Search Questions for 2010: What’s On My Mind

Happy New Year to the Noisy Community and everyone else in virtual earshot! I hope everyone is entering 2010 well-rested and ready for great things. And I don’t just mean shiny new gadgets.

For me, 2009 marked the end of a decade-long run at Endeca, where I focused on bringing HCIR to enterprises. I’m particularly proud of two professional accomplishments: writing a book on faceted search, and organizing the SIGIR 2009 Industry Track.

But past is prologue. I spent the last several weeks of 2009 as a Noogler, and I launch into 2010 living and breathing search on the open web.

What’s on my mind? Here are some top-of-mind questions to which I hope to have better answers by this time next year:

  • Exploratory Search: how should we determine that users want a more exploratory search experience, rather than one that minimizes time to a best-effort result? How should we respond to queries that clearly don’t have a single best answers, such as queries of the form [category] or [category location]?
  • Mobile Search: should it be just like non-mobile search with a few tweaks to accommodate the device form factor? Or does / should mobile search fundamentally change the way we interact with information?
  • Real-Time Search: is it more than real-time indexing plus emphasizing recency as a query-independent relevance factor? What are the use cases, and how should we be addressing them?
  • Social / Collaborative Search: should we be looking to microblogging or other social media signals to augment (or even supplant!) link-based citations as authority cues? Should we be supporting mediated search by linking people to people, rather than directly to information?

To be clear, these are simply the questions that are on my mind–I’m speaking as an individual and not as a Google employee. That said, a great thing about being at Google is that there are people working on all of these areas. So I expect 2010 to be an exciting year!

Curious to hear what problems are on other people’s minds as we enter the new year. Comment away!

By Daniel Tunkelang

High-Class Consultant.

15 replies on “Search Questions for 2010: What’s On My Mind”

Great food for thought, Daniel!

I occurs to me that real-time search is inherently shallow and/or superficial. Like Twitter, it’s about conversations, recent news and trending topics. It’s not the place you would go for in-depth exploration.

Perhaps real-time search should address the shallow and superficial use cases, where our needs are well served by more top-of-mind information. Like a dinner receipt for tonight, or which movies are on the local theater. For channel, I’d say definitely mobile.

I share your excitement about search in 2010 🙂


I haven’t exactly been a cheerleader for real-time search. But there are times that I have needs for recent–and even as-it’s-happening–information. I’m sure travelers over the past couple of weeks had lots of real-time information needs, and I wouldn’t consider those needs shallow. That said, much of what I’ve seen on trending topics (on Twitter or elsewhere) is pretty superficial.


Yeah, no criticism of anyone working on RTS.. but I just don’t see a compelling use case. If I want to know what movie is playing right now, I just search for the theater. If I want to know what concerts are coming up soon, I check a ticket sales office. If there are flight delays in Chicago because of the weather, I just check the airline web page. And my Garmin already alerts me to upcoming delays in traffic. And routes me around it automatically! Without me having to read some tweet about it.

So I already have RTS for the things I need in real time. I have a hard time imagining what else I need. Maybe I just lack the imagination of the rest of the blogosphere. But I don’t get it.

If there are times when you’ve needed it, Daniel, could you talk about those?


This deserves a post in its own right. But the examples that are top of mind are when I used to commute regularly by train between New York and Boston. I used Twitter on several occasions to get up-to-date news about delays, sirens wailing outside of South Station, etc. I’m sure it would eventually show up as news, but timeliness mattered to me more than the benefits of curation. Ideally I’d want both.


We had a small earthquake, here in Silicon Valley yesterday. As a test, I hopped onto Twitter to see what I could find out about the location and magnitude of the epicenter. Needless to say, I finally threw-in the towel and headed over to the USGS (via a search engine, since I do not keep that bookmarked).

I love the idea of a better exploratory search experience, though. Exploratory browsing around a general theme is a major part of my usage profile.


I promise a real post about real-time search soon. I think the big question about exploratory search is finding more places for it on the open web. I promise I’ll blog about that too!


Just picking up on the news that you’ve got your Noogle cap on now. Congratulations! Should you ever come to Australia do let me know, it would be great to meet you some day. Google in Sydney (as you would know) are doing a great many interesting things, which I’ve been following for years and participating in varius user groups and tweetups that are held at their campus here.

Have a great 2010 and look forward to staying in touch with you.

Best regards,
Tony Hollingsworth


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