Struggling and Success in Web Search

The 24th ACM International Conference on Information and Knowledge Management (CIKM 2015) |

Published by ACM

Best Student Paper

Web searchers sometimes struggle to find relevant information. Struggling leads to frustrating and dissatisfying search experiences, even if searchers ultimately meet their search objectives. Better understanding of search tasks where people struggle is important in improving search systems. We address this important issue using a mixed methods study using large-scale logs, crowd-sourced labeling, and predictive modeling. We analyze anonymized search logs from the Microsoft Bing Web search engine to characterize aspects of struggling searches and better explain the relationship between struggling and search success. To broaden our understanding of the struggling process beyond the behavioral signals in log data, we develop and utilize a crowd-sourced labeling methodology. We collect third-party judgments about why searchers appear to struggle and, if appropriate, where in the search task it became clear to the judges that searches would succeed (i.e., the pivotal query). We use our findings to propose ways in which systems can help searchers reduce struggling. Key components of such support are algorithms that accurately predict the nature of future actions and their anticipated impact on search outcomes. Our findings have implications for the design of search systems that help searchers struggle less and succeed more.