Monday 26 October 2009

Futher empowering search products

One of my recent presentations was inspired by some colleagues talking about the difficulty they find searching the Oracle documentation to find the information they require.

During this presentation I mention a book I read recently (alas I can't remember now which one) where they refer to the concept of the world's entire knowledge being stored on a device the size of a grain of sand. Seems a little fanciful now, but imagine what sounded fanciful back in 1901, and compare that to what we have today.

Of course the reason I made this reference was that our search engines are going to need to become smarter. And we're going to need to be smarter in relation to how we pool information from all resources.

For years now hardware has been sustaining growth to the approximation of Moore's Law. Hardware companies have certainly had their day in the sun, and that indeed continues. Oracle's recent partnership with Sun, releasing information on Exadata V2 show us what's happening in our little sphere.

Microsoft's time in the sun is beginning to wane. Competition grows strong between Bing & Google, and a recent news item caught my attention.

On Google's official blog they announced their future integration with Twitter. Now I mentioned how we need to be smarter with the way we integrate our information. I feel this is a good step towards this goal. Sites like Twitter are an untapped goldmine in regard to current information, current news stories, and the current opinions of the masses.

One of my all time favourite books explores (among other things) the power of real-time information. Richard Wiseman, psychologist and skeptic, recently used Twitter as a tool to conduct a scientific experiment. I heard him speak on a podcast recently where he's straining his brain trying to work out how to use social networking sites such as this that lead the cultural meme as an effective tool to do powerful studies on mass & diverse populations. Integration of this information with powerful search engines I'm sure will aid his work.

Arthur C. Clarke's book linked above mentions a generic "Search Engine" as being a tool ultimately hard-wired into our brains, such that we can use it to search for information, such as looking at the background of someone you just met while you strike a conversation.

Considering the world's knowledge is now more than just an ancient library of information, I feel that "information finding" companies like Google will be the strong force over the next few decades.

I also believe the tide is turning away from journalism and more towards blogs. I particularly find this on the scientific blogs I read. Recently it's been mentioned that perhaps we'll need to pay a subscription for obtaining news from major sources - just like buying a newspaper. I doubt such a model will work well, and for the type of new I'm interested in, I find science bloggers to a more accurate, objective and entertaining job. So perhaps future search engines also need to tailor to our preferences, our needs of the moment. We certainly see some of this happen now when we search for books on Amazon, or listen to music on iTunes or LastFM - common purchases are linked together and strengthen connections like the neural networks I learnt about in university.

Search facilities are the next big thing.

Now before I finish, considering this is an Oracle themed blog, I best mention one of Oracle's best search facilities is Oracle Text (formerly Oracle InterMedia). I'm waiting for the opportunity to explore this feature even more after developing a wonderful search facility a few years ago. Perhaps this requires a future presentation to highlight this possibly underutilised feature.

My thoughts for this week conclude with a quote sourced from Twitter via my RSS feed.

He who does not research has nothing to teach ~ Unknown

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