Natural language for search criteria

20 Sep 2007 - 4:34am
7 years ago
3 replies
815 reads
Dimiter Simov
2006

Hi everyone,

I am trying to find some information on natural language criteria for
filtering by date.

I am designing the interaction of the filtering feature of a product. People
can apply various filters to the items in the database to prepare subsets of
data. Specifying dates and selecting date ranges is a big effort because:
1. People rarely think in exact dates. Most of the time things happen today,
next week, on Sunday, and so on. For example, "My trip to Vegas was last
summer".
2. Computers do not understand dates unless they are formatted in a specific
way; say 09.10.07. People have problems interpreting these dates and
matching the expected formats.

I believe that if people can specify filter criteria for dates using words
will make their life easier. For example, it is easier to type in a box
'Last week' (or any variety of it such as 'last WEEK', 'lst week',
'lastweek', and so on) instead of typing or selecting from a calendar the
start and end dates that define the week preceding the previous one.

I met some serious opposition to such natural language use for reasons: gold
plating, increase of development complexity/effort, users can't remember all
those 'next week', 'last month', etc. combinations.

Can someone point me to references that support or reject my belief. I will
user-test if I have a chance but I want to be prepared.

Thanks

Dimiter Simov
Lucrat Ltd. www.lucrat.net
Netage Solutions Inc. www.netagesolutions.com
Usability blog www.e-lesno.com

Comments

20 Sep 2007 - 3:57pm
Phillip Hunter
2006

Dimiter,

A close colleague of mine advises:
"Rivers of inks and mountains of paper have been spent on the topic of
parsing date/time NL expressions (I guess that's what he's looking for). I
remember some work in the late 1980s/early 1990s from Phil Cohen at OGI, but
I could not find the pointer on the web. Tell him to start from this
article:
http://tcc.itc.it/people/negri/papers/TERN-2004/Final-TERN-irst.pdf"

ph

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Dimiter
Simov (Lucrat)
Sent: Thursday, September 20, 2007 5:35 AM
To: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Natural language for search criteria

Hi everyone,

I am trying to find some information on natural language criteria for
filtering by date.

I am designing the interaction of the filtering feature of a product. People
can apply various filters to the items in the database to prepare subsets of
data. Specifying dates and selecting date ranges is a big effort because:
1. People rarely think in exact dates. Most of the time things happen today,
next week, on Sunday, and so on. For example, "My trip to Vegas was last
summer".
2. Computers do not understand dates unless they are formatted in a specific
way; say 09.10.07. People have problems interpreting these dates and
matching the expected formats.

I believe that if people can specify filter criteria for dates using words
will make their life easier. For example, it is easier to type in a box
'Last week' (or any variety of it such as 'last WEEK', 'lst week',
'lastweek', and so on) instead of typing or selecting from a calendar the
start and end dates that define the week preceding the previous one.

I met some serious opposition to such natural language use for reasons: gold
plating, increase of development complexity/effort, users can't remember all
those 'next week', 'last month', etc. combinations.

Can someone point me to references that support or reject my belief. I will
user-test if I have a chance but I want to be prepared.

Thanks

Dimiter Simov
Lucrat Ltd. www.lucrat.net
Netage Solutions Inc. www.netagesolutions.com
Usability blog www.e-lesno.com

________________________________________________________________
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20 Sep 2007 - 5:18pm
bminihan
2007

Both Google and Omniture web analytics allow date selection in more logical
"chunks" like weeks, months, etc. They still require you use a calendar,
but you're given two select options: exact date ranges, where they
highlight the span between the two selected dates, and date blocks, where
you select whole months, weeks, just Fridays, etc.

Both work well for two different kinds of searches (looking at an analytics
problem), although folks tend to fall into one habit and forget the other
exists (they both provide almost the same thing).

Not exactly what you're talking about, but Google and Omniture seem to have
recognized the same problem you have...

- Bryan
http://www.bryanminihan.com

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Phillip
Hunter
Sent: Thursday, September 20, 2007 4:57 PM
To: 'Dimiter Simov (Lucrat)'; discuss at ixda.org
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Natural language for search criteria

Dimiter,

A close colleague of mine advises:
"Rivers of inks and mountains of paper have been spent on the topic of
parsing date/time NL expressions (I guess that's what he's looking for). I
remember some work in the late 1980s/early 1990s from Phil Cohen at OGI, but
I could not find the pointer on the web. Tell him to start from this
article:
http://tcc.itc.it/people/negri/papers/TERN-2004/Final-TERN-irst.pdf"

ph

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Dimiter
Simov (Lucrat)
Sent: Thursday, September 20, 2007 5:35 AM
To: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Natural language for search criteria

Hi everyone,

I am trying to find some information on natural language criteria for
filtering by date.

I am designing the interaction of the filtering feature of a product. People
can apply various filters to the items in the database to prepare subsets of
data. Specifying dates and selecting date ranges is a big effort because:
1. People rarely think in exact dates. Most of the time things happen today,
next week, on Sunday, and so on. For example, "My trip to Vegas was last
summer".
2. Computers do not understand dates unless they are formatted in a specific
way; say 09.10.07. People have problems interpreting these dates and
matching the expected formats.

I believe that if people can specify filter criteria for dates using words
will make their life easier. For example, it is easier to type in a box
'Last week' (or any variety of it such as 'last WEEK', 'lst week',
'lastweek', and so on) instead of typing or selecting from a calendar the
start and end dates that define the week preceding the previous one.

I met some serious opposition to such natural language use for reasons: gold
plating, increase of development complexity/effort, users can't remember all
those 'next week', 'last month', etc. combinations.

Can someone point me to references that support or reject my belief. I will
user-test if I have a chance but I want to be prepared.

Thanks

Dimiter Simov
Lucrat Ltd. www.lucrat.net
Netage Solutions Inc. www.netagesolutions.com
Usability blog www.e-lesno.com

________________________________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
Questions .................. list at ixda.org
Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org

________________________________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
Questions .................. list at ixda.org
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22 Sep 2007 - 12:49am
Tom Corbett
2006

Dimiter,

About Face 2.0, Chapter 16 "Improving Data Retrieval" (pp. 205-206)
describes Natural Language Output, a data retrieval interface approach
that might prove useful in this situation.

-Tom Corbett

On 9/20/07, Dimiter Simov (Lucrat) <jimmy at lucrat.net> wrote:
> Hi everyone,
>
> I am trying to find some information on natural language criteria for
> filtering by date.
>
> I am designing the interaction of the filtering feature of a product. People
> can apply various filters to the items in the database to prepare subsets of
> data. Specifying dates and selecting date ranges is a big effort because:
> 1. People rarely think in exact dates. Most of the time things happen today,
> next week, on Sunday, and so on. For example, "My trip to Vegas was last
> summer".
> 2. Computers do not understand dates unless they are formatted in a specific
> way; say 09.10.07. People have problems interpreting these dates and
> matching the expected formats.
>
> I believe that if people can specify filter criteria for dates using words
> will make their life easier. For example, it is easier to type in a box
> 'Last week' (or any variety of it such as 'last WEEK', 'lst week',
> 'lastweek', and so on) instead of typing or selecting from a calendar the
> start and end dates that define the week preceding the previous one.
>
> I met some serious opposition to such natural language use for reasons: gold
> plating, increase of development complexity/effort, users can't remember all
> those 'next week', 'last month', etc. combinations.
>
> Can someone point me to references that support or reject my belief. I will
> user-test if I have a chance but I want to be prepared.
>
> Thanks
>
>
> Dimiter Simov
> Lucrat Ltd. www.lucrat.net
> Netage Solutions Inc. www.netagesolutions.com
> Usability blog www.e-lesno.com
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
> Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> Questions .................. list at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org
>

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