blog:New Ways to Search?

By bryblumbryblum (1228095777|%a, %b %e at %I:%M%p)


“ ‘Other Search Sites’? You’ve got to be kidding me! There are more search sites than the hundreds we’ve already gone over? It never ends!” Those were my thoughts as I glanced at the schedule before last week’s “Other Search Sites” class. We’ve already covered news, information, pictures, videos, people, maps, and music. What is there left to search?


In my opinion, the most useful tools taken from this class are ones that supplement various search tools that we’ve already learned about. At first glance of the list of “other search tools”, my eyes were immediately drawn to the “Wikipedia search” section. Why? Well, I think I’m obsessed with Wikipedia. It’s definitely my favorite website. Every bit of important information in the world is on Wikipedia – it’s amazing. If a genie were to grant me one wish in my life, I would wish to have all the information in Wikipedia implanted in my brain. How cool would that be? I would know everything. Sorry, tangent, but it’s true.

Anyway, my one gripe with Wikipedia is it’s search function. In order for Wikipedia to pull up an article, you had better know the correct spelling. If you enter a search spelled incorrectly, Wikipedia doesn’t offer similarly spelled searches or even suggestions on other articles. Instead, most of the time you get a “no page with that title exists” message. What a pain, huh?

Well, two sites attempt to fix this problem: PowerSet and Cognition. Both websites use “semantic” or “natural language” to organize and search documents in Wikipedia. They study the meaning of entire sentences rather than the relationships between keywords, allowing users to type queries as fully-formed questions as opposed to keywords.

Let's test it out

To test the accuracy and usefulness of these tools, I thought of a simple question to test:

In what year was John F. Kennedy born?

  • PowerSet: Got it right away, and even put my answer in a special box up top. Nice! Powerset Results
  • Cognition: Did not give me the answer right away. Just gave me a few related articles which were generally unhelpful. Cognition Results
  • Google: The answer was located on the first page of results. I didn't even have to click to see the answer. Google Results

Who is the current coach of the New York Giants?


My Concluding Thoughts

Well, maybe I don’t really get the point of the websites, or maybe they just aren’t fully-functional yet, but ultimately, I don’t see them being very useful. The concept of semantic search is definitely interesting and innovative, but to overtake Google is a nearly impossible feat at this point. In both of my search examples, Google was able to give me the answer, while the other two were iffy in their success. Wikipedia is always one of the top 3 search results in Google anyway. Overall, I like Powerset more, as it is more user-friendly and seemingly more accurate. Cognition, on the other hand, needs some work. Regardless, I’ll still use Google for all of my queries. With a little more tweaking, however, the other two sites may be able to hook me.

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