There is a certain magic when Google comes up with what you were searching for. To a common user it has all the mystique that a poet possesses, to be able to peer within the mind’s eye and see how beauty and truth actually are without the encumbrances of form. This is perhaps the closest a machine can get in approaching the power of the human mind, if one takes into account just the ability to fetch information.
But one finds that Google and its ilk do not do “my” context well. Predominantly because what I am searching for, the motivations, the peculiar inflections of my need are known only to me. Any search engine can infer such context, as much as its made explicit in the information that I provide, only as it rises above the noise, by virtue of being manifested elsewhere by others like me. If am imperfect in my articulation of what I mean search engines falter. I have read that a bunch of search tweakers sit in front of their indexes adjusting the levers of the beast to account for context relevance. But this can only cater when my context is sufficiently replicated in others. Otherwise my need is just a nameless, faceless need that will not be catered for. Mind you this is no fault of the search engines.
That said it seems to me search engines have all the elegance of a brute force algorithm. And nothing more. Contextual relevance is increased by the loose taxonomies that community based tagging provides. It serves to carve out a specific form from the formless amorphous shapelessness that is information space of the internet. Where there was a chaos of ideas and opinions and facts, there is now a common mechanism where the user community can collectively label what a certain thing stands for.
All this works well for the internet, but what about my local content? What about the eBooks that I have? The mp3, photos, videos? As of now apart from the pathetic excuse that is Windows file system search the option is to use from the brute force approaches- Google for the desktop, Windows Desktop Live etc. As much as it gives me ability to peer deep into my content and get me what I want this does not make it easy for me to find things. When I search out to find something I don’t search for the sake of searching. There is a specific goal I want to achieve, towards which this search result is expected to help.
What I don’t have today is a taxonomy mechanism for my local content, a way of tagging with keywords that are relevant to me. Now note that these keywords might not have anything do with the content in the first place. What things mean to me is a function of my personality, my life and my environment.
A default taxonomy is available today which we are all extremely familiar with – the filesystem. With its file/folder nomenclature it allows us to classify content as we see it fit. But this model has serious flaws. First it confuses storage and context, is not flexible enough to keep the same content marked under multiple taxonomies and is static as in once defined its not possible to change it.
The next step for content search would be account for an individual’s context with greater fidelity than now. The crowd should influence but not entirely determine the outcome of my expectations from search engines and through it the internet.