” is the science of human knowledge. This area of philosophy looks at the origin, the structure and the validity of what we know, perceive or think. Formulating proper keywords when using a search engine and evaluating the results of that search involves the area of epistemology.
Mao, Shen and Sun presented an interesting paper at IUI
entitled “Supporting Exploratory Information Seeking by Epistemology-based Social Search
“. They suggest a new way of searching for information in the context of social search using search epistemologies. These can be shared, reused and defined collaboratively by users. Their prototype “Baijia” outperforms a conventional search engine in supporting exploratory information seeking (EIS). This means that users searching for everything to do with “Tibetan life” for example, benefit from such a system. If you’re looking for someones phone number, there are more direct means to get your information.
As they say, formulating effective keyword strings to feed to search engines isn’t always straightforward when you don’t have a clear search goal. PageRank and HITS ranking algorithms won’t necessarily reflect your vagueness and so you are stuck thinking up more accurate ways to express your already vague goal. EIS is an important part of our lives but having a machine enabled solution to our fuzzy expectations is not easy.
“Wisdom of crowds
” takes the idea that the many are smarter than the few, and has been implemented as an idea in social search already. Lots of people search for similar or identical things and so reusing other people’s successful search strings makes sense. Google suggestion is based on this and so is “Baijia”.
The idea is that you subscribe to an epistemology that you are interested in from the repository. Here you can refine the existing epistemology. Baijia uses the Google API to get its results. The weights between the epistemologies and the results are adjusted depending on the level of agreement between the queries and each epistemology.
One of these might look like this:
- User A: Surfing Mentawai: “Search for Surfing in Indonesia”
- User B: http://www.somewebsite.com is the best page for this
- User C: “Search for….”
- and so on…..
“The agreement is defined based on the summation of queries match of all epistemic concepts, each of which is contributed by user i, and the match is based on the similarity between all elements of the concept and the queries”. The epistemologies are all sorted and ranked with search engine results having a priority. This means that when you type in the beginnings of a search you don’t just get a query suggestion but also a whole map of where your query might go and the different types of information available to you. Results are re-ranked according to users’ judgments.
How does this apply to SEO?
With the wealth of social media networks available and the willingness of people to be involved in them, something like Baijia could be very useful to users. For website owners, small and large businesses alike, it could all you to have some insight into what types of searches involve your website or which epistemologies you expected to be found in and weren’t. This for the SEO is an interesting addition to keyword research which I do believe doesn’t involve enough user behaviour work at this time.
We might get keyword volumes from various sources but these don’t show:
- How many times there was a reformulation
- Whether the users found what they were looking for
- Whether they had any background on the subject of their search (expertise levels)
Consider this snippet from Donna Spencer
(full article at Boxes and arrows):
“As an example, a few years ago I was looking for information on the cognitive mechanisms that allow people to navigate the physical world (I was comparing the concept of online and physical navigation). I knew what I was after, but couldn’t describe it (‘navigation’ in a search engine would return results for web navigation). I had no idea where to start. I tried a number of places and didn’t succeed at all. (Six months later I stumbled across some wayfinding papers and realised that was the term I needed).”
How can you help your users find your site more effectively during an exploratory search? Where is that compass and do your visitors know how to use it properly?