Search engine helper organizes results

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Clustering software from Vivisimo Inc. can categorize results from 40 government Web site search engines, including the government's FirstGov portal.

The software hierarchically arranges document pointers gathered by a search engine, placing them in folders for user viewing.

That simplifies searching, said Raul Valdes-Perez, president of the Pittsburgh company. Search engines return thousands of results for each query, most of which the viewer does not want.

'Regardless of how diligent you are, you are always going to overlook information,' Valdes-Perez said. 'On a practical level, we help the person more intelligently choose which information to view.'

A demonstration on the company's Web site, at www.vivisimo.com/demo, lets users submit queries to federal, state, local and academic sites. When the results come back, the Vivisimo software removes duplicates and organizes hits into folders by words that appear frequently.

For example, a search for the term 'enterprise architecture' on FirstGov itself returns more than 1,000 hits. But a FirstGov query filtered through Vivisimo's site produces 18 top-level folders, divided into categories such as 'Federal Enterprise Architecture' and by individual agencies, such as the Agriculture and Housing and Urban Development departments.

Valdes-Perez and two graduate students developed the clustering algorithms at Carnegie Mellon University. Vivisimo, formed in 2000, further developed the technology with awards from the National Science Foundation and the federal Small Business Innovation Research program. NASA and an intelligence agency were early adopters of the software, Valdes-Perez said.

Although Vivisimo uses the software on its own Web site for searching the Internet, its goal is to sell the product to large enterprises, such as federal agencies, for searching their intranets or augmenting searches of their public Web sites. The software works with most commercial search engines, Valdes-Perez said, including those that index content in a variety of formats.

The FirstGov office is aware of Vivisimo's demonstration, Valdes-Perez said, but has not officially recognized it. 'They tolerate us,' he said.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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