Friday, October 28, 2005

Into the Realm of Search Engine Algorithms

I just read this wonderful article about Apostolos Gerasoulis, mathematician and full professor at Rutgers University, co-inventor of the Ask Jeeves search engine.

Professor Gerasoulis studies linear algorithms that are, among many other things, used to determine page rank by search engine technology. In the mid-1990s, he presented two essays on search engine methodologies to his classes at Rutgers for discussion.

One essay was written by two Stanford students, Sergey Brin and Larry Page. They developed an algorithm by which counting the number of links referring to a document determines the importance of the document. Thus, the degree of networking is determined independently from the current search request.

The second essay by John Kleinberg, an American mathematician, detailed a more mathematically precise approach of counting only those links stemming from pages concerning the topic of the search request. So, the processing was dependent on the search phrase and had to be determined anew for each input.

The mathematical challenge of finding a formula that shortened the processing time for Kleinberg’s method led Gerasoulis to develop the Ask Jeeves search engine. He advised Brin and Page to quit school and to patent their algorithm, later used to develop Google.

Today, on sabbatical from Rutgers, Apostolos Gerasoulis spends his evenings with the top search terms requested on Ask Jeeves during the day. To him, numbers equal truth and statistics are the history of the past day.
Sometimes it is as if I can sense the world's feelings.
Gerasoulis believes that there are right answers to all questions, even the hard ones. He worries about answers given to questions about love and faith.
You can witness trends that some day might have important results.
He perceived the rise of opposition to the war in Iraq by the frequency of the search terms Grieving Moms and Out of Iraq. He noted that Cardinal Ratzinger was searched for more often than his competitors for the position of Pope. The terms tsunami and New Orleans and Red Cross were entered as a search request more frequently in America after Hurricane Katrina than after the tsunami in Asia.
Is there a correlation between the distance to an event and the amount of compassion? Can we extrapolate from these figures how big the psychological shock was?
The mission of Google is to organize the world's information and make it available. What is the vision of Apostolos Gerasoulis? To deliver better answers than Google. That will not be hard for a man of his intelligence and sensitivity. I like the thought of Apostolos Gerasoulis and Ask Jeeves looking for meaning at the deepest level of language and semantics. I have bookmarked Ask Jeeves and will be using it for futures searches.

Source: David vs. Google: How a Mathematician from New Jersey wants to Overcome the World's biggest Search engine: A Trip into the World of Algorithms, By Heike Faller

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