Eye-Tracking Studies at Google

How much can eye-tracking studies tell us about the ways that people read and react to search engine results pages? What is a search engine like Google doing when it comes to using eye-tracking?

I have to confess that I’m skeptical when I read about some of the studies that describe a golden triangle of Google and show nice heat maps which attempt to indicate how people view search results. Why the skepticism?

It began with one of the more interesting eye-tracking studies that I’d seen over the past few years, where the Poynter Institute used eye-tracking to test the way that people read news web sites. Excited by the results, I wanted to find out more, and started searching around.

I came across a blog post from Frank Spillers which looked closely some of the many issues involving eye-tracking, specifically within the context of that Poynter research – Eye-Tracking studies- Usability holy grail?

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IBM’s Unstructured Information Management Patent

What are the differences between enterprise search and web search? Will developments in enterprise search someday enable search engines to be created that might index the web as well, or better than present web search engines?

IBM was granted a patent today on their Unstructured Information Management Architecture, which was made available to open source developers last summer. Sourceforge has more information about the open source nature of UIMA, as does IBM. IBM recently decided to move this open source development over to Apache.

Unstructured Information Management was the subject of an IBM Systems Journal in 2004, which contains some detailed articles on the topic. One by A. Z. Broder and A. C. Ciccolo is highly recommended, if you would like to get a grasp of the potential of this approach to indexing unstructured information – Towards the next generation of enterprise search technology. It describes some of the differences between enterprise search and web search, and provides summaries of the other articles in the issue. I found this snippet interesting:

The field of UIM may come full circle: while the unstructured search paradigm on the Web exploded in the consumer sphere before being adopted in the enterprise, we believe that the combination of semantic and linguistic annotations with unstructured search will follow the more conventional path of first being developed in the enterprise sphere before becoming pervasive in the Web world.

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Just Where is Yahoo Going? New and Old Acquisitions

Just what in the world is Yahoo’s vision of their growth and future?

That’s the thought that popped into my mind a couple of days ago after seeing some newly published patent applications from Yahoo seemingly developed, at least in part, by folks who worked at a company that Yahoo! acquired previously.

The company was one of two providing game technology that Yahoo purchased and integrated into their collective assortment of web properties within the last couple of years -Stadion (2005) and The All Seeing Eye (2004). Looking at what seems to have become of those companies, and how they’ve been integrated into Yahoo made me wonder what the search giant/portal is doing.

I didn’t expect someone from Yahoo to be asking the same question, in public.

There’s been some great drama going on at Yahoo! over the past few days, including a controversial memo from Senior Vice President of Communications, Communities, and Front Doors at Yahoo!, Brad Garlinghouse; the acquisition of a couple of companies; and the near purchase of a third.

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Microsoft Live Search Suggestions Stealing Google Queries? Or is it Firefox?

I gave a presentation on duplicate content at Pubcon yesterday. The panel I was on was well received, and Barry Schwartz covered the session at Search Engine Round Table: Duplicate Content Issues (Yahoo & Google). Joe Duck also has some thoughts about the session: Pubcon Las Vegas – Duplicate Content Session with Google and Yahoo. I’ve had a chance to meet some new folks, and say hello to some old friends. The Conference has been a real pleasure so far.

Predictive Searches

A new patent application from Microsoft describes a process that sounds very much like how Google Suggest works.

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Pubcon and Google Patents

Pubcon starts this morning in Las Vegas, and I have to race off to register shortly.

I arrived yesterday, and toured around the City a little. The Hotel/Casino that I stayed at a few months ago, the Stardust is now closed, and has a big fence around it, with signs that an auction will be held later this week for the public.

Noticed these patents had been granted to Google this morning:

Methods and apparatus for providing search results in response to an ambiguous search query
Inventors: Benjamin Thomas Smith, Sergey Brin, Sanjay Ghemawat, John Abraham Bauer
Assignee: Google, Inc.
United States Patent 7,136,854
Granted November 14, 2006
Filed: December 26, 2000

Abstract

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Live Labs vs. Microsoft Research

A powerpoint presentation from Gary Flake titled How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Imminent Internet Singularity (pdf), via Frank McCown’s Questio Verum, details some of the differences between the Live Labs team and Microsoft Research.

He also talks about the “internet singularity,” which is:

The idea that a deeper and tighter coupling between the online and offline worlds will accelerate science, business, society, and self-actualization.

I’d love to hear the presentation that goes along with this powerpoint, but the slides are interesting on their own. They look at the:

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Looking for a Library on Google Local

Back in July, I wrote about a patent application from Google that may have described how Google attempts to find the web pages that should be shown with local search results, Authority Documents for Google’s Local Search.

One of the places that a local search service might look for business information about an enterprise online is through business directories. A number of white papers on local search and geographic location information note that some organizations and places might not list themselves in those types of directories, because there is often a fee associated with many of the better ones.

I would guess that Libraries would be amongst that group with little incentive to hunt down directories, and pay to be included within them, yet also believe that there are many web sites that might list and link to libraries for free.

One of the great things about a local search is that you can not only find a location and other information about an organization through them, but also that they will provide a web address, so that you can visit their web site and learn even more. How well does that work? I decided to look up a number of libraries to see if the web site listed in the information about those libraries was the web site for the actual library.

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Riya Patent Applications for Visual Recognition and Search Technology

The transformation of Web 2.0 facial recognition software service Riya into shopping visual search engine Like.com is a remarkable story, involving some interesting technology. Like.com was just launched a couple of days ago, but the company behind it almost may have become a Google acquisition last year.

Riya started out with a great deal of buzz and excitement behind it. Originally a way to recognize visual features in photos, it began a metamorphosis into a visual search engine this summer. Now, with the November 8th start date of the new visual shopping site, Riya looks like it has something pretty interesting.

I haven’t done any comparison to other visual search engines, but Gary Price added a nice list of links to some in the comments to a post on Live.com at Google Blogoscoped.

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