Oh Mighty Search Engines, Please Let Me Tell You What I Want

I have been watching Bing, Wolfram Alpha and Google’s Snippets. All of these (and some others) advance search and provide lots of cool features. Their job is challenging since they are trying to guess what I want when I just type one keyword or phrase or a search expression.

What do I want from a search? It varies. Some times I want to find a website. Some times I want to find an address or document. There are times I want a person or discussion or a “how to”.

I am wondering why search engines don’t ask you what you want to find and make their job simpler?  Instead of assuming what you want, why not take that additional input from the user?

To be fair, they all do it to an extent. Google has keywords like filetype to specify the type of document you are trying to retrieve. Bing lists some of the categories as a set of options in the search result. Wolfram Alpha amazes me some times but I am never sure what I am going to get back.

Here is my suggestion. Why not let the user specify a keyword/value pair as part of search? For example

cisco type:address

will give me address of Cisco the company. Type can be abbreviated to # (since hashtags are becoming popular) if needed.

cisco #adress (could have synonyms like location etc.)

Or even extend this to retrieving multiple properties

cisco #address #stockinfo

The default will be #all


which defaults to the current mode of dumping all the stuff at you.

A feature like this would reduce the clutter (too many results), increase relevancy. There will be many challenges like coming up with a finite set of hashtags or hashtag synonyms.  If the search engine does not recognize a hashtag, let it default to #all and do what it is doing now. The search engine can learn from such input  about what people want.

I am little tired of getting lots of useless information from the search engine and wading through it all to find the one little nugget of information I really need. I don’t need a million results or decision engine or computational knowledge engine.  So, Might Search Engines, please let me tell you what I want. I may be stupid and this feature may already exist. In that case, you reader can educate me a bit. I know there are a few of others like me.