Blekko Launches Izik For Smartphones

izik_promoIt’s a familiar dilemma: you and your friends go to see the latest blockbuster movie only to find it completely sold out. Now you must decide on which of the remaining movies to see and can’t agree on which one. Some of the films you know, others you’ve never heard of before. In the few minutes you have to decide, you want to quickly learn more about the movies before forking over $12 to buy a ticket. You want to know a movie’s plot, its cast, critical reviews, pictures, video clips, recent news about the movie and more. You’re looking for multiple pieces of information on the movie and need a tool that organizes search results into categories to help you find what you need quickly and painlessly, and without clicking through multiple tiny blue links.

Enter izik for smartphones.

Back in January blekko released izik, a search app designed for the iPad, Android and Nook tablets. izik brought beautiful, glossy pages to the search experience, mixing rich imagery within a variety of topical categories, all navigable utilizing gesture controls such as swipes, pinch-to-zoom, tapping and more to help the user quickly access the search results they need. Since releasing izik for the tablet, our users have frequently asked when blekko would release a version for the smartphone. We have listened to our users and today we are very proud to announce the release of izik for iPhone and Android. Many of the same features for the tablet as described above can also be found in the mobile phone version, all utilizing the smaller real estate common on most mobile phone screens.

But mobile phones are not tablets, and we believe people use them for very different reasons and in different places. While tablets are more focused on media consumption around the home and office, mobile phones serve more as a tool to help you on the go, while also helping pass the time in line at the supermarket and post office. With this in mind, we have added a new feature to izik for mobile phone called “What’s Nearby.” This tool helps you find popular local establishments close to you such as cafes, movie theaters, bars, restaurants, and more, provided you give us permission to use your current location info.

izik for smartphones is just a first step. In the coming months we will be updating and adding features to the app. To help us meet this goal, we would love to hear from you and get feedback on your experiences using izik on your mobile phone. And did I mention it’s free? You can download the app for free at both the iTunes and Google Play app stores today.

So the next time you need to find something quickly while on the go, whether it’s finding out movie info, product reviews, nutritional data at the supermarket or anything else, let izik for mobile phone lead the way to the information you need.

Izik for smartphone can be downloaded at both the iTunes App Store and the Google Play Store.

Happy searching!

 

iphone_home    iphone_home_local   iphone_local_map

android_categories    android_category_expand   android_webview

 

apple_app_store        google_play_store

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Privacy, Search Engines, and Government Monitoring

lockWith all the recent controversy over US Government data collection, it’s a good time to bring up a privacy concern that every Internet user should have: the information that search engines keep about their users. A large fraction of all website visits go through search engines — no one uses bookmarks or remembers domain names anymore. Even if you are not a criminal, you probably make searches that you don’t want your minister, boss, or spouse to know about. You don’t expect your doctor to keep a record of every question you ask at a checkup, but your search engine probably remembers every medical search you’ve ever made. And even if you’ve been careful to log out and clear your cookies, those searches are probably associated with your real name.

Violate my privacy for a good reason, eh?

One reason search engines keep search histories is to provide personalized ads and results. Search ads are mostly based on the keywords you type into the search box, and are very lucrative — so much so that there’s not much benefit from knowing that you clicked on a Mercedes website last week. Choosing which news sources (New York Times or Fox News?) based on user history is good for the user, but doesn’t require remembering every single article that you’ve ever clicked on (“J-Lo Reveals: Space Aliens Tattooed My Baby!”) User click data is a great way to improve the order that websites are presented in results, but most of the benefit comes from completely anonymized click data, not having my personal click history.

Recording very sensitive data because it might be useful someday is a bad idea.

“Big Data” is really popular with businesses these days, with the hope that it can provide great value, either to users, or to advertisers. Recording nearly everything that users do, which is what major search engines do, is bad for many reasons:

  • The right thing to do is to keep just enough information to provide most of the benefit for the user, not all the information for a tiny additional benefit.
  • The user really doesn’t benefit from helping advertisers. I like seeing more relevant ads, but not at the cost of having my search engine remember every embarrassing query I’ve ever made.
  • Just for fun, bad guys might break in and publish search histories. You can read about these kinds of incidents every week; it’s never happened to Google, but it’s still a bad idea to keep all that data.
  • Just like public libraries, it is not the mission of a search engine to collect information for the government. OK, maybe in non-free countries that’s the mission of both search engines and the public library, but that’s not exactly the ideal that most of us hope for on the Internet.

What’s the right thing to do? Privacy by design.

Blekko’s information collection and privacy policy does what users want, without hurting the quality of our search results:

  • Don’t track anyone’s search histories
  • Be careful that anonymized data really is anonymized, and is minimized to provide the most benefit with the least data.
  • Keep nothing if users select the “Do not track” option in their browser.

In the long run, consumers will only have privacy if they demand it. Thank you to all who have raised their voices about this issue!

[ Discuss on hacker news. ]

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Announcing a Major Blekko Site Redesign

We are very pleased to announce our latest blekko.com site redesign. This major redesign has 3 main features:

  • Blekko now exposes multiple search categories to help users navigate to high quality results more efficiently and with less queries
  • Blekko supports a responsive design that adjusts to tablet and desktop screen sizes
  • The site has been redesigned with a new aesthetic and navigational approach that we hope users find fun and engaging

The Evolution of Categories

Our decision to show multiple categories in search results evolved from a marriage of technology and usability. Rich, Greg and our cadre of talented engineers initially built a framework that allowed users to specify a curated set of sites using librarian-crafted semantic categories (slashtags) with their search term. Slashtags separated the golden search nuggets of wheat from the chaff of billions of spam sites, link farms and black hat SEO sites that are notably absent in our search results. Our next iteration in category technology was in late 2011 when we developed the ability to determine relevant categories without requiring users to explicitly type a slashtag along with their query term. We referred to this as “auto-boosting” of slashtags. While this technology helped with usability of the site and our slashtags, the experience was subtle and end users still arrived at a results page with “10 blue links”.

Blekko took auto-boosted categories a giant step forward when we completed a new API this January that responds with multiple search categories for most queries. Our mobile app izik was our first product to leverage the new API. Now we have integrated our category rich API into blekko.com along with a bold new design and navigational approach.

tesla search results

Category Examples

Our internal and external team of slashtag librarians has been hard at work expanding our list of categories into the thousands. Among our more common categories are “Top results” which is similar to the 10 blue links you’d get on most other search engines and “Latest” is the most recent dated results for the query. The “News” category displays results from our human-curated list of news sources, so while it probably isn’t quite as up-to-date or diverse as “Latest”, it may have much higher quality.

Here are a few examples of query terms and the categories returned:

football: college sports, soccer, college football, football, sports, fantasy sports, sports equipment

healthy snacks for kids: parenting, health, alternative medicine, recipes, magazines, nutrition

apple: news, apple, recipes, reviews, tech

lyme disease symptoms: health, alternative medicine, pets, dogs

Category Benefits

Displaying multiple categories for a given search term has several benefits. First and foremost, it can be very challenging for a search engine to disambiguate user intent from a vague query term such as ‘apple’ or ‘tesla’ which could trigger many different flavors of results. Is the user seeking information about Tesla electric cars, the inventor Nicola Tesla or perhaps lyrics for an 80s hair band? The antiquated approach to solving this riddle is to sprinkle in a variety of different types of results among the 10 blue links from those few sites on the planet with significant enough SEO juice to muscle their way to the top. The new Blekko redesign allows users to drill down into multiple categories that each present a different vantage point on the search topic. Since each category is clearly labeled we can warn the user of baked-in bias. For example, the category “Alternative Medicine” under the query “asthma treatment” will yield very different results than the more traditional “Health” category. You can imagine that the category “Conservative” under the query “obamacare” will similarly yield results from web sites with a specific editorial slant.

An unanticipated benefit we have observed via izik usability testing and click metrics is deeper user interaction with their search results. There has been much publicity around the search golden triangle which describes the propensity of users to click on links in the upper left portion of the page with very few clicks beyond those lucky top ordinals. Getting users to interact with advanced settings and search filters has long been a Product Manager’s holy grail. We have been surprised and delighted to encounter users commonly navigating beyond the top ordinal results deep into 80th or 90th ordinals (unheard of!) due largely to the new categorized layout.

Using the New Blekko

The categories expand and collapse to expose more or less search results which can then be scrolled through horizontally.

As the screenshot from our product tour below illustrates, you can expand a category (or collapse an already expanded category) and see more search results by clicking the vertical category title. Clicking the down arrow in a search result category similarly expands the category. Jump to a category by clicking from the menu on the left rail.

The Settings menu on the top right corner allows users to adjust their privacy controls, customize the look of the page, and login to their accounts to access slashtags. We still offer the same Privacy policy that users love. Try out the new site — we’re eager to know what you think! Send us your thoughts and ideas to: feedback AT blekko.com.

product tour
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Trending on izik: Iron Man 3

Iron Man sure has changed a lot since his first appearance in Tales of Suspense #39 back in March 1963. Iron Man was an important and popular character in the Marvel Comics universe, but never seen as a real A-list bankable hero to the general public. The character’s guest appearances in comics, animated cartoons in the 60′s and 80′s, and his own series in the 90′s slightly raised the character’s status to a wider audience. It wasn’t until his big-screen break in 2008, however, when the world finally noticed Iron Man.

With Iron Man 3 debuting in the US tonight, here are some fun facts!

The first weekend in May has become a big deal for Marvel movies. Since 2007, this weekend has seen the major release of a Marvel comic book adaptation.

2007 – Spider-Man 3

2008 – Iron Man

2009 – X-Men Origins: Wolverine

2010 – Iron Man 2

2011 – Thor

2012 – Marvel’s The Avengers

And now 2013 – Iron Man 3!

A primary influence on the story of Iron Man 3 comes from Warren Ellis and Adi Granov’s Iron Man story arc “Extremis” from 2005.

Iron Man 3 has already been released internationally, with an opening haul of $195.3 million, besting the previous record holding top grosser, Marvel’s The Avengers ($185.1 million).

The main protagonist of the film, The Mandarin, has been changed from his more fantastical comic book form. The character has been around since Tales of Suspense #50 in 1964. In the comics, he was created as a stereotypical Fu Manchu villain, wielding 10 power rings on his fingers. Seen as a caricature of the yellow scare of the times, to prevent any potentially racist stereotypes, Mandarin has been changed to a more grounded, militaristic terrorist, sans power rings.

One comic book storyline you’ll never see completely adapted to an Iron Man flick; Demon in a Bottle. The arc ran in 1979, which dealt primarily with Tony Stark’s alcoholism. Traces of it have been alluded to in the films, most notably in Iron Man 2 when Tony, while drunk in the Iron Man suit, begins acting out and scaring his party guests.

MoneySupermarket, a financial services company, tallied up how much it would cost to be Iron Man. No surprise, it costs more to be Iron Man than the Dark Knight.

Use izik to find showtimes and reviews!

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Trending on izik: NFL Draft

The NFL Draft will start this evening and continue through Saturday. We used izik search results to round up some insights into this year’s draft and provide historical background for your reading enjoyment!

Watch live on ESPN or NFL Network.

Start Times:

4/25 – 8pm ET (Round 1)

4/26 – 6:30pm ET (Rounds 2-3)

4/27 – Noon ET (Round s 4-7)

The NFL Draft is held at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall.

The Kansas City Chiefs have the first pick this year.

The Baltimore Ravens have the last pick of the first round, as they won the Super Bowl in 2012.

Unlike drafts from the past, this year’s draft is VERY heavy on offensive and defensive lineman. The so-called “skill” positions (like Quarterback, Running Back, and Wide Receiver) are not expected to be the focus of the First Round picks in 2013.

Each team has 10 minutes to make their pick in round one; 7 minutes per selection in round two and 5 minutes in each of the subsequent rounds.

Look out for draft day trades as teams try to move up or down in the draft order. The San Francisco 49ers are most likely to wheel and deal as they have a whopping 13 picks to use in 2013!

The first draft was in 1936 and the idea was conceived in an NFL owners meeting in May of 1935. Bert Bell, the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, proposed a system where teams would pick in reverse order of where they had finished the previous season. This idea is still used the modern drafts.

The first player ever selected in 1936 inaugural draft was Jay Berwanger by the Philadelphia Eagles. However, the Eagles did not believe they could afford to sign him for the salary he desired ($1,000 a game) and traded the rights of Berwanger to the Chicago Bears.

“Mr. Irrelevant” is the last player picked in the draft. The first player awarded as Mr. Irrelevant was Kelvin Kirk, who was pick number 487 of the 1976 draft. The most notable Mr. Irrelevant may be Ryan Succop, who has been a starting NFL kicker for the Kansas City Chiefs since 2009 and was named to the 2009 All-Rookie team.

The term “War Room” is used to describe where the team draft executives convene in a room to decide which players to pick or which draft choices to trade.

Download izik on your iPad or Android tablet, and look up more facts and figures as you follow the NFL Draft!

Hall of Famers who were drafted #1 overall:

Troy Aikman – 1989 (Dallas Cowboys)

Bruce Smith – 1985 (Buffalo Bills)

John Elway – 1983 (Denver Broncos)

Earl Campbell – 1978 (Houston Oilers)

Lee Roy Selmon – 1976 (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Terry Bradshaw – 1970 (Pittsburgh Steelers)

OJ Simpson – 1969 (Buffalo Bills)

Ron Yary – 1968 (Minnesota Vikings)

Buck Buchanan – 1963 (Kansas City Chiefs)

Paul Hornung – 1957 (Green Bay Packers)

Chuck Bednarik – 1949 (Philadelphia Eagles)

Charley Trippi – 1945 (Chicago Cardinals)

Bill Dudley – 1942 (Pittsburgh Steelers)

Great players who were drafted LATE:

Tom Brady – 2000 Round 6 (New England Patriots) FUTURE Hall of Famer

Bart Starr – 1956 Round 17 (Green Bay Packers) Hall of Famer

Roger Staubach – 1964 Round 10 (Dallas Cowboys)  Hall of Famer

Deacon Jones – 1961 Round 14 (Los Angeles Rams) Hall of Famer

Steve Largent – 1976 Round 4 (Houston Oilers) Hall of Famer

Mike Webster – 1974 Round 5 (Pittsburgh Steelers) Hall of Famer

Shannon Sharpe – 1990 Round 7 (Denver Broncos) Hall of Famer

Raymond Berry – 1954 Round 20 (Baltimore Colts) Hall of Famer

Richard Dent – 1983 Round 8 (Chicago Bears) Hall of Famer

Terrell Davis – 1995 Round 6 (Denver Broncos)

Marques Colston – 2006 Round 7 (New Orleans Saints)

Dwight Clark – 1979 Round 10 (SF 49ers)

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March Madness, blekko Style

We had our own version of March Madness at blekko, with four content editors squaring off for the win! Who was victorious? Read on to find out.

When people first learn about blekko’s slashtags (which power categories on izik), they are often surprised to hear that we have content editors who curate the web. This small, nimble, and all-around awesome team make a huge impact on the quality of results you see on blekko and izik. Sometimes, in the midst of curating slashtags and providing QA for products, they like to shake things up with a little friendly competition.

March Madness: Slashtag Edition

The purpose of the slashtag contest was to significantly increase the number of slashtags, thereby increasing the number of categories on izik. The more categories we have in our arsenal, the more we can capture multiple query intents on izik. By analyzing query data and taking inventory of izik’s categories, the Content team determined that dedicating a chunk of time to churning out fresh slashtags would be a worthwhile endeavor.

The Rules of the Game

There was just one contest rule: complete as many slashtags as possible in the span of a month. There was, however, an element of strategy involved. The winner would be determined by most potential queries covered from the cumulative slashtags they worked on. In light of that, content editors could choose to curate slashtags they were passionate about (like camaro, baking) or go for the heavy-hitters (like military). Of course, they wouldn’t know what the query coverage would be until the slashtags were completed and tests run. So, a Content Editor would sometimes choose those personal interest ones in hopes that they’d strike gold (sorry, 1980s).

The Final Score

Who won? Well, of course we did have an individual contributor who got bragging rights, but in the end we’re all winners (that includes users who will benefit from great results on izik)! Thanks to March Madness, the Content team collectively created a total of 77 new slashtags/categories, that cover over a quarter of a million queries! Thank you Jen, Adrianna, Brian, and David!

If you think my claim that we are all winners is a cop-out, I assure you the entire team feels that way and the spoils of victory were shared with the whole company! Goodies from three of the finest local bakeries were procured to celebrate March Madness: Slashtag Edition.

See the complete list of the 77 new slashtags at the bottom of this post. What categories would you like to see on izik?

 

1980s

Chevrolet Camaro

Hard Rock

Pickup Trucks

4wd

Chevrolet Corvette

Herpes

Police

Acura

Cholesterol

High Blood Pressure

PS2

Animal Shelters

Chronic Fatigue

Honda

Record Labels

Army

Clip Art

Infidelity

RV

Art Supplies

Coins

Jeep

Salary

Audi

College Baseball

Kidney Stone

Scion

Baby Names

Complaints

Kitchen Knives

Softball Equipment

Baby Strollers

Dental Insurance

Land Rover

Stadiums

Battlestar Galactica

Dentistry

Lexus

Stationery

Beauty Products

Dodge

Lupus

Stop Smoking

Bed and Bath

Dog Beds

Magazines

The Elder Scrolls

Bed Bugs

DVR

Mazda

Timeshares

Bedding

Employment Law

Mens Health

Toyota

Bread Baking

Epilepsy

Mercedes Benz

Volkswagon

Bread Machines

Eyeglasses

Midwifery

Volvo

Breast Feeding

Fantasy Sports

Military

Water Heaters

Buick

Fast Food

Monty Python

Weight Loss

Cadillac

Flight Status

Nintendo DS

Wine Accessories

Call of Duty

Ford Mustang

Nissan

Womens Health

Car Safety

Funerals

Obesity

Chevrolet

Grand Theft Auto

Pellet Guns

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New izik Features: Trending, Recent Searches, and Beyond

From the start, we’ve felt that izik offers something beyond a traditional search engine. Our app works so well in exploring content that we want to push the boundaries of what search looks like. We’re striving to make information more contextual to each user and as easy to access as possible.

Our first steps in accomplishing this are showing more types of Trending content and Recent searches on izik for iPad. (Fret not, the latter will be available for Android soon!) Starting today, you can access these new features.

Trending

As the Web gets bigger and expands our worlds, it’s tricky to balance being connected and at the same time filter for content that matters to us. We took some of the most popular types of trending categories and made them accessible on the homepage. You will now find Trending Searches, Trending on Twitter, and Trending News Stories.

Trending on Twitter

Trending News

Tap the icons above the trending row to move between categories. See what’s buzzing on the Web, blowing up on Twitter, or hot in the news.

Recent Searches

We often do quick searches on our tablets while moving between activities. Thus, we make your search history easy to return to. Just open the left drawer, tap the search term you want, and you will go back to the search results page.

You always have the option to delete your search history, which you can also do from the left drawer, below the Recent list or under Settings.

Recent Searches

And Beyond

We have features in the works to create search experiences that are more authentic to ourselves by tapping into the way people think in stream-of-consciousness. Stay tuned for features that will further integrate Web exploration with your interests!

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Meet Us at SXSW: izik, Bicycles and Connectedness

South by Southwest officially kicks off tomorrow and I’m ecstatic to be part of the blekko contingent that will be there. It won’t be blekko’s first rodeo, but it will be the first time we are exhibiting at SXSW to shine our spotlight on izik, the free search app we launched in early January. We’ll be in Austin to spread the word about izik and have a rollicking good time while doing so!

You can find us:

1. At the trade show, doing our thing at Booth 227, March 10-13. Come by for a demo and free t-shirt! The shirt is a special SXSW edition, so you won’t want to miss out.

2. Cruising around town on bicycles to promote our bike giveaway!

3. At meet-ups, parties, bars, the streets of Austin – you know how SXSW do.

Around here we like to say, “Take search for a joy ride.” With izik’s fresh, visual interface, we want to impart a sense of joy and wonder as you explore the Web. In that spirit, we invite you to connect with us — we don’t want to just demo our tablet app; we want to get some real time feedback to make the product even better for YOU! So between chasing celebs and VIP parties, make sure to find us and say “hi” to your friends at izik.

And if you know where Justin Timberlake is going to be, take me with you.

P.S. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for bike promo updates and glimpses of SXSW from our perspective.

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Sit Next to izik at the Super Bowl

The tablet is a great companion when watching TV. The izik search app brings the party to your tablet or iPad while you’re watching the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl may be the biggest televised event in the U.S. and come this Sunday, over 100 million viewers will be watching the game on their TVs. Can you take search for a joy ride with izik during the Big Game? Oh yes, yes you can.

When you’re at a Super Bowl party, izik will enhance the viewing experience and help drive conversations – it’s perfect for looking up quick stats, getting the lowdown on the Harbaugh family legacy, and it’s fun to explore during the slower parts of the game. izik organizes search results into categories, so in the case with the image below you’ll see that with just one search you get content from News and Images to Jerseys and Sports Betting, and more.

Read about the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens while the game is on. Which quarterback has the stronger stats – Kaepernick or Flacco?

This year’s game has an extra element of intrigue – the family rivalry between the two head coaches Jim and John Harbaugh. But the big question on people’s minds is who are the parents rooting for? Expect lots of reaction shots of Lynn and Rick!

For those who show up more for the party than the game, the trifecta of the event is: food, commercials, and the halftime show. First, we have to get our appies squared away. See a recipe for a mouthwatering dish? Expand and share it so the party host can make it!

recipes

To many, the commercials are the biggest draw.

Then again with Beyonce performing, the halftime show may be the biggest draw of all for Super Bowl XLVII!

 

Download izik and take your Super Bowl viewing experience to the next level!

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Cracking the Search Category Problem

We’ve been reading all the articles, reviews, and blog postings about the new izik tablet search app with great interest. The most common questions we’ve been asked are about the categories that we divide the results into: where do they come from? How do we decide which ones to show for each query? How many are there? How do we pick which results go in each category?

izik_serp

Search engines have been trying to divide results into meaningful categories — something better than “web, images, or news” — for many years without success. A few experimental search engines showed a list of categories on the left-hand side of the screen, and users rarely clicked on them to see what was inside. Now that the iPad has enabled easy horizontal and vertical swiping and scrolling, the user interface for exploring multiple categories of results is much easier and prettier. izik takes full advantage of that opportunity. But the second problem with categories is the one that izik has really solved: picking good ones.

If you do many different queries on izik, you’ll see that there are thousands of categories. For ambiguous queries, they can often do a good job of showing all sides of the question. (Update 30May13: to work better on all browsers, the following examples have been switched from the Izik user interface to the new blekko.com user interface, which shows the same information.) A query for [giants] will show both football and baseball-related categories, and a query for [organic baby food] has separate categories for buying, making, and the health issues around organic baby food. In comparison, bing and Google show almost all links and ads for buying baby food, a single link for the health angle, and nothing about making your own.

Here are a few more examples of queries and categories:

ford mustang: muscle-cars, car-parts, ford, news, classic-cars, cars
Tom Cruise: actors, people, gossip
fiscal cliff: money, news, congress
Beyoncé: latest, gossip, music, news, lyrics, tv, movies
asteroids: science, music (a band named “The Asteroids”), video games, latest is about asteroids hitting the earth

Selecting Categories

Some of the categories are straightforward. “Top results” are similar results to the “10 blue links” you’d get on most other search engines, “Images” are images, and “Latest” is the most recent dated results for the query. “News” is results from our human-curated list of news sources, so while it probably isn’t quite as up-to-date or diverse as “Latest”, it may have much higher quality.

What about the other thousand categories? Well, to start with, these categories correspond to the human-curated vertical search engines that we call “slashtags” on the blekko.com search engine. blekko.com automatically applies these slashtags to fight webspam and improve the relevance of results. However, blekko’s search results are still displayed as the usual search engine result — “10 blue links” — and it’s not immediately clear what slashtags are doing for you.

With izik, we decided to show a lot more than 10 results, and show you all of the slashtags which might seem relevant to the query. As you can see from the baby food example, this can really help you explore all aspects of your query.

The two types of analysis that are commonly attempted to categorize search engine results are clustering and semantic search, both of which are hot research topics. Most semantic search algorithms use explicit knowledge about entities and words: “Tiger Woods” is a golfer, and the ‘Giants’ is the name of both a pro baseball and pro football team.

The heart of blekko’s Dynamic Inference Graph (DIG) algorithm doesn’t know anything about words. It uses two data sources: librarian-crafted semantic categories (slashtags), and the enormous, free dataset known as the “World Wide Web.” The web knows that Tiger Woods is a golfer: the words “Tiger Woods” frequently appear on golfing websites. These 2 words also frequently appear on websites that sell golfing equipment. And they don’t appear frequently on websites about sailing, football, or women’s handbags.

How did we choose the categories? This process is driven by our librarians, and has evolved significantly over time. We used to have golfing websites and golf-equipment-selling websites together in a single category, until we realized that it’s very useful to be able to separate answers about sports from information about buying sports equipment. These sorts of insights have really helped us as we’ve expanded the category list from 10s to 100s to thousands of slashtags.

In addition to having names, categories contain lists of human-curated, high-quality websites. This is one thing that the data on the web, or an algorithm, can’t do it without human help. No one has invented an algorithm that detects bogus medical advice, but a human can choose the right standard for a category (in the health case, that the website has all of its information reviewed by doctors), and the evaluate whether websites meet that standard or not.

The web is the other dataset used by DIG. Since we’re a search engine, we already have the text from the web stored in our datacenter. We distill the text and links down to a small semantic database, and use that database to map queries to a large list of categories. This mapping currently takes about 60 milliseconds. We then run the search itself in a similar fashion to how blekko.com does it, finding results for every category in addition to generic results. Finally, we look at the parent/child relationships of the categories, and at duplicate results, in order to end with a reasonable number of categories with different results.

When we look back now, we’ve been hard at work building this technology for 5 years. At the start, we had no idea what we were building. After building out the basic slashtag system, two years ago someone asked a key question: “Hey, why can’t we automatically add the /health slashtag to the query [cure for headaches]?” One year ago we launched “auto-boosted slashtags” on blekko.com, and today we have the Dynamic Inference Graph and izik.

Every refinement we’ve made has led us closer to a categorized tablet search engine that’s fun and easy to use. It’s been a fun ride, and we hope that you find izik to be useful!

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