Taking the Google Wonder Wheel for a Spin

March 25, 2009
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I tried out the Google Wonder Wheel today–it’s being rolled out as an experiment, but you can enable the cookie yourself by entering the following into the address bar after a Google query:

javascript:void(document.cookie=”PREF=ID=4a609673baf685b5:TB=2:LD=en:CR=2:TM=1227543998:LM=1233568652:DV=AA:GM=1:IG=3:S=yFGqYec2D7L0wgxW;path=/; domain=.google.com”);

As I blogged yesterday, I’m glad that Google is giving exploratory / HCIR approaches a shot. But I’m shocked at how far behind they seem to be, especially given the incredible talent of Google employees.

In fact, the Wonder Wheel reminds me of work AltaVista did over a decade ago, close to heart because of related work I did at IBM Research. I’d be more impressed if the related topics were of higher quality, but they seem to be lagging far behind the state of the art. Which makes it all the more understandable that they don’t promote such features to users.

I’d like to get more excited about such efforts, but I fear that they are being set up to fail and will be used as evidence against HCIR in general. I hope at least that more informed technologists recognize these efforts as

I tried out the Google Wonder Wheel today–it’s being rolled out as an experiment, but you can enable the cookie yourself by entering the following into the address bar after a Google query:

javascript:void(document.cookie=”PREF=ID=4a609673baf685b5:TB=2:LD=en:CR=2:TM=1227543998:LM=1233568652:DV=AA:GM=1:IG=3:S=yFGqYec2D7L0wgxW;path=/; domain=.google.com”);

As I blogged yesterday, I’m glad that Google is giving exploratory / HCIR approaches a shot. But I’m shocked at how far behind they seem to be, especially given the incredible talent of Google employees.

In fact, the Wonder Wheel reminds me of work AltaVista did over a decade ago, close to heart because of related work I did at IBM Research. I’d be more impressed if the related topics were of higher quality, but they seem to be lagging far behind the state of the art. Which makes it all the more understandable that they don’t promote such features to users.

I’d like to get more excited about such efforts, but I fear that they are being set up to fail and will be used as evidence against HCIR in general. I hope at least that more informed technologists recognize these efforts as less than representative of what can be done using richer interface metaphors, and will keep working on improving the tools to support information seeking.

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