Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Intention Deficit Disorder

If you are a regular reader of the DBE Blog, you have seen our coverage on how Google is constantly trying to improve the search user experience. Deepa’s most recent post covered how Google is using your IP address and recent search history to customize the results it provides. These techniques, along with the previously covered universal search and personalized search, are Google’s attempts at using data it has captured (wittingly or unwittingly) to infer/divine your search “intentions” so as to deliver more relevant search results.

Deepa’s example of a “previous query” application by Google is a good one. If you first search “Chicago” and then follow that with “hotels”, Google might now automatically assume you are looking for “Chicago hotels” and provide search results accordingly by default. I say “might” because Google doesn’t always apply the previous query modification but when it does, if that was not your intention, you have to tell Google to ignore previous searches and redo the search to get the results you wanted in the first place.

Is it me, or do others cringe at the idea of an assuming algorithm? Or should I say presuming algorithm? Does Google really think it’s better to automatically generate an interpretation of my intention because I must be too stupid or lazy to string a two-word query myself?

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the power of the algorithm to deliver relevant results based on my intention as expressed through my keyword queries. And when Google asks did I really mean something else when I mistyped the keyword, I say, “Thank you.” But assuming I really meant something else when I correctly type the keyword(s) I want to search, I say, “No thank you.”

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