The amazing thing about search technologies is not how we see ourselves using them, but how we use them without realising it.

I’m in love with delivering a search experience to people when they don’t realise they are in fact searching. Traditional movement throughout a website is done through navigation items, with a ‘look and feel’ to help you along your way.

Content is one of those navigation aids that is self serving. There’s a large amount of information we can use about content that a user is looking at (or historically has looked at) and how they navigate other content, to aid future visitors to the site.

Search, can sometimes be about discovery of content through related items, dynamic menus and content suggestions, subtle hinting in articles or pages. Users never have to know the links which seem static and purposeful, designed by a human and crafted into the page with ease, are actually coming from a machine working in the background, harvesting the perfect ‘read next’ link.

Search – an experience

More recently, I’ve been playing with Solr, Lucene and other open search technologies. Attempting to get a good balance between map reduced knowledge of results, vs the mapping of ontological relationships and contextual relevance engines. It’s a fascinating field that keeps changing all the time.

Current implementations for image search and content search on the Mapify project is Solr and a custom binary search engine for locations (contextual GiS Indexing), as well as some federation plugins between other search engines for content (such as video and image content, vs meta data).

Search in the cloud is also an interesting development, with the idea of deploying search solutions ad-hoc on a whim is captivating. It will be interesting to see if the availability of such tools improves, or reduces the user experience around search on websites in the future.

Historical Enterprise Work

It’s been great working with the Google Enterprise Search technologies across Asia Pacific. I’ve had the opportunity to work with a number of large organisations, government agencies and small to medium businesses on their Search integration projects, with everything ranging from basic fileshares and web content, to Sharepoint and customised connector management. I not only enjoy working with the technology, but also developing custom tools around it.

Working on projects in New Zealand, China, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia and other countries, has also given me a great opportunity to work with other Enterprise professionals around the world, and I’m often contacted with questions or queries about the Google Search technologies or asked to assist on fixing issues or providing solutions to odd problems. I think out of everything I enjoy that the most, it’s quite a rewarding experience seeing search integrations go live quickly after resolutions have been found. The challenge of finding the right solution is also very rewarding, taking a currently scattered and un-managed cluster of content services and tightly integrating them with search solutions in order to provide better acess to those resources for staff or clients and seeing the final product in use, or even occasionally featured in artciles or referenced in other project requests.

You can find out more about Google Enterprise Search, here.