does history matter?

Does history matter? Gene Golovchinsky FX Palo Alto Laboratory, Inc. @HCIR_GeneG Thanks to: Tony Dunnigan, Jeremy Pickens, Abdigani Diriye

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When pursuing complex information needs (e.g., doing genealogical searching, exploring historical archives, planning a vacation, doing a patent search, etc.), people often run multiple queries to discover effective search terms, to break the problem down into sub-tasks, to reflect an evolving understanding of the information need, etc. Such queries often retrieve many of the same documents, but most systems offer no help in understanding this redundancy. In this talk, I will describe Querium, an interactive information seeking system I have been building that helps people make sense of their past interactions, that helps them understand how the current results relate to what has been found before, and thus helps them plan for the future. These slides are from an invited talk I gave at a NWO-sponsored CATCH meeting by BRIDGE on June 22, 2012 in The Netherlands. For more information on the event, see NWO: The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research CATCH: Continuous Access To Cultural Heritage BRIDGE: Building Rich Links To Enable Television History Research


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Does history matter?

Gene GolovchinskyFX Palo Alto Laboratory, Inc.


Thanks to: Tony Dunnigan, Jeremy Pickens, Abdigani Diriye

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Can we use a record of people’s interactions with a

search system to aid memoryand sense-making?

What this talk is really about

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Hasn’t Google “solved” search?

Do I feel lucky?I know what you’re thinking…

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Some examples of search tasks Google isn’t very good at

Patentability searchMedical/pharmaceutical researchBusiness analysisGenealogical researcheDiscovery

Archives researchIntelligence analysisTravel planningHistorical researchAcademic researchEtc.

Why is this?

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Exploratory search

InteractiveInformation seeking

Anomalous state of knowledgeEvolving information need

Often recall-oriented

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What happens in exploratory search?

A personRuns a queryLooks at some documentsLearns something

… and the process continues

…but there is a lot of repetition,a lot of redundancy, and

a lot of reliance on memory

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2 4 6 8 10 12 14 160











Overlap as a function of number of queries in a session

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Questions people might ask of an exploratory search tool

What queries have I run?What documents have I found?Have I seen this document before?What are the central themes?Was this query effective at finding new information?

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How might we answer these?

Keep track of queries & documents for a task

Structure search in terms of this process metadata

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Doesn’t Google already use machine learning of

prior search behavior to improve results?

Bing, too!

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Google/Bing and history

Web search engines record clicked-on documentsSystem aggregates clicks, adjusts document rankingsFuture searchers get higher precisionAll searchers get personalization for common queries

One key problem:Idiosyncratic information needs do not

benefit as much as common ones

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A brief history of search history1970s: DIALOG let people combine queries with Boolean operators

1990s: Web Browsers keep track of visited documents

1990s: Search engines use click-through rates to affect future rankings

1997: VOIR (Golovchinsky) shows retrieval histories of documents in a session

1998: ARIADNE (Twidale and Nichols) lets people review search activity

2000: SearchPad (Bharat) lets people save and revisit queries and documents

2005: KonwlegeSea (Ahn et al.) shows prior activity on retrieved documents

2008?: annotates results with info from family tree

2012: Querium (Golovchinsky et al.) reflects query/document history for exploring search results

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DialogLockheed (1970s)

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VOIRGolovchinsky (1997)

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AriadneTwidale and Nichols (1998)

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SearchPadBharat (2000)

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KnowlegeSeaAhn et al. (2005)

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QueriumGolovchinsky et al. (2012)

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QueriumGolovchinsky et al. (2012)

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In closing…

Memory is uncertain

Information needs evolve

Queries are approximations

Understanding changes

Design challenge: Help people plan future actions by understanding the present in

the context of the past

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Does this picture look familiar?

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Gene GolovchinskyFXPAL

[email protected]@HCIR_GeneG

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Image credits

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ReferencesAhn, J.-W., Brusilovsky, P., and Farzan, R. (2005). Investigating users' needs and behavior for social search. In Proc. of the Workshop on New Technologies for Personalized Information Access (held in conjunction with UM’05), Edinburgh, Scotland, UK; pp. 1-12.

Bharat, K. (2000) SearchPad: Explicit Capture of Search Context to Support Web Search. In Proc. WWW2000, pp. 493-501.

Golovchinsky, G. (1997) Queries? Links? Is there a difference? In Proc. CHI 1997. ACM Press.

Golovchinsky, G., Diriye, A., and Dunnigan, T. (2012) The future is in the past: Designing for exploratory search. To appear in Proc. IIiX2012, Nijmegen, ACM Press.

Twidale, M. and Nichols, D. M. (1998) Designing interfaces to support collaboration in information retrieval. Interacting with Computers 10(2), pp. 177-193.