Adding more factors to Microsoft’s sliders

Ever use MSN’s sliders? Do you know about MSN’s sliders? If they changed, would you notice?

I’m not sure that I would.

A couple of days ago, I wrote about feature based rankings at MSN. Rather than describing how understanding feature based ranking (or fRank) might help when optimizing a site for an MSN search, I focused upon some of the different categories that those features might fall into.

While those might be used in the future, or may even be used to help rank pages in a normal search on MSN now, there’s possibly another use for them, too.

In the future, we might see some of those features and categories appear in a different context, where the person searching has some control over which of those are most important to him or her. Another new patent application from Microsoft describes how. We can see some of that context in a somewhat obscure part of MSN’s search.

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20 links on search and design

I compiled another quick list of links this week, but you might want to read them fast, because as Kid Mercury noted almost a week ago, On April 11, The Internet Gets Destroyed (No longer available)

OK, it might not be demolished, but it may just be broken in a number of places after Microsoft issues a new patch that treats some HTML tags involving embedded objects differently, instead of paying licensing fees for the technology.

Search Engines

Google Buys Search Algorithm Invented by Israeli Student
Ori Alon (or Allon), an Israeli student, who has been studying in at the University of New South Wales in Australia, appears to now be working in Google’s Mountain View offices. After a press release in September of last year, it appears that Microsoft, Yahoo!, and Google were all seeking this software, which finds links to related resources, based upon text found on a page from a query on a specific subject.

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Feature based rankings at MSN

How does one optimize pages for MSN, given that they use a machine-based ranking system to rank results and return results to visitors?

Some new research from Microsoft, and some recently released patent applications might provide some ideas.

Before I dive into this, I want to point out Search Engines and Algorithms: Optimizing for MSN’s RankNet Technology by Jennifer Sullivan Cassidy, which takes a look at Microsoft’s Ranknet Technology. It’s a good introduction into some of the research that Microsoft has been doing lately.

Query independent ranking

Ranknet is discussed more in a paper to be presented in May at the WWW2006, titled Beyond PageRank: Machine Learning for Static Ranking. It provides a detailed look at how human ranked pages can be used to identify other high quality pages, without relying upon the link structure of the web.

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Patent applications provide window into Google Book Search and Gmail

New patent applications were published today at the US Patent and Trademark Office with the names of Google employees on them. Three look at how documents might be presented in an application like Google Book Search, and the other is an addition to patent filings that describe Google’s email system.

Searching scanned documents

The initial two are related to another patent application that was published last week, User interfaces for a document search engine, which involves searching scanned documents placed online.

This first application covers much of the same ground as last week’s published document, but not in as much detail. There are some details in this version that aren’t in the other one, but it feels as though this one is the first draft. They were filed on the same day.

User interface for presentation of a document
Inventor: Joe Sriver
US Patent Application 20060075327
Published April 6, 2006
Filed: September 29, 2004

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Next steps for online real estate?

Buying a house is one of the biggest decisions that someone can make these days. It’s a life-transforming step, regardless of whether the new home is a few miles away, or across the country. And it’s one of the largest purchases many people can make.

There are some new looks to sites that focus on real estate lately. And a lot of information that was only available to real estate agents is being shared with people looking for homes.

If you haven’t seen zillow.com, which allows you to look at maps of locations, and find houses that are for sale in those regions, you’ve missed out on a fun and interesting new mashup of mapping and data integration. Within the last day or so, news of Google showing real estate listings has also come out, though those are shown through the Google Base service from the company, rather than as a separate and new listing service.

TechCrunch noted a week ago that Zillow has some competition in the mapping and display of homes for sale, in the shape of RealEstateABC. It’s kind of fun to look around these sites, and see what might be for sale around you. I wonder how helpful these tools are to people looking for homes.

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Fighting web spam with algorithms

A new patent application from Microsoft describes some ways to identify some of the spam pages that show up in search engine results. The research that led to the application started off by looking at something else completely, but a chance discovery turned up some interesting results.

The initial research began with something Microsoft calls Pageturner. Pageturner is a project that looks at how often web pages update, and how frequently they might need to be crawled. It also looks at identifying duplicate and near duplicate content on web pages.

The Microsoft researchers on that project found themselves being drawn to some very different research after looking at some of their results, especially from some pages located in Germany, which changed too quickly. Here are a couple of papers that describe some of the results of the original research:

On the Evolution of Clusters of Near Duplicate Web Pages (pdf)

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Search roundup

Some blog posts and articles that I came across in the last week that I thought were interesting.

Jared Spool, over at UIE Brainsparks, writes about collecting penultimate referrers in Identifying Missing Trigger Words from Search Logs. Collecting information about what people search for on your site through an online search function can be a good way of finding what people might want to see on your site. But, isn’t it also interesting to see what search might have brought them to the page where they conducted that search? Those next-to-last, or penultimate, searches might contain some useful information about what people expect to see on your site but might be missing. Nice idea.

This one has been pointed to by a number of people, but it’s a good one to see if you missed it. Matt Cutts posted a Question and Answer post a couple of days ago where he discussed the recent “Big Daddy” infrastructure update to Google, as well as answering questions on a number of other topics.

Greg Linden has been writing some great posts about his days at Amazon lately on Geeking with Greg. But, those Amazon posts only add to the many other excellent posts there, including a recent one on mandatory registration in forums, Removing registration and Topix.net traffic.

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New Google patent applications

Some new patent applications assigned to Google, which were published yesterday at the US Patent and Trademark Office.

These are not granted patents, and they only describe possible ways that a search engine can fulfill some objective, but they can provide some insight into possible processes that the search engine could follow, and some of the issues surrounding the problems they are intended to address.

Adjusting ad campaigns based upon business objectives

Interested in having your online advertising campaign adjust itself in some manner when a pre-defined business goal has been met? The first patent application describes a process that will estimate or track (or estimate and track) a business metric , such as: ROI, profit, gross profit, etc., for an ad campaign, or part of the campaign.

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Getting Information about Search and SEO Directly from the Search Engines