Searching text

Search is becoming the ubiquotous way of fnding information. Thanks to google people are now customized to typing a few keywords in a single search field. And they want relevant answers. Providing those answers is not as easy as it seems at a first look.
Searching text is difficult because you need computers to do something which is hard to do for humans: understanding written text. In order to provide relevant answers you need linguistic analysis far beyond simple keywords. If a text contains the word Amsterdam it makes a huge difference if the text is actually about Amsterdam or if Amsterdam happens to be the location of one of the office of a company that is described. Good search software can do just that.
Most search software provide organic results, an indexer or crawler loads all documents in a search database. Based on the queries entered the search database displays the results that best match the query. Intelligent search systems need to know that some things may mean different things. And modify results so that each of the different meanings is displayed in the first results, instead of showing 500 links about the first meaning if that one is most popular.
Companies that use search on their site may want to consider guiding the search in some way. Instead of depending on organic results for common queries -like a product number- you want to choose the first results – a product or support page for example. If you need this behavior include it in your selection criteria, not all solutions provide this functionality.
Software and hardware solutions for implementing text search:



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2 Responses to “Searching text”

  1. Kirby Lunger Says:

    Hi Arnoud,

    You should check out Attivio for its search capabilities. We were founded about a year ago by information access industry veterans and we provide some major advances over some of the legacy vendors you mentioned in your list:

    Also, you might be interested in a recent blog post from my colleague Andrew McKay on criteria for selecting a search solution: I’d be interested on your feedback on this.

    I hope this helps,

  2. arnoudm Says:

    Hi Kirby,

    Thanks for your feedback. I reviewed the attivio site and had a look into the product. Attivio seems to be geared towards enterprise information retrieval with a focus on closed groups (such as employees). This is even a harder challenge than implementing search on a website. You need factor in more sources of information with a wider ranger of formats and security. This all leads to more sophisticated products, such as Attivio or Stellent.

    A major search criteria not mentioned in the post by Andrew is whether results should be organic only or also controlled. Many website’s have some kind of requirement to tweak the results. For example a search for a product model number should always result in the same set of first hits regardless of the product (product page, downloads, support page). This is very hard to do using organic results finding only.

    kind regards, Arnoud

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