One of the things I didn’t consider when I signed on to organize the SIGIR 2009 Industry Track was that I’d have to replace speakers and panelists on less than two weeks’ notice. But what I couldn’t even have imagined was replacing a speaker on less than 24 hours’ notice!
Tuesday morning, the second day of the conference and the day before the Industry Track, I woke up to an email from Tip House of the OCLC, whom I’d planned to have speak about his experiences developing Worldcat.org, the world’s largest bibliographic database. Unfortuantely, he had fallen ill and would not be able to make it to the conference.
I was determined not to have a hole in the program. I immediate sent an email to the Director of Search at LinkedIn, whom I had just met at the poster session the previous evening, hoping he might have a presentation tucked away about LinkedIn’s recent launch of faceted people search. I turned to Twitter–which actually earned me a plausible suggestion.
But it was during the morning coffee break that serendipity struck. As I walked by the Bing exhibitor table, I saw Jan Pedersen, Chief Scientist of Core Search at Microsoft, chatting with Peter Bailey, an applied researcher on the Bing team. I turned to them and, in my most charming voice, asked if they might be interested in having someone on their team taking about Bing the next day. They took a few minutes to think it over, and then replied in the affirmative, producing Nick Craswell, also an applied researcher. Problem solved, and I can proudly say that I Binged for it!
Nick talked about how query modeling, focusing issues like query ambiguty, session context, and temporal query dynamics (particularly seasonality). He talked a bit about a technique that involved random walks on click logs–a technique I remember striking me when I first heard him talk about it at ECIR 2008.
The talk was a bit raw–understanably so given the short notice. But it was great to see a major web search practitioner connecting information retrieval research to actual product. Yes, there were the standard caveats about not revealing secret sauce, but the talk was open and substantive. Indeed, I hope Nick will be able to share the slides!
UPDATE: Nick emailed me the slides and gave me permission to post them here.