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Why Search Is Hard (diegobasch.com)
12 points by slig on Aug 14, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 7 comments

Search is in fact so hard that even with all the improvements mentioned in the article, searching Google today is only marginally better than searching Alta Vista in 1997. I still type into the same user interface I did nearly 20 years ago: a search box. I still get results in the same form I got them then: a paged list of ranked items. And even on the first page, the list is still full of irrelevant results, though nowadays they are more likely to be intentional content spam than an accidental result of the search algorithm itself. I'd peg the overall improvement at no better than 20 or 30%, which is astonishingly little given all the research dollars at the disposal of companies like Google and Microsoft. Search must be very, very hard indeed.

Most of the things he says are hard are things I would rather not have done for me in the first place. I don't want the search engine to know who I am and I don't want it to bias its results based on what it thinks I want.

I don't want the search engine to do math, find flights, or look up bus schedules; I want it to find me a calculator site, find a site where I can look up flights, or find the page with the bus schedules on it. I don't care what the search engine's opinion about those things might be; I care where the authoritative sources live.

Fuzzy spelling-correction search can be useful.

You are unusual. Most people actually don't want extra steps like going to a calculator site to perform calculations. Those things are especially annoying when on mobile.

It's true however that most people do not want the search engine to know much about them. Interestingly, most user do notice (and complain) if a search engine stops using personalization and localization. When given the choice between more privacy or better results, the vast majority opt for better results.

Maybe I am unusual, but I find half-clever systems intensely irritating. Give me simple stupid software that actually works over someone's overly complicated algorithm that guesses wrong half the time and thereby gets in the way of whatever I was actually trying to do.

I have no idea what personalized results look like, to be honest. I switched to Google in part because they didn't pester me to log in like many of the other search engines at the time; now that Google has succumbed to login disease I've moved on to duckduckgo.

What about DDG? DDG supposedly doesn't know about the user searching.

For those who doesn't recognize OP's name: he founded IndexTank which was sold to LinkedIn in 2011.

Everything looks easy, until you try to do it yourself.

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