Ask.com Patent Application Discusses Responding to User Queries

A new patent application invented by Dr.Tomasz Imielinski, Vice President of Relevance and OnLine Systems at Ask.com, explores how a search engine can map user queries to answers to those queries.

In a conventional search engine, a query such as “Bill Clinton’s Wife” might provide search results about Bill Clinton. A query for “George H. Bush’s children” might be about George Bush. A question about who won the last Masters may have been made without knowing that there are two different major sports tournaments that go by that name – one in golf and one in tennis.

The answers to these types of questions can be provided from a structured database. The creation of this database itself isn’t described in this patent filing, though some details on updates of the information are described, and it appears that multiple databases may be involved, such as one containing information from blogs, and another from news sources.

When answers are provided to a searcher, and there may be more than one possible answer such as in the Masters’ example, other information may be looked at, such as:

click popularity,
user reviews,
last modification date,
file creation date,
file size,
file location,
file content source, and/or;
A user profile may be used to rank the files.

If there is an almost equal likelihood that either answer may be correct, the search engine might show both results.

System and method for responding to a user query
Invented by Tomasz Imielinski
US Patent Application 20070073651
Published March 29, 2007
Filed: September 23, 2005

Abstract

This invention provides a system and method for responding to a user query. An identifier identifies an answer to a user query based on data in one or more structured data collections. A search engine in communication with the identifier searches, based on the answer, a systematically-generated, automatically-updated index of files to identify a file associated with the answer. A ranker in communication with the search engine ranks the identified files. A generator in communication with the search engine generates a response to the query based on a result of the searching. In one application, the system is used to provide an answer portal.

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7 thoughts on “Ask.com Patent Application Discusses Responding to User Queries”

  1. _____________________________________

    Google is no doubt using an Edison-like technology ….. which explains the Redirect URLs on their SERPS (click popularity & keyword Tagging)

    Also their Trust Rank is in a broad sense – Subject Specific Popularity –

    They are NOT limiting the credibility ONLY to experts in the field (expert rank) – but are giving sites with an overall trust factor the ability to be influential.

    Click popularity has to be refined – it did not work for DirectHit because of ingrained inequities – also one has to measure the length of time spent on a page without returning BACK to the SERPs – as well as IF THEY RETURNED

  2. I agree with you about the user behavior factors, Search Engine Web. I think that all of the major search engines are looking at those seriously, and seeing how they can use that data to rerank results.

    There have been a good number of papers and patent applications from all of them which go far beyond just counting clicks, looking at time on a page, distance scrolled down that page, mouse movements on pages, how queries are revised during search sessions, and much more.

    Redirects may be part of it, but it’s also likely that Google is collecting information in many other ways, from measuring users actions with browser helpers such as toolbars and desktop search sidebars, watching which pages get bookmarked, seeing what annotations are made with Google notebook, and collecting information through web accelerator, Google Analytics, and Google Website Optimizer. I’m sure that I missed many more, but they are actively collecting information and analyzing their own search logs carefully.

    If anything, they probably have too much information, and may be struggling with finding the best way to use it in a meaningful manner.

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