Wednesday, January 18, 2006


An infobroker who reviewed QT/Search told me that the suggestions for further search are similar to Cow9. A quick search on QT/Search for the word Cow9 taught me that this feature disappeared from Alta Vista. I'm not a journalist so I didn't dig into this story, but I feel it in my bones that there is something juicy to discover here about the reasons why such a wonderful feature disappeared just like that. Another interesting angle to explore is how the writer who wrote a whole guide to Cow9 feels when he sees the empty space that replaced the cow9 refine button.

So here's what I collected about cow9:

1. http://www. samizdat. com/script/lt1. htm AltaVista's LiveTopics, AKA Refine, code-named Cow9
Cow9 is a powerful feature that was once offered through AltaVista, first under the name LiveTopics, later called Refine. The project, code named "Cow9," was a collaborative effort between researchers at Digital Equipment Corporation and Fran├žois Bourdoncle of Ecole des Mines de Paris, www. ensmp. fr The underlying technology has enormous potential. To get a sense for how it can be used, check these slides and the screen-capture examples. (FYI -- the screen captures were made in October 1997).

2. http://www.wadsworth. com/english_d/templates/resources/0838408265_harbrace/research/research12.html Student Resources
Use the "Cow9" function to refine, or narrow, your search by selecting the "Refine" button located to the right of the query field. By doing so, the "Refine's List View" will display the results in the order of relevance so that you can require or exclude topics using a drop-down menu.

LiveTopics is a tool that helps you refine and analyze the results of an AltaVista search.
LiveTopics analyzes the contents of documents that meet your original search criteria and displays groups of additional words, called topics, to use in refining your query. Topics are dynamically generated from words that occur frequently in the documents that match your initial search criteria. Topics appear in order of relevance, and words inside a topic are ordered by frequency of occurrence.
This dynamic generation of related topics, tailored to each search, distinguishes LiveTopics from other web search aids, which offer predetermined categories or structures into which you must fit your query.
The LiveTopics technology was developed for AltaVista by Francois Bourdoncle of the Ecole des Mines de Paris/ARMINES.

4. http://www.
Mar. 6, 1997-Vol28n23: Electronic Highways: LiveTopics from AltaVista
AltaVista now offers LiveTopics to assist you in refining the results of your initial search. This new tool offers related terms or topics, generated from your initial search for you to select, or exclude, to help you narrow your search. The terms are produced by frequency in which the word appears in the set of documents.
Choosing LiveTopics offers terms such as qualifications, racial, candidates, tenure, hiring, diversity, women, and recruitment. In addition you may choose subcategories such as salary, position, experience, and minorities. You may then choose to include or omit certain terms from your initial search, reducing the number of documents originally found.
LiveTopics is most useful when you receive more than 200 documents in your initial search. Anything smaller usually results in irrelevant related terms.

If you perform a search for 'Ariadne' on Alta Vista you retrieve around 9000 documents. None of our first 10 hits appear to be relevant to our search for the journal as they are links to software companies of the same name. With a set of results of this size, Alta Vista automatically prompts you to refine your search using LiveTopics.LiveTopics brings up a number of topic headings - including mythology, Amiga, Goddess, OPACS, UKOLN and Libraries. We can now exclude all of the irrelevant documents from our search by clicking on the irrelevant subjects to place a cross in the boxes next to them.
This brings my search results down from 9000 documents to around 200. I can then go back and further refine my search if necessary.Alta Vista prompts me to use LiveTopics to summarise my results: if I choose this option it will re-define the categories of topics in my search results and present me with a new set of options based on these dynamic categories.

Alta Vista's REFINE feature provides an online thesaurus based on the terms in each of your search results.The terms it offers are based on a statistical analysis of the frequency of appearance of words in the Web pages your search retrieved (they are not drawn from some standardized thesaurus or Websters). They are ranked with most frequent first.
You can modify your search by excluding or adding terms from the groups offered by the thesaurus .

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