Technorati’s New (Beta) Look

Dave Sifry on Technorati Weblog announces a new Public Beta:

I’m pleased to announce the launch of the public beta of this major redesign of the Technorati service. We’ve been listening to your feedback, and we hope we’ve reflected that in this release. This is a beta. So, if you have feedback, please tell us because we want to know what is of value to you, our users. We’ve made a big step with this release. Having said that, we also know we have more improvements to make and we’re working hard to implement them. Here are some of the highlights of this beta release:

* We’ve improved the user experience, making Technorati accessible to more people and, specifically, people who are new to blogging. We’ve tried to make it very simple to understand what Technorati is all about, and make it easy to understand how we’re different from other search engines.
* We’ve learned from the incredible success of tags, and brought some of the those same features into search, as well as expanding tag functionality. Now, if your search matches a tag, we bring in photos and links from flickr, furl, delicious, and now buzznet as well.
* We now have more powerful advanced search features. You can now click the “Options” link beside any search box for power searching options.
* We’ve added more personalization. Sign in, and you’ll see your current set of watchlists, claimed blogs, and profile info, right on the homepage, giving you quick access to the stuff you want as quickly as possible.
* New Watchlist capabilities have been added. For example, you no longer need a RSS reader to watch your favorite searches. Now you can view all of your favorite searches on one page. Of course, you can still get your watchlists via RSS, and it is even easier to create new watchlists. You can also get RSS feeds for tagged posts, just check the bottom of each page of tag results!

Copernic’s Search Desktop Goes Live

Copernic has today released its Desktop Search program, the latest addition to the harvest of desktop indexing software we’ve been cataloging in recent months.

The press release says the software can “search your hard drive in less than a second to pinpoint the right picture, email, music file, etc.” while “your computer won’t slow down at all”. You also “don’t have to worry about bugs, spyware, ads” and, most importantly for some, you won’t have to pay for it.

Copernic Search Desktop “has been designed primarily for desktop search beginners, who will appreciate the care, thought, and hundreds of hours that have gone into the simplified user interface design. Advanced users will want to check out the wide array of customizable search features.”

I tried out a beta version a few weeks back and was impressed. Copernic have had some great products in their time, although Google rather took the sting out of their main search program. I felt the interface for the version I tried did not make the best use of space and wasn’t quite up to their usual standards. Copernic took the suggestions gracefully and have promised changes in future versions. Definitely worth checking out.

Q&A: X1 and The Future of Finding Stuff

  Full text of email interview with Mark Goodstein of X1 (see my column in WSJE and FEER this week)
 
— Who are you aiming at with this product?
 
Not to be too simplistic, we’re aiming at two groups: consumers and professionals, specifically those who have a lot of email and files and who spend more time than they want searching for information on the Internet or intranet. The free version offers a substantial set of features that we hope will entice legions of users to use the product at
home and work, for all their information finding needs. The pro version has features that power users will demand, like indexing network drives and viewing files in their native formats, regardless of whether they have the native application installed. Both versions will continue to get richer over the coming weeks and months, as we add more consumer features, like media-specific tabs (pictures, music, etc.) and more powerful web searching and eCommerce-related features. The pro version will get support for indexing attachments, contacts, events, PDFs, and archives. We think these two prongs will encourage great numbers of people to use the product and will eventually allow us to crack the enterprise market, which is straining for simple interfaces to complex data: X1’s specialty.
 
 
— I’ve always thought this kind of product was really basic, and when Enfish came out in 1999, I assumed it would be massive. But it wasn’t, and nothing since has really caught on. Why is this? Does it have to do with new paradigms, or just the product wasn’t right, or people aren’t ready for it, or what?
 
Our approach isn’t that much different than others, but we’re staying focused on simplicity and speed. X1’s interface is visceral and innovative: allowing the user to winnow the searches down from all to just a few, instantly, as opposed to the normal none to many (sometimes with a coffee break) of today’s search engines and desktop search utilities. This interface gives the user the feeling of control over chaos, which is hard to underestimate. Many people have built up complicated directory structures for storing their files and email, all in an effort to just keep track. X1 allows the user to stop caring about the organization and more about the work!
 
This is a difficult question to answer because it seems like Enfish and others have done many of the things we’ve done, but several years in advance. I’m not sure why they failed to catch on like you assumed, but I don’t think the fundamentals have changed. The amount of data we’re responsible for is large and always growing; it’s in disparate formats and locations; the tools that help users wade into this sea of information are, maybe justifiably, difficult to understand and use; and there’s no incentive for market leaders, like Microsoft, to innovate. It doesn’t help that the dotcom bubble excited expectations and the companies responsible never followed through.
 
That said, we really do think we’ve created a beautiful interface to complicated data sets. We think of it as something between a spreadsheet and a database. So, like you said, Enfish should have caught on big, and didn’t. Just like databases were supposed to catch on big at the end-user level, and didn’t. Spreadsheets have tried to fill the gap,
becoming more database-y over time. But that’s a little ridiculous, as many people have come to realize.
 
— What’s under the hood? Presumably these programs have different technologies underpinning them? Could you explain a little of the challenges to minimize the downside of such programs — index size, performance loss, ease of use, success ratio of finding what you’re looking for, etc?
 
I assume most indexing technologies are actually pretty close cousins, separated by clever coding and intelligent choices. We all deal with the same limitations of compression, physical memory, disk space, etc., and all have to make trade-offs to deliver a product to market. X1 has an inverted index with all sorts of clever tricks to manage memory and
processor use to keep the indexing as invisible and painless as possible. Our goal, from the beginning, was to make a product that was as simple to use as possible, as fast as a machine would allow, and as invisible as possible. We’ve had success on all fronts and we’ll continue to improve and innovate as time goes by. We think the bottom line here is speed and simplicity. Speed allows us to skip all those complicated, frankly under-used, search features, while allowing the user to iteratively search (quickly) through their data. They may search twice before success, but certainly it’ll be faster and more satisfying. This is compounded by our innovative multi-field search interface. That’s it.
 
— Where do you see this going? Is searching a hard drive going to get more sophisticated a la data mining? Or is this a rough and ready product that will always fit the brute force approach?
 
Not to harp on this too much, but we honestly believe that our mission will be fulfilled and we’ll achieve big success if we stick to our dual goals of speed and simplicity. We can let Oracle do the OLAP while we do away with the DBA…