From the very beginning, Surf Canyon has been using the query “dolphins” as an illustration of how real-time contextualization can significantly enhance the user’s search experience. In the field of information retrieval this query is a classic example of ambiguity: is the user looking for the football team or the animal? Other queries like “bears” (again, football team or animal), “SVM” (support vector machine or Silvercorp Metals) and “java” (programming language, coffee or island) are a few other classic examples.
What’s nice about these classic examples, and why they are often used, is that it is easy to categorize results into one intent or another. While Surf Canyon’s real-time contextualization generally delivers the most user value with relatively homogeneous result sets, during demonstrations it is helpful to be able to easily “see” the effects, or lack thereof, of a particular ranking function on disambiguation.
Now, however, thanks to the Onion, we have a result for the query “dolphins” that could potentially span the two otherwise distinct and separate possible user intents: Florida Resort Allows Guests to Swim with the Miami Dolphins. Are users who select this result interested in the football team or the animal? Hard to say, although they are most certainly looking for a laugh.