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Sep 13, 2001: New HP Wetware Product leads to Smarter Search

Avi Rappoport, of SearchTools.com fame, points me to a nice little piece of information architecture that may be the harbinger of what would be a very welcome trend.

Go to the Hewlett-Packard site and type "handheld" in the search box (the image below shows the results):

What's the big deal? Well, check out the three items above the results (to the right of the binoculars icon). These aren't the product of some programming brilliance that mere mortals can never hope to understand or duplicate. Nope, they were put there manually. In other words, by some human person.

The folks at HP know that automatically-generated search results have great value, but at least for popular searches, manually-generated results may have even greater value. So they took the trouble to implement a "best bets" approach which, though technically fairly trivial, obviously requires them to know something about what their users are want. (In this case, probably not a document describing the history of the handheld calculator, which is the first thing that the search engine produced.) Good work for an information architect, wouldn't you say? Certainly a nice little illustration of hybrid architecture.

The search tool vendors are also clueing in, despite their track record of ignoring anything that smacks of manual effort, even if such efforts directly improve the performance of the software packages they sell. According to Avi, vendors like Microsoft SharePoint, Atomz and Searchbutton/MondoSearch are building in this "best bets" capability. Which is certainly a hopeful trend.

And which warms that cold black dog's breakfast of a heart that occasionally quivers within my sunken, papery chest.

Kudos to the handful of search tool vendors that have finally started to understand that "shrink wrap" equals crap. And even more kudos to the information architects at HP, who've customized their version of Inktomi Search Software (formerly Ultraseek) in-house.

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