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SES, Chicago, a great showcase platform.

Mike Grehan
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I'm back at my desk after an excellent SES conference in Berlin last week. This was the first time in Berlin and the feedback has been tremendous. But now it's time to focus on SES, Chicago December 7 - 11. Fondly known as the freeze-your-ass-off SES, Chicago always attracts a great crowd ready for the final annual gathering of the search community.

The great thing about the show, is that, it's not about reflecting on the past year, it's all about looking forward to the New Year. So it kind of becomes the industry showcase for examining new and emerging trends as well as technologies. And this year is absolutely no different.

We recently started a new channel over at ClickZ called "Conference Call" which is a series of columns written by presenters and moderators giving an overview of their own sessions. This is a great way to get to know more about the sessions and the speakers before you get to the show.

I did a brief overview myself of a few sessions that I really want to be sure to see. And I think it's worth a quick return, because as I think more and more about us beginning to move away from the general purpose search we've become used to and into a new era of what is largely being referred to as "suggested discovery" I think it's worth a closer look.

To be clear, general purpose search has been based around the simple principle of you give us three words and we'll give you a gazillion documents back (but you'll only be interested in the top ten, of course). And so, search engines have been satisfying a short term information need on a repeated basis.

Now, if I was a baseball fan and the Yankees were my team, I'd probably do a lot of searching at search engines about my team. What's the score? Did we buy a new player? When does the new stadium open? You get the idea. And each time my short term information need is satisfied. But here's the thing, if the service delivering these results knows I need this stuff, why do I have to keep asking? Why don't they just give it to me?

So satisfying your long term information need is very high on the search research agenda. And most certainly, one area this can happen already is in social search. In fact, in social search there are many times you'll get the answer to a question before you've even asked it.

One guy who really gets the whole "suggested discovery" idea is Bill Scott. Bill created and led the IBM Digital Media Consulting & Systems Integration practice until he recently left to form his own company, Easel TV. He'll be speaking on two panels at SES, Chicago. The first is Search on the Edge - From Search to discovery. During this session Bill will explain what his company is doing with suggested discovery on the television.

I asked Bill if he could give me broad brushstroke (pun intended) of what he'll be covering.

This is what he told me:

First, I'll be talking about the connected TV in general and how the TV will increasingly get content over broadband as well as over Cable, Satellite, Terrestrial and closed IPTV networks. I'll also talk about why the TV is a very different environment to the PC and why just putting regular websites on the TV won't work. This includes the fact that search on the television is the wrong model and that we need to move towards suggested discovery. No-one is going to type into a Google type search box on their TV when using just a remote control!

Then, I will explain what we're doing with Suggested Discovery and how you can use more and more sophisticated technology to create a more and more simple experience that is appropriate for the television. I'll cover how we aggregate data and results from multi-modal sources to offer consumers a range of appropriate and relevant content that retains the serendipity of television - "Beyond the recommendation engine." And finally I'll talk about how the same concepts can be used to enhance TV programme-making - so that the content itself can be dynamically tuned to the audience based on the audience's response to it.

Yes, when Bill expanded for me on the idea of being able to monitor the audience viewing habits and then begin to create content specifically for that audience segment, you begin to see how beneficial this is to both audience and marketers.

Bill will also be on the " Beyond Googling: 5 Years Later it's a Different Audience" panel. Here he'll give us even more insight to where he sees search going.

In particular he'll be talking about "Relevance" - How will brands deliver a fresh and relevant experience to consumers, in whatever context and on whatever device?

Really, he says, the future of search, discovery or whatever it becomes is all about data, permission & trust and business rules. He also says we need to collect and maintain more data - preferences, behaviour, context, community - from more sources than ever before. This will happen naturally as both devices and the companies that provide services become ever more sophisticated. Of course the generic provider will evolve and become much more intelligent and will aggregate from multiple data sources - not just a crawl - however it is the combination of the two roles (maybe but not necessarily by the same organisation) that will deliver real value to the consumer.

Bill goes on to say that, the consumer is now in control: How do we reach them? How do we raise our proposition above all the others that are fighting to be in the consumers' domain? How do we understand which rules our target market has defined? And how do we conform to those rules in order to reach our target? Can we identify the individuals at the hub of social groupings who have disproportionate influence? Can we offer them something extra in return for endorsement?

A whole bunch of extremely interesting questions to ponder.

I can tell you, after doing some checking around, this Chicago SES is about to be one of the best ever. And there's already a great buzz going on. And BTW, a little birdie (no, not Twitter) told me that there are still some rooms available at the Hilton at this time.

Okay, let me go and cherry pick another session to highlight tomorrow.


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