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February 6, 2007

Bruce Clay Adopts Collarity

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Okay, so remember just a little while ago when I said I didn’t like personalization and exhibited mild resentment that Google would attempt to decide which sites I would or would not be interested in? I meant all of that. I don’t like personalization when it’s forced on me and I can’t opt out.

Part of the reason I was so fired up was because in the past few weeks I’ve been playing around with something that I do really like for personalized results – Collarity. If you’ve visited our search bar recently you’ve probably already noticed that we’ve begun implementing it on our site.

Collarity’s gotten a bit of buzz lately from places like Read/WriteWeb and beyond, but if you haven’t heard about it, here’s the deal. Collarity is search tool that provides users with a better search experience by using their past search data to form topic-level community groups to better target their results. It does this by grouping you with searchers who have the same interests and searching intents, and then emphasizing the results they found most useful.

Collarity makes it so that Susan and I never get the same search results. If we both did a search for the term "puppy", I would get result about shelters, adoption, and puppy care, while Susan would get results about supporting puppy mills, preserving puppy meat, and skinning puppies for their coats. Our past searching behavior tells Collarity that those are the topics that we would be most interested in, and that Susan is evil. [When did I turn into Cruella DeVille?--Susan] — Your mother says August 10, 1981.

It also makes it so that if my mother and I both did a search for the term "apple", it would recognize that I’m a geek and give me information about the technology company, while giving my mother information about the fruit and making her own apple sauce. Collarity, unlike other personalization tools, understands the intent of your search.

The reason I like Collarity over a system like Google’s is that Collarity is non-intrusive. You don’t have to search within your personalized results. You decide how you want to search – from within your own search history (Personal), the history of your specific community (Community), or by pulling results from the entire Collarity network (Global). As long as users can select how they want to search and can easily opt out, personalized search has some benefit.

Like I mentioned, if you’ve used the Bruce Clay search bar in the last couple days, you’ve already been exposed to Collarity. Collarity kicks into gear once a user clicks inside the search box, prompting a drop down menu called the Collarity Compass to appear. If you don’t want to search with Collarity, ignore the drop down, don’t sign in and simply search like you normally would. Opting out is that simple.

If do want to try it out, you’ll first need to register with Collarity. Once you’re registered, you are given access to all the personalization features Collarity has to offer. To start, toggle the slider located right below your search box to set where you want to pull your results from — your Personal history, Community results or Global results. The slider defaults on Community Mode. Your positioning of this slider will have subtle impacts on the results Collarity delivers back. [I think the best part is that you don't have to register unless you want the personalized results. If you're happy with just the community and the global results, you can stick to those and never sign in anywhere. That makes my tinfoil hat and me very happy.--Susan]

You’ll also notice the two tabs on the right hand side of the drop down box which allow searchers to decide if they’d like to perform a Web search or site search. Pick which one you’re interested in and start typing in your search terms.

Once you start typing Collarity will begin suggesting related keywords, similar to the way Google Suggest does. Collarity does this by tapping into the collective intelligence of a site and using saved search history to get an idea of your search behavior and intent. For me this is awesome. I’m not so good at typing in what I’m actually looking for so this feature has saved me on more than one occasion. To add a suggested keyword to your query, just click on it.

Under your suggested keywords, Collarity also begins populating suggested URLs that they think fit your query. If you spot a link you like, click on it. If not, continue with your search. I’ve found that Collarity does an excellent job with matching my query with related terms on the Web site. Using it on our own site, I’ve found pages and resources I didn’t even know existed.

The reason Collarity stands out for me is because it does a really good job of understanding communities, and it forms these communities without any extra effort on my part. I just search and Collarity looks at my history to realize that when I’m searching for java, I mean the programming language, not coffee or that island in Indonesia just south of Borneo.

This is just a highlight of the service to help you get started. We’ll be putting some more information resources regarding Collarity in the coming days and weeks, but since its up and running we thought we’d make the formal announcement that it’s there and we encourage you to use.

So, Collarity is there and we encourage you to use it. :)

Seriously though, we hope you’ll give Collarity a try and let us know how you like it. We think it’ll help you find the information you were looking for faster. We’d also recommend you visit the Collarity site if you’re interested in adding the search tool to your own site. The service is currently in limited beta but that’ll change in the near future.

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