Six Questions with Tim Musgrove
As part of our series of Q&As with SES Chicago speakers, I got a chance to interview Tim Musgrove. Tim is the founder and CEO at TextDigger, a natural language search platform, and an all around expert in the semantic search field. He will be speaking on the panel Semantic Search: How Will It Change Our Lives?
1. Start us off by introducing yourself to the readers. What does your team do over at TextDigger, Inc.?
We’re a semantic profiling company, helping websites increase the “findability” of their content, by providing not only a semantic search engine, but also several other search-related services, such as related searches, tag generation, automatic topic discovery and topic landing page generation, and a semantic keyword generator for SEO purposes.
2. What is the goal of semantic search? Why is semantic search better than the search users and businesses have available to them now?
Semantic search is far superior to conventional keyword search, first because it saves time in avoiding the re-typing of your query seven different ways to find something you really want, and second because it unearths hidden gems that you’d otherwise miss because they were buried down on the 10th page of Google results (hence the name “Digger” for our search).
3. How on-target are the semantic search results that are being generated by TextDigger today? Are users still finding they have to refine their query several times or are the results strong the first time around?
The majority of the time, results are strong the first time around. But even when they’re not, you save a lot of time in tweaking the query semantically, as opposed to the time you’d spend thinking up several alternative queries to type in on a regular search site.
For judging quality, it’s important to realize that we have a social aspect to our underlying lexicon, whereby the search results are improved by the feedback we’ve received from previous beta users on the relevant query words. What is important at this juncture is that we give our users tremendous power to tweak the semantics as they go along, and make the search better for everyone.
4. What improvements do you hope to make to TextDigger’s semantic search technology over the next three years and when do you see semantic search taking over the marketplace?
We will grow our semantic network — the underlying linguistic brains — by crawling the Web, by working with other websites that use our plug-in modules, and by enlisting the help of our beta users, who help our internal lexicographers in evolving the lexicon. This will bring better and better results with less interaction required of end users.
As for semantic search “taking over” in the market, I think that “soft semantic search,” which I define as using semantic methods to supplement conventional search, such as showing semantic related searches as options to users, is already starting to take over, in that we see a rapid adoption curve right now on major websites. “Hard semantic search”, as something that re-builds the entire search experience around semantics, will take off among professional or power-users in as little as one or two years. While it may take a bit longer than that for the masses to grab hold of it, keep in mind that the early-adopter audience here — the folks who will embrace a semantic “control panel” for search before the average user does — this group of people will be a more influential, more affluent group of users. They will be very highly valued by advertisers, and their activity will generate search revenue disproportionately to their numbers.
5. Who’s going to get the most out of semantic search in its current form? What types of industries are turning to semantic search today?
Any website that has its own search can get immediate benefit from bolting on a semantic related search module, and for that matter, other semantic profiling tools that increase the “findability” of their pages on both internal and external search.
Meanwhile, individuals who are professional researchers or who think of themselves as “power-users” can get a lot of good out of the beta version of Digger right now — and many of them are.
6. While you’re at SES Chicago, are there any other sessions that you’re looking forward to attending? In what session rooms will we be able to track down Tim Musgrove?
I’m interested in the “Search Around the World” session, because I think we underestimate how fast Latin America and other markets are going to explode.
I hope that the session entitled “Is There Life Beyond Google?” will reveal what draws some search marketers to look at “alternative” search engines today. Few people appreciate that most Internet users regularly utilize at least two search engines — the idea that they use only Google or Yahoo is simply a myth. Everyone whose business is related to search has a vested interest in that fact, and in seeing how it could increasingly impact the world of search marketing.
Obviously, this is an important topic to be acquainted with — semantic search is sure to play heavily in the future of the Internet marketing industry. Thanks to Tim for giving us some insight on the technology and intentions behind semantic search. His panel will be a must-attend for anyone looking to be on the cutting edge of the industry.