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Subdividing Search

By David F. Carr  |  Posted 2009-09-17 Print this article Print

MTV Networks moves to Solr-powered search technology for the websites behind many of its popular shows.

Habib says another reason open source products tend to find their way into the process is that developers can download them and start working with them without going through a procurement process. "You can imagine what the approval process is like for a purchase at a large corporation. Open source empowers developers come up with solutions," he says.

That's what happened with Solr, which one of the developers working on SouthParkStudios.com began tinkering with on his own initiative, Cohen says. In that case, the advantage was that Solr made it easier to subdivide search results according to categories such as the names of characters featured in that episode, he says.

To achieve those results, the web site must be configured to provide an XML data feed to Solr that exposes the structure and categories stored in the site's content management system (CMS). Because MTV's other major search solution, the Google appliance, relies primarily on crawling web content, its ability to find search facets is limited to identifying different file types or extracting categorization information from HTML meta tags, Cohen says.

So Solr works best with sites such as TheDailyShow.com, which runs off a single CMS, as opposed to MTV.com, which features layers of technology built up over decades, Cohen says. Solr is also used on more complex sites, such as comedycentral.com, as a back end tool for indexing content but not for serving website search requests.

In addition to helping viewers of TheDailyShow.com find segments featuring their favorite comic correspondents, Solr feeds a slider-style timeline user interface widget that sorts through results by when a segment appeared. Cohen says the faceting feature also makes it possible to feed search results to multiple international versions of the MTVMusic site from single index.

The one drawback, Cohen says, is the "tooling" that comes with Solr. The management and monitoring utilities are not as slick as those that come with commercial products, he says.

David F. Carr David F. Carr is the Technology Editor for Baseline Magazine, a Ziff Davis publication focused on information technology and its management, with an emphasis on measurable, bottom-line results. He wrote two of Baseline's cover stories focused on the role of technology in disaster recovery, one focused on the response to the tsunami in Indonesia and another on the City of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.David has been the author or co-author of many Baseline Case Dissections on corporate technology successes and failures (such as the role of Kmart's inept supply chain implementation in its decline versus Wal-Mart or the successful use of technology to create new market opportunities for office furniture maker Herman Miller). He has also written about the FAA's halting attempts to modernize air traffic control, and in 2003 he traveled to Sierra Leone and Liberia to report on the role of technology in United Nations peacekeeping.David joined Baseline prior to the launch of the magazine in 2001 and helped define popular elements of the magazine such as Gotcha!, which offers cautionary tales about technology pitfalls and how to avoid them.
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