Google, Yahoo and Bing are like sharp shooters who choose their own targets, after they’ve opened fire. Yes, they provide pretty good search returns, apparently. But it is very difficult for us, the users to make a judgement about that. The only way truly to know would be to sift through a few hundred thousand pages of the search returns and then think on it.
Even sifting a thousand pages would help ground our sense of whether Google and its competitors are truly providing good coverage. But we’re not going to do that. There is a tool that can, and I’ve been talking about it recently with the owners
First a word on why it is important. I am increasingly of the view that we are underestimating the significance of the web as a source of meaning. I mean that romantic-era type of meaning that brings richness into our lives. The web is of course a channel for product sales. But it also has this other function that search engines are vital in supporting – finding information that enriches our personal timeline or history, our understanding of the world around us and our relationships. This is the forgotten BIG DATA application of the web.
If you’ve ever tried digging deep you might be surprised to find that those one million, ten million or 200 million returns stop at about page 20. So in reality we have only about a thousand pages to base a judgement on. Leximancer, a tool that I’ve used a few times to seek meaning in large text databases, including the web, have developed a tool they call NEEDLZ, which allows you to analyze the full text of search results.
The video below gives you an idea of how it works on large journal databases. Imagine it on Google returns, or Yahoo or Bing. Imagine it too on Forbes or CNN or the BBC. Imagine being able to review a semantic analysis of thousands of search returns in order to explore meaning beyond Page 1 of the SERPS.
It allows us to make our own decisions about where relevance lies in the full 1,000 returns or the multiple journal articles of PDFs. In other words it takes search back to its primary task – uncovering meaning for us. If I was Yahoo I’d snap it up.