Help Us Optimize Our Search Engine

Your expertise as an Earth educator can play an important role in our ongoing work to improve our search engine. In less than 5 minutes you can contribute important data that (when combined with similar data from your peers) will help ensure future visitors to Teach the Earth and other SERC-hosted sites get the best possible results from our search engine.

What's Involved?

We'll show you a search phrase that a visitor might have put into the search box on the Teach the Earth portal.   We'll also show you a possible page on our site that the search engine might return as a result for that particular search phrase.  Your job is to decide whether that particular page is a good match for the search phrase.  Would an Earth educator who typed in that search phrase be happy with that result?  Would they click on it? You simply rank it as an Excellent, Good, Weak or Bad result.   We'll ask you to rank 5 results and then you're done.

How Does this Help?

Clearly we can't ask folks to rank every possible result for every possible search.  Instead we're getting a representative sample for a number of typical search phrases.  We'll feed this data into a genetic algorithm that will try different tuning permutations within our search engine.  It will use the scoring data to decide if a particular tuning permutation is better or worse based on how well that tuning moves the results that the community thought were good to top of the list and moves weaker results down lower.  By simultaneously considering the impact of the tuning variables on all the search phrases we've collected data for we'll come up with tuning parameters are more likely to bring the best results to top for all searches.

What If I Can't Tell What the Visitor Had in Mind?

You may find that the search phrase we give you is vague or ambiguous and so you're not sure what the searcher had in mind.  That's normal.  The example search phrases are similar (and in many cases identical) to ones folks have actually typed in.  That ambiguity is exactly what our search engine (and now you) have to wrestle with.  Don't sweat it.  Just go with your intuition about what an Earth educator who typed in that search phrase might be happy to see in the results (or not).  Your best guess is all we're after.

What If I Can't Tell Whether a Result Page is a Good Match?

The system will show you the result formatted as it would appear in a search return.  You may be able to glean enough from just that information (the title and a bit of the description) to make a judgement.  If not you can click the link.  It will open it in a new tab where you can check it out in more detail.  Just give it a cursory look and get an initial impression.  If it's not clear why that result showed up for that search phrase just mark it as 'bad' and move one.   Though of course if you find something interesting keep that tab open so you can investigate it more later.

Get Started