Basically it is a search box for your site, that auto-suggests search terms as you type…these suggested search terms are actually subject terms based on a thesaurus or lexicon that you have programmed into your LookAhead site search tool.
If you don’t have a controlled vocabulary to import into the tool, they also have a service called Lex-It which will generate a lexicon for you (obviously not as effective as human indexing or thesaurus construction).
So basically it it subject searching with auto-complete, but the beauty of it is that it has a pre-browsing window, you don’t have to commit to viewing a page until you are done navigating the vocabulary (which seems to be listed alphabetically).
Next to each suggested term is a number denoting the number of terms under that, and so on…if the number is one, this will be a direct link to the webpage.
If you type in the term “RSS”, the backend thesaurus says if someone types in “RSS” also show hits from the terms “Atom”, “Feed”, “Syndication”…very much an enterprise search mechanism. Sometimes when this happens you wonder why you are getting these type of hits, it is good when the search engine tells you that it also has included hits from these other terms.
Not sure if it does this, but it would be good if it would say “see also Atom”, “broader term Feed”, “narrower term RSS metrics”…that way you could look at only articles within the term “RSS”, or only articles within the term “Atom”, or articles from both by choosing to click on the broader subject term “feed”, or articles from the narrower subject term “RSS Metrics”
…I guess this is an alternate view to an alphabetical view.
More from the interview on Robin’s post:
“…On the Google search box that allows my readers to find content on my site, the moment that they would start typing, whatever key word or sentence on some topic or issue or tool, they would get immediately a popup box next to that search box that would reveal all of the articles that I have on that topic.”
…We also provide the webmaster or the site owner with the ability to create their own unique vocabulary.
So, for example, if you type in the term, you start typing in the term “mountain lion,” perhaps the term mountain lion is no where to be found on the site, but in fact the webmaster through our technology has said panther and mountain lion are the same, they are equivalent, so you could type in mountain lion and in fact find the pages with panther on it.
…So, for example, if you typed in mountain, and you selected mountain lion from the drop down, it could take you directly to a mountain lion page, or it could just populate the search box with “mountain lion,” and then you could further modify that.”
Refining the results
A related function to this service is experienced when searching on Scirus, although this lacks the auto-suggest, and pre-browsing window…but the similar thing is the term suggestions…really it’s only refining what you got (your results), in contrast with the focus of this post which is about the initial discovery.
If you search a subject term on Scirus like “kuroko mines”, the sidebar will list keyword suggestions…although I don’t think this is based on a thesaurus, I think it is based on these keywords appearing in your results, so it’s a refined search. Actually Engineering Village2 also does this but you can refine your results not only by keyword, but by subject term, publisher, author, document type, year, etc…
I guess Teoma, and Clusty also do this with their subject/topic/group clustering.
I suppose these are more mining techniques to drill down into the opaque web (they make up for lousy search terms)
ie. a lay person might be looking for “bottle wholesalers in Australia”, and their search term may be: bottle wholesaler Australia, they may be lucky, they may be not…the cluster might suggest the term “manufacturers”, offering a worm hole into what would be the 200th page in the results (as it turns the successful website may have called themselves a manufacturer even though they are also a wholesaler…so the refined suggestion was fortunate, and made up for the intelligence of the user not thinking to use that term as an alternative search attempt)
…boolean searching also fits into this scenario as another web-mining tool.