Search Solutions 2008

On Tuesday last I attended “Search Solutions 2008” organised the BCS-IRSG and to quote from event programme, “Search Solutions is a special one-day event dedicated to the latest innovations in information search and retrieval.” The format of the day was a series of short talks, 11 in all, each about 20 minutes in length with the chance for questions from the audience after each talk.

One of the themes through the day was the linguistic analysis of texts such as blog posts and web pages. Or in other words, deducing the correct meaning of a word like Georgia; is it referring to someone called Georgia, the country that used to be part of the USSR, or the USA State. As all the speakers were from commercial companies no-one was giving their secrets away, but approaches mentioned ranged from Bayesian analysis to a team of 50 linguistic experts.

Another theme was how social networking can help users find what they’re looking for. User recommendations and tagging were both cited frequently in this regard. Elias Pampalk from gave a very interesting talk on how tagging is being used on They have made it very easy for users to tag. Adding a tag usually involves no typing — just a couple of mouse clicks to select either a tag you’ve used before or a tag someone else has used for that item. There is also incentive for people to tag at as it can help you discover new music and connect you to people with similar tastes. They seem to have gotten it right as they are collecting over 2.5 million tags per month.

At the end of his talk, Elias mentioned that had an open API, which I had never realised before. This got me wondering if we could provide links from Copac to This perhaps isn’t as strange an idea as it may first seem. Copac doesn’t hold records for just books, we have many records in the database for CD and sheet music. It might be kind of neat to provide a link from those records to’s page about the artist or album and perhaps pull in images as well? Something to think about when we can find a bit of spare time.

Overall it was a very interesting day with many thought provoking talks and I’d happily attend a similar day next year.

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