Search vs. Explore

As I have been thinking of reblogger and it’s uniqueness it appeared to me that we need to make a clear cut between the terms search and explore. Reblogger is an exploring tool, everyone else is doing the searching. So, to start this out, here are the definitions from wikipedia.

Exploration is the attempt to develop an initial, rough understanding of some phenomenon.

So, to be able to search we need to know “who” or “what” are we looking for, regardless of does it exist or not. With exploring, we are going to find what that “who” or “what” may be.

Let’s examing following sites and what are they offering :

To do this, we’ll use a simple case scenario, we need to write a essay on “inflation”. The crucial point here is that, we are not looking for a particular information (we are not SEARCHING), but we are trying to get “rough understanding” as wikipedia puts it. If this “rough understanding” is up-to-date at the same time, then we are on our way!

Google

Obviously, I type “inflation” at google, and among 5-6 inflation calculators, I’ve got a wikipedia link, some statistics, few Federal Reserves links and a link to nice essay about “inflation for beginners”. Now I’ve just caught my breath thinking this will be helpful. Well, it almost was, until I found a paragraph describing how atrology can be used to guess the inflation rate?!? So what’s missing here? Relevancy! Google is looking for keywords, which is fine if I was looking for let’s say inflation rate in Botswana (http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&safe=off&q=inflation+rate+in+Botswana&btnG=Search), but the truth is I had no idea what was I looking really for. I was exploring.

Technorati

Let’s try with technorati. Typing the “inflation” in basic search return bunch of posts on “inflation”, which was cool. Then I’ve choosed to look only in blogs about “economy”, since I’m interested in scientific perspective of inflation (for the moment being!!!). So, that worked out well… with few more refinments (remove posts with Alan Greenspan… etc).

So, the problems I had with Technorati are following :

1. I’d had to go through way too many things to find the posts I’m looking for.
2. I’d like much more specified tagging structure… if inflation is a keyword (rb terms), I’d like to see following search terms (rb terms) : monetary theory, neo-keynesian theory, phillips curve, hyperinflation, price controls, deflation… etc. That would be a nice starting point.
3. I really didn’t want to read all posts… my ideal picture here would be : ok, I have posts on “inflation”, I see the search terms and look them up at wikipedia, then I dig deeper looking for “phillips curve” for example.
4. No history! Once when I find a blog that is informative as well as relevant I want to keep up with it. In Europe, at the end of college every student has to write a final paper which needs to be usually 200-300 pages long. It takes about a year to write that, so I want to learn about inflation on a more permanent basis. I also want to keep up with some other things like sport, movies etc. and I DEFINETLY have no desire to add 300 bookmarks to firefox and be bombed with irrelvant information.
5. it would be really nice to see what blogs is reading and how is filtering posts economics professor from sweeden that wrote 3 books on inflation!!! At technorati, I see the aggregation of masses, and I presume most of them are not really the inflation experts.

del.icio.us

With del.icio.us I had the very same problems as with the technorati with the addition that I could not have look for inflation among the economics blogs… so I’ve got a lot of posts with “inflated” fame, self-assesment, buildings…. etc. Then I figured out that del.icio.us has no posts and that it’s actually a bookmark thing (now you all say duuuh!), so that pretty much ruled it out as a exploration tool, because I knew way too little about any of the posts to decide on their relevancy…

digg

It’s a technology orientated site so no tests could be done, but in general there is way too many people deciding on one thing, so it is useless unless one is trying to figure out “what’s hot” at the moment. Some good concepts though.

wikipedia

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The good in bad

Ok, we had some delays with the patching up reBlogger 3.0.5 and releasing 3.0.6, so I could not get right into the coding stuff, and what a blessing was that!!!

My initial idea was to go and redo the database structure to this multiplayer mode, which would basically result in a two separate directions of development. Needless to say we would have reoccuring bugs, lot’s of recoding and in general mess. It has just occured to me that the fastest and by far the best way to build reBlogger.com would be to write an extension for reBlogger 3.0.6.

Basically what we would have is 2-3 additional tables that would represent some kind of joins between users and keywords/negative keywords. Since we don’t want to add same feed more than once and also we don’t want to add same post more than once, it is only logical to leave all that data in the same database.

Anyhow, reading through Mark’s blog I’ve got a rather solid understanding of what we are actually building. Then going through this article I realized how hot reBlogger is, and how far ahead we are with our software.

What I think is that we need to make an API (and that we’ll need to develop reblogger.com so it’ll be a good testing point) and start writing extensions, mainly focused on the front-end.