Meta-Search with Ajax

I just discovered a new feed meta-search: TalkDigger (via Data Mining). It’s Ajax search all the way (buzzword overload!).

The site shows how ideal Ajax is for meta-search. Each time you enter a query, the browser fires off multiple queries – one for each engine it searches. That means the results all come back in parallel – no bottlenecks.

Back in the day, metacrawler and others were smart enough to start writing out the page straightaway, so users start seeing some results while others are still pending. The Ajax meta-search improves on the situation by directly morphing the result panels, so the page structure remains fixed even as all the results are populated. Each panel gets its own Progress Indicator.

This is an example of Multi-Stage Download – set up a few empty blocks and populate them with separate queries. When I initially created the pattern, it was pure speculation, but TalkDigger now makes the third real example I know of. I recently created a Multi-Stage Download Demo.

Another nice feature of TalkDigger, which fits well with meta-search, is the use of Microlinks: You can click on the results to immediately expand out a summary.

There’s some more features I’m hoping to see:

  • The results page definitely needs work – it’s nice seeing a brief summary of all results and having them expandable, but it’s difficult to get an overall feel. An “Expand All” would help, or showing at least one posting for each search engine.
  • The results are broken up by an ad. To me, that’s counter-productive as they look like two separate panels. I think most users will mentally filter out the ad anyway and just see the results as broken into two.
  • [Sortable columns]( Table] – so I could sort by engine name or feed count.
  • Unique URLs Unique URLs are critical for a search engine. Unique URL Demo. Jon Udell mentioned the issue recently, regarding MSN Virtual Earth, Google Maps, and others’ lack thereof. This demo, based on Mike Stenhouse’s ideas shows it’s actually fairly straightforward to emulate standard URLs.

0 thoughts on Meta-Search with Ajax

  1. Hi,

    this is a great post, thank! Now I have technical terms like microlinks and multy-stage to name what I am working with 🙂

    I am happy to see that talk digger could be use as a good Ajax demo, to show what could be done with Ajax, and the future of internet application. I built TD with an Ajax interface to see what Ajax could do and be used for; now I am impressed after that first Ajax experience.

    I take a good note of you list of suggestions. I am particularly attracted by the “sort list” option and the unique URL.

    Do you have an example of your Ajax sortable columns thing?



  2. Hi Fred,

    Great to see this got back to you and that you’re happy with the way I labelled those features. What I like about TD is it’s genuinely useful, stacked with Ajax goodness and at the same time very distinct from other Ajax apps out there.

    Sortable columns – I’ll add the Query-Report pattern writeup to soon, the best Ajaxian example is the Live Grid Demo. In TD’s case, there’s only a few results, so I guess you can handle sorting with Javascript alone rather than resorting back to the server.

  3. Hi!

    Thank for the Live Grid Demo. I really do not know when I will have the time to check at it, but do not worry, I will do it 🙂

    Thank for all these suggestions!



  4. Hi,

    I am really thankful to you for posting such a required post. I have an Meta Search Engine. And I like to implement Kayak type of search progress. My Application is built on PERL.

    Please help me???

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