Relevancy: will your clicks outlive you?

There is that phrase about today's news being tomorrows fish and chip wrappers but not in the world of digital information.

Now we find out that Google logs every search we ever did, it got me thinking.. as technology advances and search improves, there is theoretically eventually no limit to the records we can search and discover.  Extrapolate a hundred years when computers are some sci-fi Iain M Banks style sentient beings or whatever and people can search every detail of information recorded in every relic database.  Virtually everything you do is logged in some system or other, even down to what we idly searched for when pissed one night on google in our teens.  Freaky to think that this is as much a legacy as what we do with our lives.  But for that to work, the improvements are not about delivering ten million more hits for a given search phrase, it has to be about improving relevance and what is a likely link between two ideas or items or people. 

Search relevance in Office 12 is being enhanced even further from that in Office 2003.  If you weren't aware of the erudite roots of our search algorithm, check out the Okapi probabilistic relevancy ranking algorthim creator Stephen Robertson.  Microsoft has some serious brains working on this in Cambridge.  In 12 we further improve relevancy.  New algorithms have been developed by MS Search team in collaboration with MSN Internet search, Desktop search (Vista, Outlook…) and the planet-brains of MSR Research to add new ingredients to the search relevancy mix. 

For example looking at click distance – counting the number of clicks from ‘authoritative’ sites or URL Depth – URLs higher in the site hierarchy or those relating to "containers" tend to be more relevant.  We also raise people to be first tier results so you find who has the expertise not just every doc they every wrote.  After all its often who, not what you know that really matters.  We will also priorise hits relating to people you appear to interact with.  This is all very exciting and takes us a long way further in improving relevance. 

I guess blogs are also for ever - and newsgroups.  So if my great great great grandchildren are reading this - stop mucking about and get back to work!

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