In an earlier post, I speculated about why Google is holding back on faceted search. Of course, I was talking about their web search properties, not their enterprise offerings. I thought that they’d seen the light by now that faceted search–and HCIR in general–is especially important in the enterprise, where you can’t rely on PageRank, anchor text, and SEO–not to mention the large fraction of navigational and straight-to-Wikipedia queries.
But I was wrong. Don’t take it from me–watch the video below (or read this blog post) and listen to what Cyrus Mistry, the product manager for the Google Search Appliance has to say. I might give him a pass on his dubious conflation all features other than ranked retrieval with “advanced search”. But here’s a direct quote: “users care about one thing: the right result coming to the top”.
Sigh. I don’t dismiss the value of relevance ranking. Some search queries are easy and clearly point to single documents as answers–and any search engine should do well on them. But lots of queries in site search and enterprise search environments (more so than on the web) don’t have a single best answer. That’s why we have faceted search and interfaces that offer useful information scent to users.
I understand that Google is, on the whole HCIR-averse. But I expect more from their enterprise division. To be clear, the “side by side” feature that Mistry touts is nice. It reminds me of Blind Search (built by a Microsoft employee in his spare time), and of a relevance ranking evaluator that Endeca customers have been using for years.
But there’s more to search results than ten blue links. Even the Google web folks seem to be slouching towards accepting the importance of interaction. Their enterprise team should be leading, not lagging.