Loci 2009: Daniel Tunkelang’s Interesting Local Posts of 2009

Daniel Tunkelang is one of those individuals that you probably know little about but who will be influencing our lives a great deal going forward. Since November 2009 he has been the a Tech Lead/Manager on the local search team at Google and has a long history of heavy hitting in the search environment. His specialty is what is known in search as faceted search which he believes offers a potentially powerful way to approach a broad class of local search problems.

In early December, he reached out to me and I would like to welcome him to the Local Community (btw he seems to have a tough skin which should serve him well :)).


Not sure any of it qualifies for your list–the local space is a bit new for me, so I’ll surely have a more targeted list next year! Anyway, here’s some stuff I liked from 2009:

WWW2009 Madrid Proceedings:
Computers and iPhones and Mobile Phones, oh my! (pdf) A logs-based comparison of search users on different devices

Greg Nudelman at UXMatters:
Best Practices for Designing Faceted Search Filters

Cameras, Music, and Mattresses: Designing Query Disambiguation Solutions for the Real World

And a collection of free resources about faceted search and search user interfaces:
Free Chapter on Faceted Search User Interface Design

Daniel’s bio if you are interested in more nformation about him:

Daniel Tunkelang joined Google in November 2009 as a Tech Lead / Manager on the local search team. Before that, he was the Chief Scientist and a co-founder of Endeca, a leading provider of search applications for enterprises. He was one of the original developers of Endeca’s search and navigation technology and led Endeca’s efforts to develop capabilities that emphasized user interaction. Previous to that, he worked at the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center and AT&T Labs.

Daniel is the leading industry advocate on interactive and exploratory approaches to supporting information seeking. He co-organizes annual Workshops on Human Computer Information Retrieval (HCIR) to combine the best ideas from information retrieval (IR) and human-computer interaction (HCI). He chaired the SIGIR 2009 Industry Track, an event that brought together highly recognized academic researchers in information retrieval with senior technologists from the leading search companies, and is similarly involved in the CIKM (information and knowledge management) and WSDM (web science and data mining) conferences.

Daniel recently published the first book on Faceted Search as part of the prestigious Morgan and Claypool Synthesis Lectures on Information Concepts, Retrieval, and Services. His articles have been published in Technology Review, as well as in ACM, IEEE, and other scholarly publications. He also blogs at The Noisy Channel, a widely read and cited blog that focuses on how people interact with information.

Daniel holds undergraduate degrees in mathematics and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with a minor in psychology. He completed a PhD at Carnegie Mellon University for his work on information visualization.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
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7 thoughts on “Loci 2009: Daniel Tunkelang’s Interesting Local Posts of 2009”

  1. Thank you, Daniel,

    And thank you Mike for inviting Daniel to participate.

    The paper “Computers and iPhones and Mobile Phones, oh my!” was one of my favorites from 2009 as well. It was interesting to see some actual information on how people search using different types of devices.

    The link to your chapter on faceted search is broken above – it should point to: http://thenoisychannel.com/2009/09/25/free-chapter-on-faceted-search-user-interface-design/

  2. Mike: thanks for adding Daniel to your list of writers, commentators, and contacts. As with Bill’s writings, I did a premlinary scan. I’ll go into more depth in the writings. I look forward to it.

    One question, Daniel: With regard to your blog post and article http://thenoisychannel.com/2009/12/27/faceted-web-search/

    why would you have included “anchor text” as a question to Ed Chi, re “social signals”? Google may put a heavy dependance on “anchor text” as a signal, but likewise SEO’s are aware of it, and it seems SEO’s can overwhelm any natural usage of it. Instead of a “social signal” within Google it becomes a signal to successfully manipulate.

    This SEO forum thread from 2004 to 2006 http://forums.digitalpoint.com/showthread.php?t=256

    With rankings and daily testings of rankings and other key data showed how effective SEO’s can be by manipulating rankings via the usage of anchor text.

    Google has adjusted its weight, changed it, etc…..but Daniel, when you inquire about “anchor text” I wonder how you see it as a “social signal” versus a tool for manipulating google’s rankings and more specifically how you would view its weight amongst signals in determining the importance of rankings for search queries.

    Meanwhile as you reference the difficulties in applying faceted search and the various approaches by different search engines and others, it reminds me of one of my favorite tools supplied by the engines to ascertain user meaning…for those that develop websites and are also looking to understand user intent:

    Microsoft offers a set of tools at its adlabs: http://adlab.msn.com/ . Great stuff for the end website developer. When addressing a new topic I like to go to it to refine targeted keywords and keyword phrases. I appreciate the assistance and guidance from these guys toward narrowing the focus on user intent.

    If the users with appropriate intent can get to my sites with their services and products, and I can appear before these specific users, I actually have a shot at converting a few of them. 😉

    Look forward to more commentary from Daniel.

  3. Mike: thanks for the kind words, and for evangelizing faceted search here. Just to clarify, I’m *a* tech lead here on local search, but my team is one of many contributors to Google’s local search efforts.

    Earlpearl: my point about anchors was only the one that Ed Chi agreed with–that good-faith anchors are created by others to point to a link and thus have a social nature. For whatever reason, people seem to forget that there more to social signals on the web than “social media” sites. Regarding the rest of your question: I’m not at liberty to discuss which signals Google uses or how it uses them. But obviously any signal that is useful when created in good faith becomes a candidate for being used in bad faith to manipulate ranking.

  4. @Daniel

    Sorry. I have corrected the article. Didn’t intend to minimize the efforts of others or aggrandize yours .

    Thanks for the article and taking the time to respond.

  5. @daniel and @earlpearl: More interesting is that just as anchor text, social bookmarks, twitter, or any other social signals are always being gamed by SEO folks. Joshua S. of delicious told me privately once that 1/4 to 1/5 of all bookmarks in delicious are probably spam, but they do a very good job at filtering them, so you never see them in the summarized aggregated lists.

  6. Thanks for your comments, Daniel and Ed. My experience is that it has to be extremely difficult to sift through the anchor text social signals that are well meaning and those that are used for manipulation.

    I wouldn’t call the effort to do so a “miserable failure” ;), just that it must be difficult. More power to delicious for working through the spam bookmarks.

    I look forward to reading/workng my way through the entirety of links/articles.

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