Yahoo Mindset Gives Users Control Over Search Results

A beta tool launched by Yahoo Research Labs this week gives searchers control over the way results are sorted with the slide of a bar. At one end of the spectrum is commercial sites and at the other, informational sites.

Yahoo ranked sites from most commercial (-2 points) to most informational (+2), but cautions that the rankings may need fine-tuning since the criteria is still a bit fuzzy. A zero score means the site contains a balance of commercial and informational material. The filtering system works for the top 100 results.

Great First Step

One search engine analyst said Mindset is the beginning of something new. “Yahoo Mindset is a great first step in fully understanding the intent of a users entered search,” Andy Beal, vice president of marketing, WebSourced, told TechNewsWorld. “While Mindset still requires direct input from the searcher, it as an important step towards fully automated filtering that can understand the intent of your search, without your interaction.”

Yahoo defines commercial as a site whose main purpose is to sell something. At the other end are sites whose main purpose is purely informational.

“Yahoo is one of the first search engines to recognize that some entered search queries can generate results that are either too commercial or too academic in nature. A student searching for ‘computers’ may be writing a paper on the history of computer technology and therefore not want to see commercial listings for Dell or HP,” Beal said. “Meanwhile, someone searching for the best price on a computer can filter out a lot of ‘research’ type listings and focus more on consumer listings.”

Long Way to Go

But Yahoo cautioned that the feature is still in its early stages.

“When using Mindset, please bear in mind it’s not a finished product. We think of it more as a technology demo and an ongoing research project. We want to determine whether: a) the underlying technology is effective and b) you like it,” writes Bernard Mangold senior director, Yahoo! Research Labs, in the blog (www.ysearchblog.com/archives/000114.html) about the research.

MSN Search (search.msn.com/?qb=1) allows users to alter results with three sliders that set preferences for how recently the site has been updated, how popular it is and whether it is an exact match for the search.

Google Labs has offered a personalized search (labs.google.com/personalized) since March 2004 that tailors results based on a user profile.

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