By Jim Rapoza  |  Posted 2004-01-26 Print this article Print

What if you could instantly build categorized search results from multiple content sources as searches were performed? That is the challenge Vivisimo Inc. has taken on with its Clustering Engine 4.0. Vivisimos solution isnt perfect, but Clustering Engines ability to create on-the-fly categories is so impressive that we gave it an eWEEK Labs Analysts Choice award. When it comes to making it easy for visitors to find content on sites and search engines, good categorization is a must.

Much of the early success of Yahoo.com, in fact, was based on its ability to categorize the Web.

However, as eWEEK Labs July 2002 Data by Design eValuation found, good categorization of even relatively similar content can be difficult, requiring upfront investment in taxonomy analysis and lots of back-end work in perfecting the categories as new content and category areas are added.

Probably the biggest difference between Clustering Engine and other categorization applications is that Clustering Engine does not require a pre-existing taxonomy, nor does it require training sets of preclassified content. Instead, the application analyzes returned search results and infers categories based on the content.

Unlike some tools that perform categorization automatically, Clustering Engine is not a search engine. The product instead pulls results from any predefined source, such as internal search engines, vendor search engines, custom news services and public Web search engines. It is also possible to directly query databases from Clustering Engine.

Pricing for Clustering Engine starts at $24,000 and climbs depending on several factors, including the number of sources that information is pulled from and deployment requirements. Clustering Engines price compares favorably with those of enterprise search systems and categorization platforms.

In our tests, the category clusters returned in searches were accurate more often than not, especially when the search terms were very specific. When search terms became broader, the returned categories were often comical. (A search for a certain drink recipe, for example, returned a womens footwear category.)

Still, given its ability to provide good categorization of searches on the fly—with much less upfront work than other approaches require—companies looking to improve search results in their portals, Web sites and intranets should definitely take a look at Clustering Engine. Indeed, one of the main reasons behind our decision to award Clustering Engine an Analysts Choice is that the product makes it possible for companies to deploy features that have typically been limited to large public search engines.

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Jim Rapoza, Chief Technology Analyst, eWEEK.For nearly fifteen years, Jim Rapoza has evaluated products and technologies in almost every technology category for eWEEK. Mr RapozaÔÇÖs current technology focus is on all categories of emerging information technology though he continues to focus on core technology areas that include: content management systems, portal applications, Web publishing tools and security. Mr. Rapoza has coordinated several evaluations at enterprise organizations, including USA Today and The Prudential, to measure the capability of products and services under real-world conditions and against real-world criteria. Jim Rapoza's award-winning weekly column, Tech Directions, delves into all areas of technologies and the challenges of managing and deploying technology today.

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