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A day in the life of a Search Engine

With so much information available on the web, and even on individual web sites, it is important to have access to simple, powerful, and effective search. (Google has made a pretty good business in this domain).

A search engine’s utility can be dramatically improved by using information about the person doing the search, and about the context in which that person is searching. This leaves everyone happier.

As an exercise, let’s consider one day’s worth of search results for one of our customers, an online clothing retailer. Two things immediately become apparent:

One, people are searching very generically. There are searches like “levis skinny jeans men”, but much more common are searches like “shirt”, “blazer”, and “shoes”.

Two, people make a lot of mistakes. Typos abound: “shurt”, “swaroski”, “sleev”, six different misspellings of a particular brand of clothing. Confusion about the clothing retailer’s domain is also

evident: “fishing rod”, “16gb pen drives”, “fort collins”.

This is where context and personalization become very powerful. The more you know about a potential customer, the easier it becomes, when presented with a search like “shirt”, to return a list of shirts that are interesting to that person. If that person is a woman, you’ve just eliminated roughly half your product catalog. If over the course of her visit to your site she’s mostly clicked on clothing in cool colors, you can tilt your results in that direction. If she’s tweeted about how she loves her new sweater from the confusingly-spelled clothier, you might be more likely to include their products in the search results. If in the past she’s bought predominantly wool clothing, this is useful to know – especially if the one time she bought something in cotton she returned it.

Context also makes it much easier to fix errors, or at least to take a good shot at converting them into sales. There are many misspellings of “shirt” for which Google search results would be unlikely to inspire anyone to continue exploring a web site. On a clothing site, however, one might guess that the user intended to search for “shirt”, and respond appropriately. A search for “fishing rod” might return clothing with a fishing-related theme, if there is any. Even if not, the profile of a person interested in a fishing rod might be expected to deviate in subtle but real ways from the profile of a

person interested in a 16gb pen drive. Tell each person that you don’t sell that sort of product, but also offer a selection of clothing that might appeal to each, just in case!

To learn more about our products and services in catalog enrichment, search, and user analytics, [email protected]

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wasim basir

marketing, board member

It’s most obvious in the digital media space, from click buys to personalized web experiences. For marketing, the AI journey has just kick-started, while in the tech sector it has been applied for a while now. We are still at an early stage where inroads are being made into AI content via chatbots and even some explanatory content creation but what will make anyone jump up and embrace it is when we will start seeing a lot of mainstream content being created by AI.

rich arnold

board member

Prior to joining Infinite Analytics, Richard served as the CFO of CrowdFlower, COO and CFO of Phoenix Technologies, as a member of the board of directors and chairman of the Audit Committee at Intellisync, and previously as CFO and executive vice president strategy and corporate development at Charles Schwab.

pravin gandhi

board member

Pravin Gandhi has over 50 years of entrepreneurial operational and investing experience in the IT industry in India. He was a founding partner of the first early stage fund India - INFINITY. Subsequently a founding partner in Seedfund I & II. With over 18 years of investing experience, he is extensively well networked in investment and entrepreneurial scene and is an active early stage angel investor in tech & impact space. Pravin holds a BS in Industrial Engineering from Cornell University, and serves on the board of several private corporations in India. He is on the board of SINE, IIT Mumbai Incubator.

Purushotham Botla

co-founder & cto

Puru has his Masters in Engineering and Management from MIT. Prior to MIT, he worked with Fidelity Investments building electronic trading products and high volume market data processing applications. He has completed his BE from VJTI, Mumbai.


Deb Roy

Executive Director, MIT Media Lab

Deb Roy is Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at MIT where he directs the MIT Center for Constructive Communication, and a Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School. He leads research in applied machine learning and human-machine interaction with applications in designing systems for learning and constructive dialogue, and for mapping and analyzing large scale media ecosystems. Deb is also co-founder and Chair of Cortico, a nonprofit social technology company that develops and operates the Local Voices Network to surface underheard voices and bridge divides.

Roy served as Executive Director of the MIT Media Lab from 2019-2021. He was co-founder and CEO of Bluefin Labs, a media analytics company that analyzed the interactions between television and social media at scale. Bluefin was acquired by Twitter in 2013, Twitter’s largest acquisition of the time. From 2013-2017 Roy served as Twitter’s Chief Media Scientist.

Erik Brynjolfsson

Board Member

Erik Brynjolfsson is the Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki Professor and Senior Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered AI (HAI), and Director of the Stanford Digital Economy Lab. He also is the Ralph Landau Senior Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), Professor by Courtesy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Stanford Department of Economics, and a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).

Akash Bhatia

Co-Founder and CEO

Akash co-founded IA while studying for his MBA from MIT. Prior to MIT Sloan, he co-founded Zoonga. Before this, Akash was an engineer with Oracle in Silicon Valley. He has completed his M.S from University of Cincinnati and B.E from the College of Engineering, Pune.