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Universal Search at Lincoln

Universal Search at Lincoln

A look at why we're building a new Universal Search system at the University of Lincoln, and what you can expect it to do.


Nick Jackson

August 11, 2010

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  1. Universal Search at Lincoln

  2. We love creating data.

  3. In fact, we create more than we know what to

    do with.
  4. Instinct, especially in academia and bureaucracy, is to keep everything

    forever. This is understandably a problem once we get into millions of items of data.
  5. We try make sense of this by organising it.

  6. When that doesn’t work as we hoped, we just create

    more places to put it.
  7. Multiply this by every University system, for all the data

    we have ever created. It’s a lot of information to keep track of. But that’s OK because we’ve carefully organised it, right?
  8. Nope. In fact, people are generally really bad at organising

    data. Things are consistently mis-labelled, in the wrong place, or just plain irrelevant. Even worse, we don’t know where to start looking for some things.
  9. This annoyed us as well, so we’re building something to

    do the looking for us.
  10. We take the content lists from things all over the

    University and put them into one.
  11. Then we let some computer wizardry organise the contents into

    an index.
  12. Because the computer knows where to find everything for a

    given word, it’s faster.
  13. And because it looks at a combined index, it can

    search 100% of our stuff at once.
  14. We try to return useful results for each query by

    carefully tuning importance.
  15. Like providing a phone number when they search for “helpdesk”,

    not a page of policies.
  16. Or suggesting a blog post written yesterday over a document

    added five years ago.
  17. Universal Search is currently under construction, but we’d love you

    to try it. Try search beta yourself: http://search.labs.lncn.eu Let us know any comments, problems, ideas or questions with the Feedback tab.
  18. Universal Search is part of Labs, where we test new

    ideas to see what people think. Find out more about Labs: http://labs.lncn.eu