Monday, July 16, 2007

Interview of Peter Norvig

Kate Greene at MIT Technology Review just published an interview with AI guru and Googler Peter Norvig.

1 comment:

jeremy said...

Norvig: We're in a situation in the main Web search where there's a real imbalance. Users are giving us three words at a time and we're able to give back a lot of info: 10 links with titles, snippet of text, and other information about the page. So we're able to present a lot at once. If the user has a big screen, they can consume what we're giving them quickly. So it's a fast interaction but a very imbalanced one. One of the things we're looking at is finding ways to get the user more involved, to have them tell us more of what they want. People type the query "map," and then they get upset if it's not the map they were thinking of. So, people may be willing to talk more than type. Or maybe they're willing to take a suggestion if we offer something that they didn't type a query for, but is related. [translation: query refinement tools?]

It's refreshing to hear Google finally start to recognize that it is not just a matter of users being too lazy to use tools, but a matter of, as Norvig says, "finding ways to get the user more involved, to have them tell us more of what they want."

You have to design the interaction, and present the tools in such a way, so as to draw the user into an interactive information dialogue with the search engine. Good design trumps laziness. (Or, what appears to be laziness might just be the result of improper design.)

It's good to hear them start to move in this direction. For too many years the PR speak was all about how it was all the fault of lazy users, unwilling to give more information about their search intentions.

Now, let's open the dialogue up about the overlap between personalization and "finding ways to get the user more involved" [tools]. Think of the fantastic search possibilities when you have something like a personalized set of tools available, where the dialogue in which the search engine engages you is personalized to your long + short term history of interactions with that search engine. You could have the advantage of both worlds!