RT @karenchurch : Summary of WWW 2010

My colleague Karen Church wrote a great report of WWW2010:

As usual with multiple tracks and loads of great talks it was difficult to choose between sessions at this years WWW, in Raleigh, North Carolina. I focused my attention on the keynotes, panels and technical sessions related to interfaces, users profiling, and search.

(1) Mobile will be big: although there was no specific mobile track at this years WWW and although there was very few mobile-related papers (ours was one of 2 in the entire conference!!!) – one of the key trends mentioned in panels, future web sessions and in all of the key notes is the future of the mobile web and the importance of mobile handsets as pervasive information access devices. Vint Cerf’s keynote pointed to the fact that only 25% of the worlds population access/use the internet through desktops which according to him means he still needs to “convert” 75% of the worlds population! Vint pointed to the fact that there are almost 5 billion mobile users worldwide, and for many their mobile handsets will be their first point of contact to the mobile Internet, thus making it possible to reach higher levels of mobile internet penetration. It appears that mobile will be a bigger trend at next years conference

(2) The future of search according to people from Yahoo, Google and Microsoft is (a) getting to the long tail, (b) intelligent facets and improve interfaces, (c) moving to mobile search and (4) social search. I attended a very interesting panel called “Search is dead: long live search”. The panelists were Marti Hearst (she wrote a very nice book on search user interfaces which is available free to download online: http://searchuserinterfaces.com), Barney Pell from Bing/Microsoft who is big into voice-enabled mobile search, Andrew Tomkins who is director of engineering at Google and Andrei Broder from Yahoo! Research. Prabhakar Raghavan the Head of Yahoo! Labs acted as moderator. You can see the whole thing via video here: http://qik.com/video/6360405

(3) Twitter, twitter, twitter: there were lots of twitter-related papers at this years WWW and in the Web Science (WebSci) conference being co-held in the same venue. This blog article summarizes all the twitter related papers: http://blog.marcua.net/post/566480920/twitter-papers-at-the-www-2010-conference

The take away message is that all the big players are trying to incorporate social networks into the online search experience. Search is not going to be an isolated activity any more.

(4) I attended some tutorials related to web search behaviour. The most relevant/interesting was “Recent Progress on Inferring Web Searcher Intent” given by Eugene Agichtein, from Emory State. He presented lots of detail on how we can try to gather information regarding the intent of web users in their search tasks through log analysis, click-through behaviour, eye-tracking and mouse movements, etc. Interesting/relevant for anyone working in search, web behaviour or user profiling.

This reminds me of Anne Aula’s talk at CHI2010 where she presented a similar piece of research that was demonstrating that doing some machine learning on top of repeated search strings it was possible to infer whether the user was getting frustrated.

(5) A new track this year called Future Web involved discussions/interviews with various leaders in the field on future trends on the web related to politics, environment, social, mobile, etc. They have a YouTube channel so you may be able to catch up on some of these interviews: http://futureweb2010.wordpress.com/ and http://www.youtube.com/user/Futureweb2010#p/u

(6) Best papers award was given to a Recommender Systems paper: All recommender systems related papers were mainly in the personalization track http://www2010.org/www/2010/04/best-paper-awards/

(7) Lots of advertising – those interested check out the internet monetization tracks

(8) Social networks – 3 tracks dedicated to this pretty hot topic – again you can check the papers online

(9) Danah Boyd keynote focused on big data and privacy issues – she challenged the audience with the following – just because you have access to lots of data does not mean you should work with it. According to Danah we should all be more concerned with ethical questions associated with the data/the users rather than than access to data itself. Here’s a summary of the talk: http://www.danah.org/papers/talks/2010/WWW2010.html

This goes against the Linked data and semantic web movement. Their motto is get the data out there and then we will figure out what to do with it.

Some nice papers related to search that are worth a mention:

(1) Kumar & Tomkins, “A Characterization of Online Search Behaviour”: The authors look at online search behaviour using a dataset from the Yahoo search and toolbar logs. The dataset is over a year old at this point and as such some characteristics may have changed. The authors propose a new taxonomy of pageviews. The paper shows that1/3 of page views are for content, approx. 1/3 are related to communications while approx. 1/6 are search, however, the authors go on to show that although explicit search activity is low, this activity leads to increased browsing/content accesses by users.

(2) Horowitz & Kamvar: “The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Social Search Engine”. Following on from the original Google paper presented by Brin & Page in WWW 1998, the Aardvark team (who now belong to Google) provided an overview of their social search engine at this years WWW. A very nice read, describing the search engine architecture/algorithms used and an overview of the behaviour of its users.

Note: All papers are available online

Next years WWW will be in India: and the deadline for papers is always at the start of November! http://www2010.org/www/2010/05/www2011/

Thanks Karen for sharing these notes.

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