Search Technology

Welcome back + MSN Enterprise Search
13 January 2006 in Blogging & Search Technology | Comments (0)

I’ve been meaning to post some more entries now I’m back from Holiday however I was promptly shipped off to Christchurch for several weeks and don’t have the normal tools I use to post (I’m not a fan of web editing). Any .Net folks in Christchurch who subscribe to my blog want to catch up for a drink?

Anyway, small update:

There is a new build of MSN Enterprise Search out that resolves issues relating to email not being completely indexed properly.

I only post this as some people reading my blog may have installed MSN Enterprise search.

Get the update here: MSN Enterprise Search Update

- JD

Windows Desktop Search for Enterprise
1 December 2005 in Search Technology | Comments (2)

A couple of weeks ago Microsoft released the first version of their Windows Desktop Search (WDS) product tailored for the Enterprise. The feature that most impressed me was the ability to integrate your intranet search results with the desktop search results (their example being SharePoint – which we use for our intranet). Today I finally took some time to download it and give it a spin.

A small heads up
Microsoft have a product called MSN Desktop Search. This was their first release of their desktop search product. It is aimed at the normal desktop user, it doesn’t allow any central administration or intranet search options. Microsoft then released their Enterprise version as Windows Desktop Search (note it’s now “Windows”, not “MSN”). It’s all a bit confusing, but essentially they’re the same thing. For the sake of this entry I’m going to refer to both products as Windows Desktop Search since they’re essentially the same core product. Now back to the entry.

There are several parts you need to download to setup WDS for the enterprise:

  • The desktop search application
  • .ADM file for group policy
  • Instructions file on how to configure the enterprise features

So I took a few moments to download it all and apply the ADM file to get access to the extra settings. You don’t need this to be applied but without it I couldn’t use the intranet search features which is what I really wanted to see. When I realised that setting the intranet search simply meant setting a url with a query passed in I started to think it might not be true integration of intranet search. Unfortunately once I had it all sorted it became evident that I wasn’t going to get the nice integrated result set that I was looking for.

What you get with the “Integrated Intranet Search” is another search button:

When you click on this it simple launches the search results page off your intranet. It is a step in the right direction to consolidate the location of your search query, but really isn’t what I would call intranet integration. What it should be doing is realise that I’m using SharePoint – another Microsoft product – and simply hit the search behind the scenes and integrate the results into the primary result set. That would be a heck of a lot cooler – not to mention useful (I’m not saying it shouldn’t work with products not from Microsoft, but they should do it better and perhaps provide a connector API for third party intranet search products to release their own add-ins).

There are more settings available targeting enterprise users which I haven’t touched on here, if I find anything particularly compelling I’ll post it.

The nice thing is that Microsoft have done really well with this tool and it would be great to see them maintain the track record of this product and push the boundaries even further. I don’t quite feel like it offers enough to be compelling to the enterprise – yet.

– JD

Yahoo Mindset
30 November 2005 in Search Technology | Comments (0)

Yahoo Mindset Beta Logo

Originally search engines were all about recall – the number of results that got returned for a query. That was fine, but you often didn’t get results you were actually looking for.

Then some chaps from Stanford brought us the wonder of Google – both great recall and pretty good precision (relevance).

The next big area in search will be context sensitive searches.

Context sensitive search means taking into account what you mean with your search. An example that I used recently was if I search on Google for “All Blacks”. Google has no idea if I want to find the All Black website, buy All Black shirts, find the score to the last game, become and All Black etc. It has no context surrounding my search.

I was pleased to see that Yahoo have started investigating this area (I’m sure they all are but Yahoo appears to be the only one with anything publically visible in this domain). They have a beta search called Yahoo Mindset. It’s quite cool – at the moment it’s targeted at allowing you to select a variance between online shopping and academic research in the results displayed.

Yahoo Mindset Slider

It’s very cool – Yahoo have adopted AJAX for this search engine so as you adjust the slider the results automatically reorder themselves based on the context in which you’re searching. I haven’t done too much searching with it yet so I can’t say much on how accurate it is once the context is applied. I’m really hanging out to see them move forward with this – perhaps several contextual sliders, some intelligence around what context types are available for the type of search done (for example, in a specialised area like Apple Computers, to get a slider of “hardware” and “software” would be great).

It’s evident that the data is still being analysed for this new search – when I did a search on C# I was informed that they were currently analysing this search and to retry in a few moments to get more results. It’s very cool to see that sort of transparency in what is going on.

- JD

Twilight Presentation: Improving Search
24 November 2005 in Intergen & Search Technology | Comments (0)

Last night I delivered a presentation to various Intergen clients about how to improve search both on their websites and their positions on global search engines.

There was a really good turn out of people coming to see what we had to say and I hope that I provided enough detail to get people thinking about their own situations. The detail given in the presentation is reasonably high level and probably won’t appeal to the hardcore geek out there. If anyone is looking for any more detail about a certain area of search or would just like some ideas about how you might go about improving your own search then I would love to hear from you.

To download the presentation click here

- JD

Google Analytics
23 November 2005 in Search Technology | Comments (0)

Google Analytics

So Google Analytics has finally kicked in and given me some reporting goodness. I thought I’d post a wee bit more about it.

The first thing I found interesting was the geo-tracking. What I’m impressed with is that somehow (if you know how let me know!) Google manages to define the difference between a person browsing my blog from Wellington and somebody browsing from Raumati Beach. I like the idea of being able to track things like loyalty and networks through an application that is not only free but so very slick.

You’ve got exporting options (tab seperated, xml, excel), overview reports and much more. For anybody that is serious about analysing the performance of their website then this is a great tool. Looking at all the options relating to the ad-words functionality it would be absolutely imperitive that you use Google Analytics to ensure you’re tracking as well as you could be in terms of revenue per visitor.

I’ll be presenting this evening at an Intergen Twilight Seminar on improving search (both within your website, and how to improve your global rankings) and this isn’t a tool that I’ll be demonstrating (time constraints) but it should certainly be part of any web masters toolbox.

Link: Google Analytics

– JD

Google Analytics + Sitemaps
22 November 2005 in Search Technology | Comments (0)

Recently I’ve been plugging in the free tools from Google.

First off, Google SiteMaps. Using SiteMaps I can…

  • Tell Google what pages are in my site
  • Rank pages within my site on how important I think they are
  • See details on what Google has given me for a PageRank
  • See what searches people use which brings up my site
  • See what searches people use when they actually click the link
  • Ping Google when I make changes to certain pages
  • Tell Google how often to recheck certain pages (homepage, comments, static pages etc.)

It doesn’t look as polished as Google Analytics but the information and functionality you gain from using Google SiteMaps is great. As a side note, if you’re using WordPress as your blog software there is a great plug-in that makes using SiteMaps easy. Click here to get it.

Next up is Google Analytics.

Google Analytics focuses a bit more on general site statistics. There is also a lot around adwords and how to better use those however as I don’t use adwords on my blog I don’t know much about this. Personally I just want to look at some pretty graphs to see how I’m tracking.

I’m still waiting for Google to step their game up on Analytics, I signed up on Monday last week and I’m still getting apology messages saying they’re overloaded.

I wouldn’t be suprised if in the longer term the SiteMaps functionality and the Analytics get rolled into one.

If anyone has any feedback on their experiences with these two tools then post below.

– JD

The Google Curse
29 July 2005 in Search Technology | Comments (2)

People may not be aware of it, but there is a major problem with Google. I call it the Google Curse.

For those of you that aren’t aware of it, I work as a developer at Intergen. Primarily I work on websites for various clients and with almost every website you have a search function. For most people the search functionality is an after thought and because of this often a simple search solution is implemented.

Search in the market has been taking off – thanks mostly to Google. Due to the nature of Microsoft, they want to ensure that Google doesn’t get too far ahead so they’ve started pouring resources into search too. All of this just leads to increased noise about the important of great search. This isn’t a bad thing – it’s really great as it’s only proving that competition is good for the consumer.

What is bad, is that now everyone wants to their search to “Work like Google“. I hate those words. I would need more fingers to count up how many times a client wants to match the power of Google.

It’s really quite amusing – non-tech people don’t seem to realise just how much effort Google has put into their search engine. They don’t seem to quite understand why you can’t put together a solution that could compete with Google’s search capabilities for a tiny budget. There are some very good search engines out there however it is a case of getting what you pay for – and New Zealand business is often priced out of the market.

I would love to know how much Microsoft has needed to spend to even try and match Google with MSN search.

Don’t misunderstand me on this – Google is simply one of the greatest pieces of technology currently available, however it’s also a curse to website developers trying to reach that unbelievably high bar.

– JD

P.S. It’s actually a testament to Google’s simplicity that everyday people seem to think it’s so basic that anyone could build an equivalent product.