Magazine article Online

Mooter

Magazine article Online

Mooter

Article excerpt

Have you Mooter'd that yet?" You probably haven't heard that question as often as "Have you Googled it?," but Mootering just might become part of Web searching vocabulary.

Mooter [www.mooter.com] is a new search engine, developed by Liesle Capper, an Australian with a background in psychology and a passion for building "a powerful tool for finding our way around the information world: a tool that does not impose value on us, but helps us find our own meaning." Whew!

While it intends to rely on its own spidering, while it is building its index Mooter also functions as a metasearch tool, incorporating the results of other engines with its own. What sets Mooter apart is its organization of results. Rather than the traditional 10-Web-sites-on-a-page format, Mooter's search results display in a graphical format, with the search terms in the center and seven conceptual "clusters" radiating out like a star. Additional clusters are available by clicking the [next clusters] link. Note that the same Web site may appear in more than one cluster. This categorization is built entirely on the fly, similar to Vivisimo's clustering and unlike the late lamented NorthernLight.com's Custom Search Folders, which were built on a pre-existing taxonomy.

Mooter emphasizes its ability to watch which sites you click on, and then to reorganize the search results to surface the most relevant sites, based on your prior selections. The theory is that, rather than just gauging relevance by link popularity or frequency of term occurrence, the most relevant results can be best calculated by learning what the searcher finds most useful. This "psychological modeling" or "dynamic personalization," as Mooter describes it, helps to disambiguate search queries; when you type in the phrase "Harry Potter," are you interested in the book series, the movies, video games, the author, or unofficial sites built by fans of Harry Potter? By seeing how you review the clusters and which sites you click through to, Mooter attempts to figure out what you are really looking for and recalculates the relevance of the retrieved sites and reorders them accordingly.

I find this fascinating--it's the closest thing I have seen to a search engine mimicking a reference librarian. Picture it: A patron walks up to the reference desk and says, "I'm looking for information on Vietnam." A good reference librarian might respond, "OK, do you need current news about the country? …

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