Microsoft Focuses on User Behavior with New Search Research

At the SIGIR information retrieval conference in Seattle, Microsoft Research will present some of the analysis techniques it is developing to help improve search-result quality. (Microsoft Watch)

Search is about more than search-engine algorithms. It also must take into account user click-through and browsing behaviors, if search-result accuracy is to be improved.

Thats according to Microsoft researchers, who are set to present details regarding some of the analysis techniques that Microsoft Research is developing to help improve search-result quality. The Microsoft researchers are set to present three papers on this topic at the ACM Special Interest Group on Information Retrieval, or SIGIR, conference Aug. 6-11 in Seattle.

By accurately modeling and interpreting users search behavior, search engines also can better detect click-spam and deliver more accurate and personalized results, according to the Microsoft researchers.

"Its not just about a little rectangle on a screen," said Susan Dumais, a principal researcher with the Microsoft Research Adaptive Systems & Interaction Group. Dumais, a nine-year Microsoft veteran, is one of the authors of the three aforementioned SIGIR papers. "The algorithm is one part of search, but search is also about the user. And its not just about Web search—its also about searching inside a company and on a PC."

Microsoft Researchs search work is not purely theoretical. Microsoft announced in January 2006 the formation of LiveLabs, a joint partnership between Microsoft Research and MSN designed to bring search research to commercialization more quickly. (In its latest reorganization, Microsoft announced on August 2 that it was moving LiveLabs to report directly to Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie.)

Microsoft Researchs search researchers also have been working with the Windows Live Search and Windows Desktop Search teams, Dumais said. Researchers have been investigating for the past few years how a capability like implicit query—or the embedding of relevant search results directly into applications so that users dont need to pull up a browser and launch a separate query$#151;could fit into Microsoft products such as Outlook.

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