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Aug 01, 2001: Lame-Brained Theory of the Day

Search algorithms haven't really changed in decades, and we probably won't see any radically different search algorithms in our lifetimes. Aside from hardware-based improvements, such as processing speed, the automated aspects of the search process simply won't get much better.

What will get better? Two things.

  1. Users will become better searchers. Our kids will put us to shame with their information-seeking ingenuity. (Some already do). They'll unconsciously figure out how to combine and reconfigure the same set of search algorithms that we've been struggling to understand for years. So users will be different in the future.
  2. The presentation and organization of search results will improve. Here's something to get excited about, as we may not have to wait two decades to see the progress. And better yet, we can probably automate many aspects of search result presentation and organization. This is a wide-open area that information architects generally haven't paid much attention to in the past; now is as good a time as ever to change that.

As a starting point, I'll be puttering through a book chapter that Marti Hearst has kindly made available online: "User Interfaces and Visualization". Send me your favorite citations on the topic and I'll summarize in a future posting.

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