web has given task accomplished greater importance. We now have a connected series of systems where actions can be automatically performed: items purchased, reservations made, communications sent. In the pre-web days an IR systems were more often standalone systems, now they exist in a rich online ecosystem with more opportunity for automation.