Yahoo last week announced Search Pad (in beta, of course), which it described in its announcement as a way to “track sites and make notes by intelligently detecting user research intent and automatically collecting sites the user visits.” That didn’t interest me too much — it sounded like Google Notebook with a layer of autodetection that might or might not work — but the announcement mentioned other things like the ability to share information on social networks like Facebook and Twitter as well as auto-attributed pasting.
Search Pad is not a “destination” — just log into Yahoo and start searching. Search Pad is supposed to detect when you start doing research and quietly save documents in the background for you. I decided to start with a search for giraffes. I began doing a number of giraffe-related searches. At one point when I came back to Yahoo I saw that there was a “View Notes” link on the right nav that expanded into a window that was saving the giraffe-related search results I clicked on:
As I continued to do giraffe searches, Search Pad continued to save them for me along with screen shots of the sites. In addition, Search Pad also saved my searches and called up the Yahoo results for those searches as I clicked on them.
As I was merrily working on this example search, I remembered that I had a real search I could do; a friend asked me to help her do some research on pregnancy and exposure to strong electromagnetic fields. Normally I would start that kind of search on PubMed, but I started it here instead. Almost immediately Yahoo asked me, “Do you want to save this search on giraffe horns?” (One of the giraffe searches I had been doing.) I was done with giraffes for the moment and said no, so Search Pad turned itself off. I did several more pregnancy/EMF searches, but Search Pad never caught on that I had moved on to something different and finally I had to manually turn it on and carry on with my searches. Once it was on, Search Pad kept grabbing my search results as well as the results I clicked on.
Once you have several search results, you may want to organize them a bit. Search Pad allows you to rearrange the results you’ve gathered as well as enter notes for them (apparently there is a 2000 character limit for entering notes.) Once I had several documents I had the option of sharing them or just e-mailing the research to my friend. I could also choose to share my research and get an embeddable link for it.
Yahoo’s Search Pad is great for keeping up with where I’m going and what I’m clicking on. It let me do the research without worrying aobut reconstructing it later, making me do a lot of copy and pasting, etc. But knowing the other technology Yahoo has available, I was disappointed. For example, I do searches not only to gather information but also to improve my vocabulary and queries so subsequent searches are better. Could Yahoo have had a tool that would pull text from each page in its index that I clicked and turn it into a tag cloud? As I clicked more pages the cloud would evolve into words that are common across all the pages I clicked and be labeled something like “search results vocabulary”. Those words would give me new ideas on how to proceed on my research.
Same with links. Could Yahoo extract links for each of the pages I was clicking and find me common links? Could I get a list of frequently-cited pages based on the links I was clicking?
Don’t get me wrong — I love the transparency and ease of Search Pad. But with Yahoo’s technology — holy cow, it could be so much more!