Surf Canyon: any cop?

I’ve been testing out search engine add-on Surf Canyon today. It’s a piece of software you download, which filters your Google (and MSN Live, and Yahoo!) results using their own relevency criteria. No toolbar appears on your browser, you have to actually run a search to see it in action. Beside each entry in your search results you will find a small target icon, which you then click on to see further links (in real time, apparently) which are recommended to you based on Surf Canyon’s own relevancy criteria.

I’ll say it beats Google’s ‘similar’ function hands down, but then that’s not hard – i’ve found it to be absolutely useless whenever I’ve tried it. It also apparently deep-searches your results, so if your terms appear on the 8th page of a document, it’ll pick it up (and tell you where it is).

One criticism I might make is that it doesn’t appear to be adding anything genuinely worthwhile to advanced functions, or certainly not in Google. An advanced search I tried, aimed at finding background analysis on the Kenyan political crisis:

kenya power sharing intitle:~q&a

…only brought back ‘similar’ results to mine featuring my specific intitle requirement, with no attempt to find synonyms for the expression Q&A in the results . It is entirely possible an analysis piece on the crisis won’t feature the term Q&A in the title, but an alternative (like background, FAQ, analysis, etc.) but if found none of those.

So I would just caution that the ‘relevancy’ used here seems to be no more intuitive than the ‘relevance’ used in Google rankings.

That said, I’m still very much coming to terms with it, so if I find anything out, I’ll post it up.

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2 Responses to “Surf Canyon: any cop?”

  1. mdcramer Says:

    Thank you, Murray, for the post!

    I wrote something about Google’s “similar pages” some time ago that you might find interesting: http://blog.surfcanyon.com/2007/09/28/recommendations-are-not-similar-pages/.

    With respect to your “criticism” – well taken. You have an interesting idea, however, for the moment the product just works with the existing result set. All of the “recommendations” included your specific intitle requirement since every document in the result set included that requirement. We’ll have to work on that.

    One thing to consider, perhaps, would be to try keeping your queries broad (fewer requirements) and then letting Surf Canyon do the drilling down.

    We look forward to hearing more of your feedback!

  2. slewfootsnoop Says:

    Thanks for the link – very useful.

    Yeah, I take on board what you say about the ‘point’ of using Surf Canyon on search engine results – and its an interesting one.

    I’m someone who relies a lot on advanced operators, and given the problems Google and the like will increasingly face with the seemingly exponential rise of new web content, Surf Canyon’s in a good place to make a difference for those for whom advanced search is just a bit too much to take in.

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