Do you ever wonder what the parts of a search engine are? Or, how would you evaluate search engines across enterprise search vendors? Well, if you visit the InQuira Resources (http://www.inquira.com/resources_reports.asp) you can order a whitepaper, “InQuira Self-Service and Support Search Solution – Advanced Linguistics, Dynamic Navigation and Classification” that can help you. The paper is an analysis done by the Patricia Seybold Group specifically about InQuira’s search solution, but it has information that can help you no matter who the vendor is.
The Patricia Seybold Group has developed a six category evaluation matrix that ranges from retrieval and results management to architecture to company viability. The whitepaper reviews each of these categories, many of which have up to five sub-categories.
In addition, the paper describes a search effectiveness ladder. The idea is that the higher the engine is on the ladder, the better it is. Keep in mind that the assumption is that natural language search is a good thing. Most of us are very familiar with Google, which is keyword search, and its algorithms are much different than an enterprise search tool. So assuming you buy into natural language search and you are willing to training your users on how to use it, here is the ladder:
- Keyword or text search: The more the word is mentioned in the content, the more relevant the content is scored.
- Natural language processing (NLP): Recognizes grammar, concepts, and relationships between words.
- Add synonyms to keyword and text searches (e.g smudge = smear)
- Advanced NLP: Introduces new relationships between words such as “contains,” “is part of,” and “occurs with.” Also identifies parts of speech and mines, classifies, and matches concepts.
- Intent: Classifies a question to make it actionable. The intent category is linked to language rules, ontology, and user experience categories.
So whether you are looking at a natural language search engine or a keyword search engine, I think this document is a good reference to use when analyzing all the components requiring consideration when purchasing a search solution. Of course if you already have a search solution, most of these categorize still work to make sure you have put the effort into each area.