Building a Relevance-based Search Engine for Quality Online Media
The Internet is teeming with news and information, but not all creators of online content uphold standards of quality and credibility that is often expected of more traditional news outlets and the journalists who work for them.
Without a way to separate the good stories from the garbage, it is hard for citizens to hold politicians, policymakers and corporations accountable for their actions, says Wenjun Zeng, an engineering professor who was awarded a Mizzou Advantage grant in spring 2011.
The grant supports Zeng’s work into developing what he calls a “relevance-based” search engine, that would list and group search results not just by their popularity and similarity to other popular searches, but their quality, credibility and usefulness to readers.
The model development is still in its infancy, but Weng envisions a search engine that would be as intuitive as other semantic engines (like Google) but will have more parameters for credibility of the source and story.
With the help of the Mizzou Advantage grant, which helps pay for a PhD candidate as well as several Master’s and undergraduate students to participate in the research, the project has developed a small-scale prototype of the search engine. This, along with continued research finding, has helped launch a partnership with Microsoft Research to develop a search engine that can span search engine domains as well as social media.
It’s also led to more partnerships here on campus—the engineering school’s computer science department is now working with the Reynolds Journalism Institute on a joint project called “Brain” that will mine data from online news websites and advertisers to help the news and marketing industries better understand their online audiences and how to reach them.
Zeng and his colleagues are also exploring outside funding opportunities. In 2012, the team submitted a funding proposal to the National Science Foundation’s Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace program and is waiting to hear back.
“The funding from Mizzou Advantage has strengthened the relationships and leveraged the expertise among faculty in different divisions and external collaborators,” said Weng. “The prototype we are developing has the potential to create new University spin-off businesses.”
Media of the Future