Reducing Information Overkill

Coauthor: Gary Price

Vivísimo’s new Clusty is a meta search engine with an impressive array of tools. It helps you quickly find relevant results from a variety of information sources.

Despite an awkward name that conjures images of Crusty the Crab from “The Incredible Mr. Limpet“, Clusty is an elegant new search tool that takes underground favorite Vivísimo to a new level. In addition to presenting both standard Web search results and Vivísimo’s dynamic clusters that automatically categorize results, Clusty draws on several new sources of information.

“You’re seeing a rich, complex mixture of selective crawling of sites, with meta searching of sites and clustering,” said Raul Valdes-Perez, Vivísimo’s CEO.

Clusty is designed as a consumer Web search destination rather than a technology showcase on the Vivísimo corporate Web server. Vivísimo previously licensed its technologies to others, including InfoSpace’s Dogpile meta search engine. “We are stepping up and saying, ’Yes, do your Web searches here,’” said Valdes-Perez.

Impressive Features

Clusty allows you to use Vivísimo’s dynamic clustering technology on 10 different types of content, including material from the Web, image, blog, and shopping databases. You can access each search type by clicking a tab directly above the search box.

Users can customize which tabs are visible by clicking the “Customize!” tab, then selecting from a database list. We haven’t seen this very useful feature with many other search tools. Yahoo offers something similar if you use the search.yahoo.com interface. Future Clusty releases will allow users to add tabs for favorite search tools, says Valdes-Perez.

The “clusters” presented in search results are incredibly useful. A Web+ search for “heathrow airport” offers three types of clusters on the left side of the results page. By default, results are organized into topic categories, such as hotels, parking, and airport lounges.

It’s also possible to expand these clusters to further focus the results set by clicking the plus sign next to each cluster title. Clusters are created dynamically by analyzing words in the text, URL, and result snippet.

You can also cluster results by source and URL. These different views save time finding the best results (what Valdes-Perez calls “selective ignorance”) and help illustrate ideas and concepts that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Clusty permits the use of advanced search syntax from one or more of the underlying databases it queries. For example, the search “site:edu chicago” clusters results from the edu domain.

Rich Information Sources

News and blog junkies, as well as researchers, will be happy to learn Clusty provides several new and exciting tools.

Clusty allows users to meta search and cluster results from several Web-based news providers and aggregators, including Yahoo News, The New York Times, and Reuters. Results are dynamically clustered and can be viewed three different ways.

Clusty also automatically builds news topic pages, similar to Google News, for several news categories, including “Top News,” “World,” and “Business.” To access these prebuilt pages, simply click “search,” without anything in the search box.

Clusty’s news search and cluster capabilities also apply to content from the blogosphere. The engine aggregates and dynamically clusters results from several Weblog and RSS (define) databases, including Technorati, Feedster, and Daypop.

Local search is also supported. Searching for locations or Zip Codes with Web+ will not only return Web results but also a map (via MapQuest) and clustered results from a Yellow Pages database.

A few other feature are worth noting. First is the very useful “Details” link, located at top of every search results page. Select the link and a box appears with info about which databases were queried and how many results were retrieved.

Next to each page title on all results pages is a magnifying glass. Click this icon and a live version of the underlying page opens, embedded into the results list. Unlike similar services that offer static images next to results, this “preview” version is live and all of the links are hot. In other words, it’s possible to search, check results, review potentially useful pages, and visit other pages, without ever leaving the search results list.

Time to Switch Engines?

We’re often asked what will make people switch from one general search tool to another. We recommend knowing about and using more than one in the first place.

That said, Clusty offers results from a variety of search tools as well as different ways of looking at those results. This should appeal to searchers of all skill levels.

Novice searchers will appreciate the clean interface, ease of use, and Clusty’s ability to quickly focus result sets without having knowledge of advanced syntax and search techniques. Advanced searchers will love Clusty’s sophisticated advanced search capabilities, which adaptively change based on the search type.

Clusty’s use of clustering and presentation of diverse resources helps all searchers see more results quickly while revealing related concepts that would be difficult, if not impossible, to quickly identify without using this type of technology.

We’re very excited to see the release of Clusty and hope Vivísimo continues to develop this cool and very useful search tool. Spend some time with Clusty. We think you’ll be impressed.

Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.

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