Search Based upon Concepts: Applied Semantics and Google

A recently granted Google patent from the founders of Applied Semantics discusses a search interface that could help searchers find web pages based upon the meanings of their queries rather than just pages that include those keywords.

In the late 90s, Adam Weissman and Gilad Elbaz decided to start a search engine that would search on meanings or concepts instead of keywords. Along with a few friends and family, they formed a company named Oingo, and along the way filed for a patent on a search based upon meanings rather than keywords.

The technology they developed could be used in a number of ways in addition to search, and provided an interesting alternative to keyword based search that would lead to some significant developments in the world of search engines.

Oingo Changes Directions

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Mapping the Deep Web

There are a lot of pages on the Web that conventional search engines can’t find, crawl, index, and show to searchers. The University of California (UC), funded partially by the US Government, has been working to change that.

When you search the Web at Google or Yahoo or Bing, you really aren’t searching the Web, but rather the indices that those search engines have created of the Web. To some degree, it’s like searching on a map of a place instead of the place itself. The map is only as good as the people mapping it.

An Agricultural Adjustment Administration worker making prints for a $3,000,000 map in 1937.

Map makers have consistently worked to develop new ways to get more information about the areas that they survey. For example, a New Deal program in the 1930s under the Agricultural Adjustment Administration led to the creation (pdf) of a $ 3,000,000 map. Continue reading

Good SEO

Paul Boag wrote a post at his site Boagworld asking a number of questions about SEO. I started writing a comment at his blog, but it quickly grew to become longer than his post and the questions and comments that he had about SEO, so I decided to post my response here.

In Paul’s post, Why I don’t get SEO, he came up with five reasons why he had doubts about SEO. My response doesn’t address his concerns in the order that he asked them, and it touches upon some of the comments written by others as well. If you have questions or concerns about SEO that aren’t addressed in this response, please feel free to ask them in the comments below.

What is Good SEO?

Good SEO is not “cheating the system,” or “manipulating search results.” Good SEO is part of a marketing plan that makes it more likely that the good content you create will be found by people who might be interested in what your web site has to offer.

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Playing the Odds: How Probable Meanings May Influence Search Engine Rankings

When someone types “George Washington” into a search box, they are probably more interested in the Revolutionary War general and President than some random George in Washington. A search for “Washington Hotels” is more likely looking for lodging in Washington than hotels named Washington. Searches for places with signs that say “Washington Slept Here” are probably not about hotels (and those searchers probably have too much time on their hands).

A lithograph of George and Martha Washington with two children, originally copyrighted in 1889 by Kurz and Allison.

When words used in search queries can have more than one meaning, a search engine may provide better search results to searchers if the search engines can calculate a probability of the most likely meaning of that word. That’s the focus of a patent granted to Yahoo this past week:

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Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo Patents on Interpreting Dynamic Page URLs

Three patents granted today to Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo all describe how each of the search engines might take a close look at page addresses, or URLs on dynamic web sites.

I wrote about the patent from Microsoft back when it had just been published as a pending patent application, in Microsoft Creating Rules for Canonical URLs. It appears that the patent examiner who reviewed the patent saw my blog post, because it is referred to in the patent within the “other references” section (Slawski, “Microsoft Creating Rules for Canonical URLs,” Sep. 29th, 2006, pp. 1-5. cited by examiner.). I don’t know if it is the first blog post to be cited as a reference in a granted patent (probably not), but it’s the first of my posts to be listed in one.

All three patents take a close look at the structures of URLs on dynamic web pages, which can often include large amounts of information within those URLs. For example, here’s a link to a page about a pair of jeans:

“http://www5.jcpenney.com/jcp/X6.aspx?DeptID=53006&CatID=53078&GrpTyp=PRD&ItemID=17bf470&attrtype=&attrvalue=&CMID=53006%7c53018&Fltr=&Srt=&QL=F&IND=3&cmVirtualCat=&CmCatId=53006|53018|53078″

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SEO for Government: What Does Your Local Government Web Site Offer Visitors?

I’ve been asking myself how local governments could use their websites to help them govern more effectively and save money. The question led to this post.

Building Bridges in Communities

Reading through one of the local weekly papers in my area I noticed a large public notice announcing a public hearing for the replacement of a bridge leading into a nearby town from one of the major north-to-south roadways that provides a main access point into the center of that town.

The announcement provided a fair amount of details about the bridge project and the meeting, as well as a phone number to find out more and to get a copy of the written plan for the renovation of the bridge. It also included an email address which you could use to send comments about the plan. But something was missing…

What was missing was a web address where readers could see the plan online, download it, and possibly post comments for others to view. If that written plan was placed online, people with an interest in the plan wouldn’t have to call and take up the time of someone sitting at a government desk. There wouldn’t be a need to spend money on postage and copying costs mailing the plan out to people who could otherwise view it online, or have people come into their office to view the plan in person.

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Will Google Bring Us Tabbed Windows on TV?

There’s been some recent news about the possibility of Google working with the Dish Network to bring searches for television programming and YouTube videos to TVs, reported at places like the Wall Street Journal. The WSJ article tells us that besides actual tests of a Google settop box that allows searching for TV programming, that Google has “been talking to a range of other television-service providers and hardware makers, prodding them to use its Android-based technologies to offer a broader range of programming, a more personal experience and ads.”

If Google were to start providing a program guide for televsion and web videos, what would it look like? My suspicion is that it would be more like something we tend to see on the Web than many of the television program guides offered by cable services. And it might bring us tabbed windows on our TVs, like in the following images:

Screenshot from Google patent filing showing a front window with information about a movie, and three tabs at top with movie names and times.
Screenshot from Google patent filing showing a front window with information about a news broadcast, with two tabs above showing names and times of news shows.
screenshot of a single tv program with sidebar information about the show, and a tab above showing the show name and time.

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