Happy Holidays from Haystack. Black Friday is upon us and, with it, the start of the holiday season.

As we enter the holiday season, in which many cultures have a tradition of exchanging gifts, our thoughts turn to the gift our technology gives you– namely, search results.

Most other search engine technologies have focused too much on the characteristics of the results and not enough on the behaviors of the users. We call this focus diagnostic. Their focus is to look at the item and figure out what characterizes it.

We, meanwhile, believe that humans are the best judge of what items other humans will enjoy. Think of it this way: choosing a gift is a task humans are good at. The item’s characteristics – its weight, color, material, origin – tells you little about whether it will make a good gift.

This is part of why a strictly diagnostic approach to search is not particularly useful and part of why the diagnostic variables that are most useful (things like hits or backlinks) at least hint at human behavior or how people interact with (or are expected to interact with) results.

Why does this matter? Because the more energy is spent on research that is diagnostic, the fewer units of research effort get spent on understanding how people interact with those results.

Think of it this way: You say you want to vacation somewhere warm, and the result is Jamaica. But what matters isn’t just Jamaica’s latitude or climate. You’d also want to know what it’s going to be like to visit Jamaica, how long you should stay there, how much others have enjoyed traveling there, and so on.

That difference is the difference between diagnostic search and the technologies we’re interested in and passionate about. Our technology doesn’t just look at you and your preferences (though it does), it also considers people who have gone before you on similar journeys, listening to similar music, researching similar ideas, or enjoying similar videos. We use those experiences to guide yours.

So, if you’re the kind of person who shops for a gift for a loved one by thinking, “I think I want something blue,” or “I think I want something heavy,” then those other folks are producing the right search technology for you. But if you’re the kind of person who shops thinking, “I want something other people have loved,” or “I want the toy kids spend more than ten minutes playing with,” then you want our technology.

Enjoy a happy and healthy holiday season. We’ll be here, as always, taking time to improve search.