Automating Search Interfaces"

Peter Murray-Rust peter at
Fri Feb 20 01:11:06 GMT 1998

Forwarded from John Petit...

>Cheers, John Petit
>Title  "Re:Automating Search Interfaces""
> Don Park writes:
>>>Standardized schemas will not be there for some time. Effects of XML
>>>be felt by all major industries in the near future, and while there
>will be
>>>sincere efforts to standardize DTDs in most of the markets, fiercely
>>>competitive markets like the search service market will be slow in
>>>standardizing schemas. I expect another round of tag wars waged this
>>>by Yahoo, Excite, AltaVista, MS, etc. The result will be different
>>>time in that everyone will agree to disagree in the end and move on to
>>>building tools to bridge the differences in structures of contents
>>>would have accumulated beyond the point of standardizing.
>I agree that this disheartening scenario is quite possible. But what a
>shame! It seems that one of XML's major strength's is its ability to
>search heterogeneous databases. Independent sellers large and small
>would benefit from heterogeneous searches for it would allow super
>accurate marketing. Mom and pop producers should be able to sell their
>boutique goods to the special set of consumers that would be interested.
>A real estate agent in Backwater USA with a unique property should be
>able to sell that product in an industry standard search engine.
>Without accurate, industry specific search interfaces, consumers will
>not easily find these sites. Otherwise we are no better off search wise
>than we are today ó wallowing in inaccurate searches. It would be a real
>shame if the ultimate promises of XML were hindered by lack of
>planning.  Laissez-faire is not always the best way.
>Perhaps what would help is to create a central repository for major
>industry DTDs. Such a repository may reduce the effects of splintering,
>and accelerate development. DTD authors could see what has come before
>them and either borrow from it or at least learn from it. I have always
>felt that such a site would be useful in DTD development. There are
>probably dozens of nascent DTD efforts going on in various industries.
>Each one inventing the wheel. In many cases these authors are describing
>the same element with different names when they could just as easily use
>the same name.
>Taking biological evolution as an analogy, putting the DTDs in one small
>pool will encourage faster and more sympathetic development. Otherwise,
>isolated cyber ecosystems will encourage divergent DTD evolution and
>this will lead to a long and vicious "survival of the fittest" scenario
>that will not benefit anyone.
>I cannot speak for Robin Cover but the SGML/XML Web Page seems like a
>good candidate for such a DTD repository.
>>>Schema-based universal search interface will be dead upon arrival.
>While it
>>>is possible to build such clients, search services that use them will
>>>everytime to services offering hand-crafted search interfaces designed
>to be
>>>easy to use, relevantly flexible, and visually appealing.
>It is true that hand crafted search interfaces would be more polished,
>but who should be responsible for their creation. Is there some
>designated Java developer in the hotel industry that will make a search
>engine selflessly for the entire industry. No. If such work is relegated
>to the private companies then such search engines will not represent the
>entire industry in a unbiased way. This leaves nice, but proprietary
>search engines, and we are right back to where we started from; searches
>of privately selected database rather than searches of heterogeneous,
>industry representative databases.
>>>Improved accuracy of search results, brought on by wide availability
>>>XML-based contents, will be lost to most users. Consumers simply do
>>>care as long as they can find what they want among first 100 items
>>>by a search. Search services are free after all and therefore do not
>>>high expectations.
>I do not feel that consumers will not care about search accuracy. When a
>customer is looking for variations of Ginkgo Biloba (an over-the-counter
>drug) they want to see all the sites that sell it and for what price.
>The same is true for travelers looking for room availability at their
>travel destinations. No one wants to wade though a hundred tangentially
>related sites. Without accurate search interfaces, consumers will not
>get this sort of accurate response. The RDF is an important part of
>describing the web, but I have not seen how it would right way to
>address automating search interfaces.
Peter Murray-Rust, Director Virtual School of Molecular Sciences, domestic
net connection
VSMS, Virtual Hyperglossary

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