Daniel makes a provocative statement:
“One of the recurring objections to exploratory search is that it can’t work for the web.”
While I suspect that he is correct about this being the common wisdom, I find myself wondering about the sources of that conception. Why is this a commonly held belief? I can think of five possible objections to exploratory search on the web, five reasons why companies might say that exploratory search can’t work:
- Exploratory search is not needed. Users do not have exploratory information needs within the web environment. Exploratory search can’t work if users don’t need it.
- Users do need it, but the type of data found on the web does not lend itself to exploratory information seeking behaviors. Web data is “wrong” for this task.
- Web data does lend itself to exploratory behaviors, but we don’t have enough processing power to make it scale to web-size collections.
- We have enough processing power to make it scale to web-sized collections, but we’re too lazy and/or lack the talent and expertise to make it work.
- Our company has the expertise needed to make it work, but when it does work, it would destroy or at least compete against our business model.
I am curious about which, whether any or all, of these are reasons that web search engines companies give for why exploratory search can’t work on the web. I am not saying that any of these reasons are correct or incorrect. I am simply wondering which of these reasons are the ones given by the dominant web search engine companies. (Aside: Note the gradual shift, from Reason #1 to Reason #5, in blaming the user versus blaming themselves. I really am curious about where the web search companies point the finger.)
2a. Users do need it, but they are too stupid and lazy to type more than a few query terms, and don’t want to think about the search process.
Yeah, I guess I do hear (2a) a lot. I’ve always never believed it, though, because in the same breath I hear statements from the search engines about how users will formulate and reformulate their queries over and over, half a dozen times, until they get it right. So they’re already exhibiting traits of non-laziness and search process thought.