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October 09, 2005

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The contextual ecosystem of windows is fantastic. At least with real windows applications.

One of the first things I always teach people when I get my hand on them. Because it makes their lifes so much easier.

The second thing I tell them is how connected this knowledge is. Learn keyboard combinations in one application and you will happy in every other windows application which follows the standard.

Most MS applications do, but in some of them you still feel the heritage of not being 'born' at MS. In case you understand these too - context and transfer of knowledge - your learning experience will be just on a different speed.

I find it astonishing each time, how many people do not see the presented keyboard combinations in the menu.

And if you could help me out in bringing the word team to their senses to finally drop this useless feature for CTRL-Tab in Word and make it what it it supposed to be, I'd be really thankful. This is seriously the reason why I only work in Word on some times in a month.

Another take on this is the difference between searching, browsing and navigating. All things one does regularly and naturally, but the computer world seems to jumble up into either one interface or the other with additional add-ons.

http://lucassmith.name/DrProlix/?p=43

Interesting read.

Yes - context is king.

That's what people are ripping Scoble on. More words means more context. However, that's fundamentally a weak excuse.

Search shouldn't be built assuming that people will have to LEARN how to use it. Search should be designed to make it as easy as possible for people to use.

Now, one point Scoble is making - I believe - is that the results aren't relavent to MOST people. A search engine should - without context - show the most popular results (or categories) first. Ideally, it should allow people to drill down into different categories of search results. MSN Search has research aimed at helping with this:

http://rwsm.directtaps.net/

.... but it's not very good. At all. Still, it's a few steps in the right direction.

Yahoo! is moving from a different angle: starting with your context. And, I think, it's probably the best one.

They're researching a context search. Pop a phrase/paragraph in there, and it magically generates keywords and searches for you.

http://yq.search.yahoo.com/

They've integrated it into Yahoo! News, etc.

You can use the service easily with the Yahoo! Toolbar; if you install the Y! Toolbar, and then highlight a phrase, a paragraph - anything - a context meny will pop up. One of those will be a purplish Y! icon, which you can select to do a context search. More details here:

http://www.ysearchblog.com/archives/000177.html

That's one solution to "context", and quite a nice one. Interestingly, it hasn't gotten very much press - which is a pity.

Rick, you note that people respond to Scoble with this (I was one of them):

– Not using enough words

– Not explaining enough of what you mean/want

And then right away you say you need context, which is just another was of explaining what you mean/want. Context may be a little or a lot, but it is still more information.

You could probably look at recent stuff in the web cache, or recently opened documents and use that for basic context for a search assuming that my thoughts are somewhat clustered.

But highlighting "travel destination" when looking for Java is still using more words.

Your right click idea is a but simplistic because I am typically doing that while in an application which has a specific function (an OS is an application as well).

Within the browser though, there is no specific application. I could be making a purchase at ebay, or watching a newsclip at CNN, which are entirely unrelated, and therefore share no context. The browser is also no specifically aware of what I was doing.

The smartest thing I could think of would be for Google to use Desktop 2.0 as a snapshot of what you were most recently doing and what you most recently searched for as contextual input for a web search.

I bet that would give you 100% improvement over current searches. For example if I was at expedia and travelocity, then I searched for java, one could assume that I was looking for the travel destination.

Could it be that Google has known how to monetize the power of context for quite a while?

http://adwords.google.com/

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