Web Search Clustering from Microsoft (and other Clustering Tools)

Yesterday, we blogged about a discovery that allows you to receive MSN Search Beta results via RSS. It will be interesting to see what Bill G. and company does with this feature in the future.

Today, even more MS search news. An excellent post on the SQL Full Text Search blog (thanks John!) alerts us to a few clustering tools, including a demo from Microsoft Research Asia.

+ Microsoft Research Asia (MSRA) Cluster Demo and Toolbar
You can either cluster results from MSN, MSN Beta, or MSN Newsbot using a web interface. Browsing inside of a clusters seems to work better with IE compared to when I tried using Firefox. A toolbar from MS Research Asia that offers direct access to the MSRA clustering technology is also available. It’s also very easy to toggle the clustering on and off. Techies might find a paper by the MSR Asia team worth a look: Learning To Cluster Web Search Results. The research was presented at a conference last summer.

+ Dowser
An app (Windows, Mac, Linux, Unix) that not only clusters results but also locally caches every page viewed in your browser and offers change tracking. I’m looking forward to testing this one.

+ Top Gist
An app (download required, Windows only) that allows you to cluster results from several engines including Google.

OK, we’ve all got plenty to take a look at. I’m looking forward to testing these tools out and reporting back.

Final Comments
As web databases grow larger and larger and search habits stay pretty much the same, I believe clustering will become an even more important tool to help the searcher find what they’re looking for since we all know that good results can exist after the first 10 (what most people look at). Clustering can also be an excellent knowledge discovery tool that can help you quickly “see” things that would be difficult, if not impossible to quickly piece together looking at one result at a time. In 2004, both Chris and I had positive things to say about Vivisimo’s release of Clusty. At the Web 2.0 conference Google demonstrated some of the clustering work their doing.

I was also happy to see that the SQL Full Text Search post includes a link to Vivisimo’s excellent paper: Needed: A More Selective Ignorance. It does an excellent job (IMHO) to succinctly explain the importance of clustering.

Ok, that’s it. Go forth a cluster!

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