I am currently starting work on developing an undergraduate module in Natural Language Processing (level 6, 3rd year). Although I have been involved in the field of NLP for many years, recent times have witnessed a transformation of the field, not just in terms of its academic foundations, but also its practical application in industry and its attractiveness as a fulfilling and rewarding career choice. My sense is that some of the topics which I originally studied for my doctorate retain their appeal since the key ideas remain relevant despite radical changes in the implementation. However, others are more hostage to the technological fortunes of deep learning and other neural/distributional approaches.

My view is that field benefits by being informed by more than one perspective: computer/data science may be a given, but cognitive science, information science and linguistics all have their contributions to make. Clearly, it is a tricky task to pack all this into just 10 topics, and to do so from both a theoretical and practical perspective. Here is my current thinking:

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I am delighted to announce the publication of Search Insights 2021: an edited collection of timely, vendor-neutral advice and expertise from some of the world’s foremost experts on search and information retrieval. It covers a broad range of topics, from enterprise search to eCommerce. In contrast to traditional (‘sponsored’) analyst reports, this publication is wholly independent and CC licensed.

This report embodies the collective expertise of 11 search implementation specialists working across the globe. It offers vendor-independent advice and guidance that has been acquired through a range of projects over many years, and I am honoured to be a part of this network.

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Software Development Lifecycle

Last week I was honored and privileged to present at the ISKO UK meetup on the topic of ‘Searching, fast and slow’. This talk was a slightly updated version of the one I gave at Search Solutions 2020, in which I presented the case for a transformation of the systematic searching paradigm from the attributes on the left (which perpetuate ‘slow thinking’) to the attributes on the right (which facilitate ‘fast thinking’):

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On Wednesday next week (17th Feb) I’ll be presenting a half day course called Search Usability, courtesy of CILIP and the UKeIG in particular. This course is new in two ways:

I did give some thought to the title. In particular, I’m aware that the term ‘usability’ has fallen out of favour in recent years, partly due to its connotations (in my view) as being a ‘nice to have’ feature or attribute. Instead, I prefer to frame UX in terms of ‘fitness for purpose’ or simply ‘good design’: few would argue that those criteria are essential to any successful product or service. Moreover, they are central to the design of effective search experiences, and that’s what this course is all about.

I did also consider ‘Designing the Search Experience’, but I’ve rather beaten that title into submission in recent years, and besides, the course includes insights from UX research as well as UX design, so if you take that title too literally you may incorrectly conclude that the course was aimed exclusively at designers (or individuals with such aspirations). Maybe I’m over-thinking this, but ‘Search Usability’, although it’s a bit 1990s IMHO, feels more inclusive.

Since this is the inaugural presentation of this course, its likely that we will need some flexibility in approach and content. For that reason I have included extra activities which I don’t expect to need on the day, but they are there just in case.

A final update: we just closed registrations for this presentation as we are now fully booked. But if there’s enough demand, we’ll do another presentation later in the year.

For further details and registration, see the UKeIG event page. In the meantime, I’ve appended further details below.

Hope to see you there!

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In case you missed it, here are details of the latest issue of Informer, which just came out this week. This is again one of our bigger issues, with 15 articles including conference reviews, feature articles, news and updates from the world of search and information retrieval. Big shout out to colleagues Steve Zimmerman for publishing this issue and to Martin White for curating (and in many cases writing) such a sterling collection of articles. For further details see the Informer website. If you fancy becoming a contributor, get in touch!

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New year, new release — I am delighted this week to announce a new release of 2Dsearch. This contains a variety of bug fixes and improvements, including support for IEEE XPlore, a ‘Help me choose’ feature and automated search report generation.

You can now use 2Dsearch to search visually across 10 different databases and use automated translations for many more. We’ve also made improvements to the canvas user experience and now provide starter examples for each of the 10 databases.

We’ve lots more planned for the next release, so if you’d like to help shape this and/or have comments or suggestions then do let us know. We’d be delighted to hear from you.

Image credit: https://bigarrowgroup.com/tortoise-hare-marketing/

Great to see so many old (and new) faces at Search Solutions 2020 last month. A new format for us, being wholly virtual, but I think the change did us good, and in some ways reinvigorated the event. Looking forward to next years event already… In the meantime, here are the slides from my talk ‘Searching Fast and Slow‘. This talk makes the case for a transformation of professional search from a paradigm based on monolithic, static, procedural strings to one based on interactive, declarative, executable objects, with corresponding benefits in transparency, reproducibility and effectiveness. As always, comments and feedback welcome.

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Last week I was honored and privileged to give a talk at EAHIL 2020 (European Association for Health Information and Libraries) on the topic of An open-access platform to design, validate and share search strategies. This is joint work with Farhad Shokraneh of King’s College. Delighted to say our talk generated a number of interesting discussions and follow ups. Our slides are attached below: comments and feedback welcome.

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Last week I was privileged to present to the British Patent Information Professionals group (BPIP) on the subject of visual approaches to patent retrieval. Many thanks to Jeanette Eldridge for making this happen, and a pleasure to renew the acquaintance with Stephen Adams, Jane List and Nathan Pennington. My slides are attached below, comments and feedback welcome. Next step: integration with Google Patents, perhaps?

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Here’s a quick preview of the final programme for Search Solutions 2020.  Hope to see you there (virtually 🙂 )

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