# # Natural language search
APLawrence.com -  Resources for Unix and Linux Systems, Bloggers and the self-employed

Natural language search

I've removed advertising from most of this site and will eventually clean up the few pages where it remains.

While not terribly expensive to maintain, this does cost me something. If I don't get enough donations to cover that expense, I will be shutting the site down in early 2020.

If you found something useful today, please consider a small donation.



Some material is very old and may be incorrect today

© December 2005 Tony Lawrence

At The Alta Vista Search Engine Days we learn that Alta Vista thought that people would type in long phrases to describe what they were searching for. Consequently, Alta Vista devoted a lot of effort to trying to glean meaning from long phrases, only to learn that most searchers bang in exactly one word and hit Enter.

The reason is simple enough: those of us with at least a vague glimmer of intelligence quickly observed that long phrases either gave us too much or too little, while the right lone word or two would kick back better results. Part of that is limitations of natural language processing, which isn't all that good today (just use a translator to convert any phrase to another language and back again) and certainly was even worse when Alta Vista was still popular. But there are deeper reasons: when we want another human being to understand us quickly and definitively, do we prattle on or are we succinct and direct? Does a police officer say "Stop!" or "Desist your motion" ?

About the only search engine left even pretending to do natural language is Ask Jeeves, which is the least important engine of the four majors, probably because those of us who already know that less is more won't use it, and those who don't know get lousy results from it. But Ask Jeeves doesn't require natural language; even their search box now says "Search with Keywords or Questions".

There are exceptions. If you are searching for information about a specific error message, sometimes the precise message ("local security policy won't permit interactive logon") will nail just what you want. But if it doesn't, go back to less (like "security policy" in that case).

If you are one who doesn't understand this, and regularly types whole sentences into search engines, you need to refine your behavior. If one word doesn't work, yes, try two and more if that still doesn't work. But always try less before more.


If you found something useful today, please consider a small donation.



Got something to add? Send me email.





(OLDER)    <- More Stuff -> (NEWER)    (NEWEST)   

Printer Friendly Version

->
-> Natural language search


Inexpensive and informative Apple related e-books:

Take Control of Numbers

Take Control of Preview

Take Control of the Mac Command Line with Terminal, Second Edition

Photos: A Take Control Crash Course

Take Control of Pages





More Articles by © Tony Lawrence





Printer Friendly Version

Have you tried Searching this site?

This is a Unix/Linux resource website. It contains technical articles about Unix, Linux and general computing related subjects, opinion, news, help files, how-to's, tutorials and more.

Contact us


Printer Friendly Version





FORTRAN—the "infantile disorder"—, by now nearly 20 years old, is hopelessly inadequate for whatever computer application you have in mind today: it is now too clumsy, too risky, and too expensive to use. (Edsger W. Dijkstra)




Linux posts

Troubleshooting posts


This post tagged:

Blogging

Web/HTML



Unix/Linux Consultants

Skills Tests

Unix/Linux Book Reviews

My Unix/Linux Troubleshooting Book

This site runs on Linode