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THE PIPELINE: What Is in the Pipeline? Really! Part 2

By Stephen Abram - Posted Nov 1, 2009
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In the September/October 2009 issue of MMIS, having noted (with some surprise) that most of today’s crop of elementary school students were born in or after 2000, I launched into the first of a 2-part series of musings on what their world will be like in the near and not-so-near term. Check it out if you missed it. And now … here’s Part 2.

What’s Happening in Search?

Spring 2009 saw far too many new search services and other innovations! I am still digesting that new Microsoft Bing ("But It’s Not Google"), Wolfram Alpha, Google Wave, changes to Yahoo!, Google Squared, etc. I guess it’s too much too quickly for me! OK, I’ll admit it—I am officially overwhelmed … well, maybe just whelmed—about how to keep track of the new search services.

First it was Cuil (, which, at first, seemed so dumb, it was easy to ignore. I went back to the site recently; it now offers better facets, and the results for my standard test searches were pretty good. At first, I thought the index was just too big. But it seems that Cuil has improved the relevance of the results, and I was pretty impressed.

Then, there were a few new search tools that couldn’t be ignored: Wolfram Alpha, Bing, and Google Squared. I am not totally up-to-speed yet, but I like some features in all three. I suspect you’re in the same boat. Many of these innovations in search have more to do with artificial intelligence than retrieval. They offer a peek at the analytical algorithms and will be the norm in the future that our learners will be living in. Maybe these links can help:

A comparison of alpha Bing and Squared is available on YouTube: DLTJ Alpha Bing Squared screencast (

If you’re more into text, this blog posting is good too: Three New Search Services: Wolfram Alpha, Microsoft Bing, Google Squared(

The Google Squared launch was covered as well by Search Engine Land: (,

I have to say I am impressed with Bing. I like that it intuits my location when I do a search on "weather." When I was at home in Toronto, it knew Toronto’s weather, and when I was in Jacksonville, Fla., recently, it automatically gave me Jacksonville’s weather—from the same laptop. Google doesn’t give me my location’s weather. And I find Wolfram Alpha to be hit-or-miss, but when it hits, it’s amazing. Google Squared shows some potential; it reminds me of mind maps. It might be a good search planning tool.

In any event, I think we’ll see some poaching of the best ideas from each search engine as user takeup causes migration and steal-this-idea innovation. Can Google defend its front-runner status? Can anyone take the lead? Since it’s not an election year, this might be the horse race to watch. Whatever happens, search will be very different in the coming years. Lists and flat ads are just so 1999.

We’ll also need to watch how the hardware and communications architecture keeps up. A real-time web could stress it to the breaking point; some of us may remember this from the early AOL years. It was stunning to watch Facebook and Twitter remove features to handle the overload from the news about Michael Jackson’s passing.

I’m just happy to see that things we’ve been offering in SirsiDynix OPACs for a year or two are now making it into the mainstream search space. I love faceted search display, tri-grams, fuzzy logic, etc. Of course, if you’re just trying to make search better and not kowtowing to the search engine optimization and display-ad-buying gods, you can work on making a better search experience. Now that folks can see some of this innovation in the consumer space, maybe they’ll choose to add it to their library experience offerings. We need to train folks on the power of these tools in order to inform and add value.

What Is Google’s Endgame?


This article is available in its entirety in a variety of formats — Preview (free), Full Text, Text+Graphics, and Page Image PDF — on a pay-per-view basis, courtesy of ITI's InfoCentral. CLICK HERE.

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