Tuesday, 2nd July 2002
AltaVista Introduces AltaVista Prisma, A Search Term Selection Tool
New From AltaVista: AltaVista Prisma
After several months of testing AltaVista has introduced AltaVista Prisma today. This service helps searchers by suggesting search terms after an initial query of AV. Prisma technology was developed by AV and has been tested under the name "AltaVista Paraphrase". Is AltaVista Prisma to "THE SOLUTION" to the "which term(s) should I use" problem? Probably not. However, it does provide a worthwhile and useful service, for the millions of searchers who only enter a single or just a few terms into the search box. The service is available with both the primary and advanced interfaces. The Prisma term selection box is located at the top a search result page.
In Brief: How It Works
On the fly, AltaVista Prisma looks at frequently used terms and concepts from the top 50 results in the search result set and presents a list of the 12 "most strongly associated terms" from that search in the Prisma box. Currently these terms are not generated from the full-text of the page but rather the title, url, and search result snippet. An AV spokesperson said a version that analyzes the full-text of the page is in the works. These terms provide what AltaVista calls a "360-degree spectrum of meaning". In other words these terms could assist in focusing/narrowing, expanding and/or redirecting the search. The searcher can then click and append that term to the original search or click on a chevron icon ( >> ) and run that term as a separate search. After clicking on a maximum of two Prisma terms, the technology is turned-off but a link back to the previous search is offered.
AltaVista Prisma is currently available on AV's sites in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Australian, Ireland, and New Zealand. Teoma's "Refine" feature, particularly because the term suggestions are created dynamically, operates much like AltaVista Prisma. I've found Prisma to be more useful than the Teoma "Refine" option.
Just For Fun, Save A Click or Two
In some cases, I've found AltaVista Prisma to help speed-up answers to fast fact type of questions. Of course, all of the rules for judging info authority and quality still apply. Remember, links or in this case potential answers, come from terms "associated with" the first 50 hits of the search result set. In a sense, AltaVista Prisma is working as a search result summarizer.
Bottom line: Use with caution. Examples: A search for the performer of the song Dancing Queen using the query, ("Dancing queen" song) lists ABBA at the top of the Prisma box. A search for the peformers of the song ("Start Me Up" song) correctly reveals The Rolling Stones in the Prisma box. For Movies, the search (Moonstruck movie director), correctly and quickly reveals the name of the director, Norman Jewison in the Prisma box. Finally, I needed to know the nickname of UCLA. I searched (nickname UCLA). At the top of the Prisma list is the correct answer, Bruins. Again, this is not a perfect solution. However, when it does work, it's an alternative use for Prisma.
See Also: More From AV on Prisma
See Also: SearchDay Also With a Few Comments About Prisma and Other Happenings At AV