Search Solutions is an important event in the world of search & information retrieval that is held in London every November. Search Solutions is comprised of sessions, keynote talks, panels, tutorials and unconference sessions like Fishbowl from top-notch researchers and influencers in search and information retrieval. Search Solutions was held at the BCS just off Cocent Garden in London. About 20 speakers from around the world gave talks related to search and information retrieval and its challenges in various domains. I was selected as a diversity scholar to attend this event. Thanks to Dr. Udo for having me on the diversity scholar list.
At the time of lunch/dinner, I interacted with researchers from Spotify, Google, Bloomberg, HighQ and City, University of London and the rest of the organizer team. It was a great meeting and interacting with them.
Session 1: MORE THAN SEARCH: RECOMMENDATION AND EXPLORATIONS
Session 1 was exceptionally amazing. We started off with “Search at Spotify” by Mounia Lalmas followed by “Challenges in fashion recommendations” from Saul Vargas, ASOS.
The very first talk was Search at Spotify by Mounia Lalmas. She first gave us a succinct glance into what Spotify is doing on search and how it excels at articulating fans and artists. She engrossed us, telling that Spotify’s mission is to unwind the potential of human creativity with a deep dive on their search infrastructure. She also enlightened a bit about Spotify’s ongoing research projects such as search user journey, satisfaction in search and search as a recommendation.
The second talk was Challenges in Fashion Recommendations by Saul. He gave us an interesting example of search applications in Fashion, where he showed us a multi-modal multi-task architecture (a neural network for multi-task learning) for building the hybrid recommender system to improve the quantitative understanding of the fashion products. His talk was full of learning and gave a deep insight into the multi-classification task in the search context of fashion recommendation.
We had a half an hour tea break where I interacted with Mounia discussing more on characterizing user behavior during a search process. It was great meeting Dr. Mounia and Thanks a ton to Dr. Ingo for introducing me.
Session 2: BEYOND KEYWORD SEARCH: SEMANTIC/CONVERSATIONAL/IMAGE SEARCH
The next talk was Conversational Search in the Google Assistant by Enrique Alfonseca. Enrique Alfonseca is a Research Tech Manager at Google Inc., Zurich. He introduced us to Conversational Search and some of the challenges that search engines fail to address, from keeping context to making sure that answers are presented optimally for the speech modality. His talk was focussed on providing solutions to natural language processing problems that Google is running in production or more experimentally. More concretely, he also discussed NLP solutions for optimizing the length and formulation of the answers including the deep generative model to enable coherent and longer conversations. It was a fruitful talk on conversational search which gave me some deep insight into more realistic search applications in particular.
The following talk was by Erik Graf on AI in the wild. Erik Graf is a Chief Scientific Officer at Cortical.io. Erik presented a round-up of the academia and enterprise focus on AI-based intelligence solutions. He took us to the main architecture they built for various AI-powered solution stacks, such as insight cycles comprising of dynamic composition/manipulation of meaning, task-agnostic representation and interactive ML/AI. I was fascinated by the idea of interpretability at subject matter expert level and the use of interactive ML/AI models.
The next was on Online journalism and images by Sylwia Frankowska-Takhari. The highlight of the talk was online journalism and the use of imagery. She also shared her experience of working at the BBC, where she gained a good grasp on the organizational structure of the BBC’s online news service, the design standards and the ethical guidelines which enabled her to gain access to participants for tailoring images in online journalism. It was another great application of image retrieval in particular and great seeing her work on real-life illustration tasks.
Lunch was pretty interesting. Thanks again to Dr. Ingo for arranging vegan foods. Everyone gathered at a common lunch place with full of prime burger, panini pronto, fruits slices, vegetarian/non-vegetarian food and obviously drinks, so yeah! (:D) Lunch was great, but what made it interesting was the discussion! I had a long discussion with Enrique and Andy Neil about my research project and it was great! After the discussion, we followed for the next series of talks.
Session 3: MAKING SEARCH TRANSPARENT: EXPLAINABILITY AND REPLICABILITY
The first talk of this session was by Dr. Tony Russel-Rose on 2dSearch: Reimagining advanced search. I don’t need to introduce him (:P). He explained how 2dSearch can be used to reimagine the world of advanced search. It was great seeing how he exploits visual representations for direct mapping among the distinctive semantics of a search and their physical appearance. I love the way they designed this advanced search framework and you can always check it on https://app.2dsearch.com/. A great talk, indeed.
Following was the talk on Explainable Search by Gabriella Kazai. She talked about explainable search that can develop models or methods not only generating high-quality search results, but also intuitive explanations of the results for users or system designers, and how it helps improve the system transparency, and also gave us a brief overview of how it addresses AI explainability problems in deep learning, computer vision, and natural language processing tasks. The way she explains a scenario is absolutely stunning.
Next was the talk by Andy Hind on Academic Research to Open Source. He first gave a brief overview of various open source search framework like Lucene, TerrierIR, Anserini, Elasticsearch, just to name a few. His main focus of the talk was on how to do research on open source systems/initiatives under an academic umbrella. I was fascinated by his idea of connecting academia to companies/organizations or vice-versa by bringing them together in open source initiatives. Great talk, indeed.
We had a short tea break before the last session of the day kicked off.
Session 4: A WORLD BEYOND WEB SEARCH: ENTERPRISE AND PROFESSIONAL SEARCH
This session was really an advanced session for me in comparison to other sessions. But it was great learning from all these better talks.
The first talk of this session was on Enterprise search behaviours – unravelling reality by Martin White. Martin White is the Managing director at Intranet Focus Ltd. He first gave a brief overview of enterprise search with detailed stats of ongoing research in enterprise search. He also shared his experience on how he advises a global law firm on the implementation of a federated search application, formative assessment of the website search and search application performance. His main focus was on bridging the long gap of enterprise search. It was a really great talk, indeed.
Following was the talk on Automation of Systematic Reviews by Farhad Shokraneh. Farhad Sokraneh is an Information Specialist in the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham. He talked about systematic reviews in the decision-making process including systematic search methods. He also presented a couple of solutions to credible search methods such as evidence-based search methods, recording/reporting repeatable search methods and search result sharing as part of research results.
The last sub-session was the traditional fishbowl-session where we had a couple of impromptu questions on search, information retrieval (IR), interactive IR, and bridging academia and industry. It was an important discussion summarizing the day. It was a great session, too.
We had a great party after the talks at a nearby-pub with the Search Solutions organizers. Free drink, yaay (:D).
This was the first time, I attended Search Solutions and it was amazing to meet and interact with researchers/developers around the world including Prof. Udo, Andy Neil, Mounia Lalmas, Dyaa Albakour, Sylwia, Enrique Alfonseca, Dr. David Haynes, Edgar Meij, Dario, Samantha North, and Gabriella Kazai. Kudos to the whole organizer team. Overall, it was an amazing experience which I’m going to cherish for long.