Category Archives: Customer Joy

An Introduction to Search Engines

Giving technical presentations to curious people is a joy. You work harder to get the facts correct and make it compelling. This is especially true if the audience is unfamiliar with the domain. This presentation was created for high school students who are learning programming

The hardest piece is explaining to them that getting them the “Best” result for a two word query is difficult as it depends on factors that most search engines can’t possibly know. The decision the search engine must make immediately is if my query for “bike repair” means that I want a local bike repair shop or a manual on how to repair my bike. Without the context of what I mean by “bike repair”, the search engine will have to make a best guess based on what other people think are good results. Fortunately, this is working ok now, but with the massive growth of data and types of data this problem will only get more difficult.

Digitizing the “ambient information” of my daily life would likely lead to better search results if the search engine could get the data ahead of my search query. Most of my search engine queries are actually rooted in a conversation I had immediately prior to sitting down at a keyboard to type in my query. If the microphone on my cell-phone, computer or Kindle could transmit that conversation to the search engine, the system may be able to guess what I am looking for before I type anything. A working system would likely return great results, and we would be one step closer to the creation of the science fiction artifact of the “Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer” as imagined in The Diamond Age