21 October 2006

Finding what you want to find

Technorati is now indexing 57.4 million blogs. Technically that's an enormous task, but imagine the problem for the reader or the researcher. With all that content, how do you know that when you do a search that you are getting to see a post that might be highly relevant to you. This is a problem for any content manager.

Technorati ranks on the basis of inbound links from different URLs (authority), and the searcher can choose to list results either by the timing of the posting (freshness) or by authority. With 57.4 million blogs, it is inevitable that some search returns will be well down the list whether you rank by freshness or authority. They could be highly relevant, simply invisible to the search community. Is that a problem?

It's possible to argue that it is up to bloggers to publicise their blogs and make sure that they achieve sufficient authority to get listed on searches, but that puts all the responsibility on the author. Besides, if all blog authors were equally adept at developing inbound links then that would simply create another problem for Technorati to solve and until they did, search results would be even more chaotic than they are already.

The key question shouldn't be authority or freshness, it should be relevance, but automated analysis of relevance is a bit of a mixed bag - some [very expensive] systems which are famous for their ability to sort wheat from chaff appear to have real difficulty in demonstrating that functionality consistently day in, day out.

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