SIGIR'12: Explicit Personalization

Especially from seasoned web users I hear with increasing frequency complaints that they don't understand anymore how web search engines deliver results to them and that they start to feel as frustrated as when Microsoft introduced the infamous Clippy. I think this is happening because extensive personalization and query reformulation are breaking the mental concept about search engines that users have in their mind. At today's industrial track at SIGIR several distinguished speakers from the likes of Google and Microsoft made a compelling case that substantial improvements in relevancy of search results are possible only through more personalization. But search engines don't know how to efficiently enable people to explicitly personalize their search results, so they must therefore resort to implicit personalization by exploiting their knowledge about the user.

I think that web search engines have become so successful because they have managed to translate chaos of the web into a simple data structure, i.e., a collection of documents, that could be easily sorted through by entering a few keywords. By introducing implicit personalization web search engines might be improving relevancy, but are on the other hand destroying the mental concept of the web as a collection of documents that has made search engines successful in the first place.