Summary: Imagine what a working natural question search could do for usability! How about if we would standardize on Q&A type blog entries and create a vast repository of answers this way? Does anybody know anyone working on this?
One of the great promises of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) (Wikipedia entry – JS) is the seamless integration of the human brain and nervous system with computing power and its physical extensions.
As long as we keep "operating" computers and computer networks by "interfacing" with them via keyboards, mice and screens, a huge opportunity for growth will remain available in computing and computer networking. There is no end in sight as to what the Internet can do to help make this happen.
Tele-connectedness, in particular mobility, is an important enabler on the roadmap for HCI. After always-on broadband access, the tablet PC and the mobile phone, things like wearable electronics and bionic implants will make HCI a more and more seamless experience.
One of the hurdles we need to take in building smooth interaction between people and computer data is the challenge of usability in information search.
Ask the machine a question
Why can’t we log on to our fixed or mobile, Internet or intranet network, and just ask questions the way we would ask them from people? I suppose the answer is two-fold. First, we don’t have algorithms sophisticated enough to turn these natural questions into accurate and meaningful search queries. Second, despite the vast amount of content that is available online these days, we don’t have well-formulated and well-formatted answers to most questions.
The Semantic Web (Wikipedia entry – JS), that is slowly coming to life with machine-readable metadata, will help match answers and questions at some point.
But I think there may be something else we could do.
When using a search engine, people usually submit search terms, describing a topic rather than a question. While what they really are looking for, in many cases, is an answer to a specific question.
If there is one type of content that we are producing together at an incredible rate, it is blog entries.
A blog entry is a clearly defined piece of micro content. Now, of course, quality varies and there are different types of blog entries. For the purpose of linking to a wider conversation in the blogosphere, a "good" blog entry centers around a single thought, observation, comment or question.
One very common type of blog entry is the "question" type. Such an entry poses a question, hoping to receive answers from the blogosphere.
Another type of blog entry is the "answer" type, or "Q&A" type. This entry offers an answer to a question.
Answers from the blogosphere
If bloggers would adhere broadly to the idea of centering entries around single, topical statements, be they questions, or answers to questions, and if they would make the "natural speach question" part of their metadata, perhaps even the headline, we could create a vast, decentralized repository of questions and answers.
Then, submitting natural questions to a blog search engine might start making sense.
Ideally, the search results, i.e. the blog entries that offer "answers", could be rated and collaboratively filtered for relevance.
Imagine what this could do for search!
Okay, so this is just a thought. It’s very raw. I should probably define other types of blog entries, and there’s a lot of other hygiene stuff to do here.
But, in the meantime: does anybody know of anyone working on something like this? Standardizing the way blog entries can answer search questions?
(And by the way, I am the first to admit that this very blog entry is not a simple Q&A at all. Perhaps when I find some answers, I can cut them into neat little micro Q&A’s )
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