Do you want to take notes? Identifying research missions in Yahoo Search Pad

Jan 1, 2010

Abstract: Addressing user’s information needs has been one of the main goals of Web search engines since their early days. In some cases, users cannot see their needs immediately answered by search results, simply because these needs are too complex and involve multiple aspects that are not covered by a single Web or search results page. This typically happens when users investigate a certain topic in domains such as education, travel or health, which often require collecting facts and information from many pages. We refer to this type of activities as “research missions”. These research missions account for 10% of users’ sessions and more than 25% of all query volume, as verified by a manual analysis that was conducted by Yahoo editors. We demonstrate in this paper that such missions can be automatically identified on-the-fly, as the user interacts with the search engine, through careful runtime analysis of query flows and query sessions. The on-the-fly automatic identification of research missions has been implemented in Search Pad, a novel Yahoo application that was launched in 2009, and that we present in this paper. Search Pad helps users keeping trace of results they have consulted. Its novelty however is that unlike previous notes taking products, it is automatically triggered only when the system decides, with a fair level of confidence, that the user is undertaking a research mission and thus is in the right context for gathering notes. Beyond the Search Pad specific application, we believe that changing the level of granularity of query modeling, from an isolated query to a list of queries pertaining to the same research missions, so as to better reflect a certain type of information needs, can be beneficial in a number of other Web search applications. Session-awareness is growing and it is likely to play, in the near future, a fundamental role in many on-line tasks: this paper presents a first step on this path.

  • WWW 2010: Proceedings of the 19th international conference on World Wide Web, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA