Using Clusty For Blog Content and Research

Filed as Features, Guides on February 12, 2008 7:05 pm

Clusty logoGoogle is not the end all and be all of search engines. There are actually some better and more efficient search engines out there, and there are different types of search engines worthy of your attention. Especially when it comes to researching and writing blog content.

is a cluster search engine. Carnegie Mellon computer science researchers began researching search clusters in the 1990s and eventually brought the first “high-quality text clustering search engine” online through Vivisimo in 2000. The idea behind clustering is to gather related information into groups or folders, thus directing the searcher to more specific information rather than just a big list. The result eventually became Clusty.

Wikipedia describes cluster analysis as:

Clustering is the classification of objects into different groups, or more precisely, the partitioning of a data set into subsets (clusters), so that the data in each subset (ideally) share some common trait – often proximity according to some defined distance measure.

With the recent announcement of Clustering 2.0, Vivisimo and Clusty have gone even farther:

A couple of years later, Vivisimo’s computer scientists developed a way to add linguistic knowledge, to help detect similarity that the clustering algorithms would otherwise miss, and to prevent false similarities. For example, people’s language skills let them realize that kill, murder, slay, and gun down are pretty similar concepts, but make a killing is different (for you non-native speakers, make a killing is about making a large profit), and put the gun down is different too. This engineering breakthrough greatly improved the clustering performance with practical amounts of internal development, for English and other languages.

…Although clustering reveals the major topics in the top 200, 500, or more search results, there are always more topics than can be shown, without overloading the user with a very long list. There hasn’t been any better approach, until now.

With a single click, remix clustering answers the question: What other, subtler topics are there? It works by clustering again the same search results, but with an added input: ignore the topics that the user just saw. Typically, the user will then see new major topics that didn’t quite make the final cut at the last round, but may still be interesting.

From the blogger’s perspective, Clusty offers some powerful tools when it comes to research.

First, it pays attention to the meaning and intent of the search terms, offering alternative suggestions to help you direct your search to your true intension, not wasting time sifting through off topics. Second, the Remix feature allows you to eliminate the irrelevant elements of your search. This helps to put some of the control back in the hands of the searcher.

When you visit Clusty, type in a search word or phrase into the clean front page search form. On the resulting search results page, you have the typical listing of search results, and a sidebar that lists the various cluster groups your search term can be found.

Clusty Search Results Page

At the top of the cluster group sidebar is a “Remix” button. Click it and the list within the cluster group shuffles around and gives you another listing, but it ignores the list of words and phrases you’ve just seen. Thus, it prunes down the data list.

Let’s put this into action in order to help you research an article on…say, WordPress Themes.

Using Clusty to Brainstorm and Research

I want to write an article about WordPress Themes. I can use Clusty to brainstorm or actually research specifics. Let’s start with brainstorming.

WordPress Theme articles are popular, but I’m not sure what I want to write about regarding WordPress Themes. There are so many things to choose from, and a lot of topics have been really well covered. What’s left?

The first search result on Clusty for “WordPress Themes” gives me lists of where to find WordPress Themes in the search results, and in the sidebar cluster list I find:
Clusty cluster bar

  • Free WordPress Themes (50)
  • Download (37)
  • Plugins (20)
  • WordPress Templates (15)
  • Viewer (9)
  • CSS (8)
  • Tool, Weblog (7)
  • Free Themes (8)
  • Tutorials (6)
  • WordPress Skins (6)

I could do an article listing all the places to find good, free WordPress Themes, but that’s been done really well. The listing showcases at least 50 sites under “Free WordPress Themes” and 8 for “Free Themes” and 27 for “Download” – all clues that maybe this topic has been done enough and it’s time to try something new.

None of the other words in the list are triggering any article ideas, so I hit the Remix button. This now eliminates all of these cluster groups and gives me a new listing.

  • Blog (47)
  • Release (13)
  • Web Design (13)
  • Ready (10)
  • Preview (6)
  • Premium (6)
  • Sidebar (5)
  • Tips (5)
  • Solutions (4)
  • Optimizations (4)

This lists some interesting possibilities. Under “Premium” are six search results. Maybe an article about premium paid WordPress Themes? I also see sidebar, which could be a source for information on a tutorial on adding or removing a sidebar or adding design and blog elements to a blog’s sidebar.

Tips, Solutions, and Optimizations also offer up some interesting brainstorming ideas on possible articles. Maybe a new look at tips for designing WordPress Themes or optimizing them for search engines and readers.

Let’s see what another spin of the Remix turns up?
Clusty cluster list with Widgets

  • Widgets (15)
  • Column (15)
  • SEO (7)
  • Minimalist (5)
  • Demo (5)
  • Select (4)
  • Blogger (4)
  • WordPress Themes by Sadish (3)
  • WordPress Theme Park (3)
  • Applications (3)

Widgets? Hmm, maybe an article that looks at all the sources to find various WordPress Widgets. Where do WordPress fans find Widgets? Are they classified as a Plugin and available in the traditional WordPress Plugin sources, or is there a single WordPress Widget site dedicated solely to WordPress Widgets? Should there be?

Sometimes, all it takes it one word to jump start an article idea.

You can also see from a writer’s perspective how much help such a remixing and removal of unwanted data can help with research. If you are researching an article on WordPress Themes, drilling down to the specific articles that could help you write the article speeds up the research process by directing you right to the information rather than flipping through page after page after page of search results that may or may not be on track with what you are searching for.

I often get stuck with my research. I know something is missing but I can’t find the words to start my search. Search engines only help when you already know the word you want to search for. When you don’t, it’s hit and miss until you find a site with the words, then you can stick those into the search terms.

Using Clusty, I can let it tell me what the various subcategories and groupings my initial search matches and quickly click and check out those search results. I always have options.

Other Cluster Search Engines

The cluster technology that drives Clusty is also used on the following sites:

As more and more web users become reliant upon search engines for their research, cluster technology is a growing technology field to help filter through search results data to direct more specific information to the searcher, saving time and energy searching.

Google has a form of cluster searching called Google Sets which offers recommendations on search terms and spellings that might help you dig down a little further into the search results data.

Folden.info offers an extensive listing of Search Engines with Cluster Technology that may cover different categories of information and resources to help you with your research and blog writing.

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  1. By Raul Valdes-Perez posted on February 13, 2008 at 9:22 am
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    A very perceptively written article on the value of clustering in general and remix clustering especially, for generating story ideas.

    What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, so I think the same reasoning will apply to story ideation in classrooms, e.g., write an essay on the American Civil War (or whatever) but don’t write the zillionth essay on Gettysburg.

    Reply

  2. By Jacqulyn Richey posted on February 13, 2008 at 6:46 pm
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    Reminds me a lot of Icerocket. Seems that spammers would do quite well there.

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  3. By Wayne Pruner posted on February 13, 2008 at 11:43 pm
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    This is a very well written article. You have well refined research and writing skills. I did not know about cluster technology. I will explore Clutsy further. Thanks.

    Reply

  4. By Anne Helmond posted on February 14, 2008 at 4:55 am
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    Excellent analysis of Clusty not only as an alternative search engine but also as a way to do blog content research.

    Clusty is one of those search engines that give me a different image of the content I am looking for. Instead of presenting a top 10, it presents items by subject or topic, giving less popular items a chance too.

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  5. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on February 14, 2008 at 10:46 am
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    @Anne Helmond:

    Another great way of “visualizing” your search, try KWMap, Keyword Map Search Engine. It uses another form of clustering like a relationship map.

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  6. By mpb posted on February 14, 2008 at 9:58 pm
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    One of the early distance search engines, maybe a clusterer, was Kartoo. The original version was fascinating for building relationships of keywords searched, which then could be followed further (as bad as using the unabridged or Oxford English Dictionary– takes forever to stop learning something new and get back to work) Subsequently, the search engine was reduced in ability and I haven’t used it much since.

    Will have to try your approach to see what happens.

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  7. By Charles Knight posted on February 16, 2008 at 3:18 pm
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    Great article! I would love to republish it on AltSearchEngines (www.altsearchengines.com) the ReadWriteWeb network blog that covers all alternative search engines – with full attribution and link, etc.

    Thanks,

    Charles Knight, editor

    Reply

  8. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on February 16, 2008 at 7:01 pm
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    @Charles Knight:

    Thank you. I’ll be in contact.

    Reply

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