SIGIR 2009: Day 2, Interactive Search Session

At the two previous SIGIR conferences that I attended, the interactive search sessions were the most interesting, and this one was no exception. Ironically, even though many of us (myself included) feel that interaction is marginalized within the SIGIR conference and even the information retrieval research community, the few interaction talks at SIGIR consistently draw large audiences and lots of questions. Of course, it couldn’t hurt this time that Sue Dumais received the Salton Award for her contributions to HCIR.

This particular session consisted of three talks.

Like Jeff Dalton, I really liked Peter Bailey’s talk on “Predicting User Interests from Contextual Information“, work done in collaboration with Liwei Chen and my HCIR co-conspirator Ryen White. They analyze the predictive performance of contextual information sources (interaction, task, collection, social, historic) for different temporal durations (short, medium, large). Like Jeff, I’m a bit surprised that they used the Open Directory Project for their evaluation, but I do find their results compelling–if not entirely surprising. And here is irony for you: despite my at-best ambivalence toward advertising, I’d love to see their analysis applied to ad targeting, which strikes me as the best way to test their approach. You can also read a more complete summary from Max Van Kleek at the Haystack blog.

Diane Kelly presented the second paper, “A Comparison of Query and Term Suggestion Features for Interactive Searching” (unfortunately not available online yet), work done with UNC co-authors Karl Gyllstrom and Earl Bailey. David Karger and Gene Golovchinsky have already blogged about this talk, so rather than summarize I’ll add my personal reaction: I hope that their future work will consider query previews as a way of increasing the value of suggestion features. Her UNC colleague Gary Marchionini has made extensive use of such previews in the RAVE project, and I think they should join forces. I’m also hoping to present some of what we at Endeca have been doing in this area at HCIR ’09.

Robert Villa presented the third paper, “An Aspectual Interface for Supporting Complex Search Tasks“, a team effort with University of Glasgow co-authors Iván Cantador, Hideo Joho, and Joemon Jose. Again, David and Gene have already blogged great summaries. My micro-summary: nice research, but unfortunately the results are unfortunately inconclusive.

Given the evident interest in HCIR among SIGIR attendees, I hope the SIGIR community will make an effort to solicit and accept more papers in this area.

By Daniel Tunkelang

High-Class Consultant.