Out and about in search & monitoring – Autumn 2015

It’s been a very busy few months for events – so busy that it’s quite a relief to be back in the office! Back in late November I travelled to Vienna to speak at the FIBEP World Media Intelligence Congress with our client Infomedia about how we’ve helped them to migrate their media monitoring platform from the elderly, unsupported and hard to scale Verity software to an open source system based on our own Luwak library. We also replaced Autonomy IDOL with Apache Solr and helped Infomedia develop their own in-house query language, to prevent them becoming locked-in to any particular search technology. Indexing over 75 million news stories and running over 8000 complex stored queries over every new story as it appears, the new system is now in production and Infomedia were kind enough to say that ‘Flax’s expert knowledge has been invaluable’ (see the slides here). We celebrated after our talk at a spectacular Bollywood-themed gala dinner organised by Ninestars Global.

The week after I spoke at the Elasticsearch London Meetup with our client Westcoast on how we helped them build a better product search. Westcoast are the UK’s largest privately owned IT supplier and needed a fast and scalable search engine they could easily tune and adjust – we helped them build administration systems allowing boosts and editable synonym lists and helped them integrate Elasticsearch with their existing frontend systems. However, integrating with legacy systems is never a straightforward task and in particular we had to develop our own custom faceting engine for price and stock information. You can find out more in the slides here.

Search Solutions, my favourite search event of the year, was the next day and I particularly enjoyed hearing about Google’s powerful voice-driven search capabilities, our partner UXLab‘s research into complex search strategies and Digirati and Synaptica‘s complimentary presentations on image search and the International Image Interoperability Framework (a standard way to retrieve images by URL). Tessa Radwan of our client NLA media access spoke about some of the challenges in measuring similar news articles (for example, slightly rewritten for each edition of a daily newspaper) as part of the development of the new version of their Clipshare system, a project we’ve carried out over the last year of so. I also spoke on Test Driven Relevance, a theme I’ll be expanding on soon: how we could improve how search engines are tested and measured (slides here).

Thanks to the organisers of all these events for all their efforts and for inviting us to talk: it’s great to be able to share our experiences building search engines and to learn from others.

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