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Search Engines

Suppose I am planning a 500 mile trip between say Atlanta and Orlando down I75 and I want to use a search engine to show me all the Starbucks or Seattles Best Coffee shops within 3 miles of I75.

Or I want to search all of Shakespears' works for any occurance of the word 'King' providing it's within 5 words of the word 'Queen'.

Are there any search engines with this kind of capability?

UI Designer
Friday, March 7, 2003

In the UK, Scoot provide this kid of functionality...

Up My Street also provide information by postcode...

Tom (a programmer)
Friday, March 7, 2003

OK, so it's not roads.

I think altavista et al. used to offer a "x nr10 y" kind of search... *looks* ...

You can use a boolean search with NEAR, if that's any use.  NEAR is defined as within 10 words.

Tom (a programmer)
Friday, March 7, 2003

How many words do you get to the mile though?

Simon Lucy
Friday, March 7, 2003

To be a touch more serious.

Both uses of 'near' could be accommodated in the same search engine but only if the concept of near and object were abstracted a great deal.

For instance, in a body of text you can store the word position of each indexed word and from that discover all the words local to it within the distance required.

In a geographical database, instead of physical position within the text its the physical location of the object itself, more like which shelf is the book on in relation to other books.  Routeing theory is just an additional process to get to that point.

These are the kinds of problems I'm thinking about at the moment, how to create an abstracted knowledge object with sufficient plasticity to be useful without being overly complicated.

Simon Lucy
Friday, March 7, 2003

I've seen a map site that would show you things near your path, but I have to question the utility.  If I'm planning a trip (what was the original, Atlanta to Orlando?  I wish I could see previous comments while writing this one), am I really going to search for coffee places along the way, print out the results, and consult this along the way?  No.  I'm going to drive until I get hungry, and pull off at the next promising-looking exit.  It's not great or modern, but it's good enough and easy.
If my car had a GPS system that could locate restaurants or coffee places, yes I would probably use it.  But I would not use a search engine to do this.

As for word proximity searches:  Doing this increases the comlexity of the search, and to a lesser extent the search interface.  A search that's simply if a document contains two particular words is just an and of the indexes.  But a within requires you to know the locations of all the words.

<plug type="shameless">

Our document imaging product allows this type of search, and we actually have Shakespeare's works indexed online.  There are 28 instances of "king" within 5 words of "queen" in the text of Hamlet (some of them are character lists and the like).

Why, any thing, but to the purpose. You were sent
for; and there is a kind of confession in your looks
which your modesties have not craft enough to colour:
I know the good king and queen have sent for you.

Our interface doesn't support this type of search directly, but allows documented "advanced search" queries like google.  For this search, it's "king ^5 queen".  Check it out:


Friday, March 7, 2003

Delorme's Street Atlas USA is handy for this sort of thing -you can load the entire database onto disk, and hook it up to a GPS.  Besides showing where you are and speaking directions, it can also periodically run a query to show all of the (gas stations/hotels/hotels/etc) within a certain radius of where you currently are.

It's especially handy for longer trips off of the main routes, where you don't have the limited exits and services marked at each one.  If you want to enjoy a cross country trip using the roads that connect nowhere to nowhere and have an alternate that gets you there faster, this helps more than a compass-

Lucien Van Elsen
Friday, March 7, 2003

Save your money.

Buy an espresso machine.

Friday, March 7, 2003

I just dug this up from the recesses of my brain...

The Google Programming Contest winner is definitely relevant:

Tom (a programmer)
Monday, March 10, 2003

Bristol University is researching a wearable computer that will tell you where the nearest pub is. Unfortunately it only works in Bristol at the moment.


I've heard tell of an in-car device that finds the nearest Tim Horton's Coffee SHop anywhere in Southern Ontario. When you press the button a recording says "Drive straight ahead for a couple of minutes - you'll get to one soon".


David Clayworth
Monday, March 10, 2003

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