DIR 2012 in Ghent, Belgium

The 12th edition of the Dutch-Belgian Information Retrieval Workshop (DIR) was hosted in the medieval town of Ghent in Belgium. The primary aim of DIR is to provide an international meeting place where researchers from the domain of information retrieval and related disciplines can exchange information and present innovative research developments. Thanks to the hospitality of Thomas Demeester and his tireless helpers from Ghent University, as well as a Belgian beer reception, the event created a great atmosphere for fruitful discussion.

In his keynote On regarding document test collections as samples, Steven Robertson gave a preview on his upcoming ECIR’12 work. He argues that document collections should be considered a sample from the population of universally possible documents. To account for this, he proposes a statistical method under which collection-based performance scores can be interpreted as estimates of the underlying universal performance.

My personal highlights among the many interesting research talks, demonstrations and poster presentations include:

  • Wouter Weerkamp et al. – People Searching for People: Analysis of a People Search Engine Log
    The authors inspect a sizable query log from a people search engine and investigate different notions of search intent and search behaviour.
  • Maya Sappelli et al. – Collection and Analysis of Ground Truth Data for Query Intent
    The authors describe an experiment in which they observe 11 participants’ Web search behaviour by means of a browser plugin and subsequent intent annotation by the searchers themselves. They argue that this is a more feasible and realistic way of determining intent than relying on external annotators.
  • Maral Dadvar et al. – Improved Cyberbullying Detection Using Gender Information
    The detection of on-line harassment and bullying typically relies on the presence and absence of “blacklisted” terms in natural language communication. The authors demonstrate the existence of gender-specific differences in bullying styles. Employing dedicated gender models to account for these differences, they show convincing performance gains.
  • Marc Bron et al. – Linking Archives using Document Enrichment and Term Selection
    The authors use a retrieval approach for linking newspaper articles from a richly annotated archive to a sparsely-annotated multimedia video archive.

The BladeMistress Corpus: From Talk to Action in Virtual Worlds

Virtual worlds (VWs) are quickly emerging as a new channel for social interaction. They are at once very similar to, and very different from the real world. These worlds are populated by the same people we interact with at work, and offer many of the activities we are used to — shopping, entertainment, socializing. The inhabitants take on the familiar roles of leaders, educators, craftsmen and salesmen. In addition, virtual worlds offer many activities that the participants cannot regularly experience in real-life, such as taking part in a military raid or coordinating the economy of a city-state. Virtual worlds also offer something unique and very attractive to many of us — a clean slate, a chance to dramatically change anything and everything about ourselves — our appearance, our social class, our circle of friends and foes. The opportunity for self-expression in virtual worlds is much greater than in the real world, where we are constrained by finances, social commitments, health conditions and physical forces like gravity.
We believe virtual worlds present a unique environment for studying the relation between human communications and actions in a natural, task-oriented environment. Observations from a virtual world present a nearly-complete picture of behavior of large crowds: we can observe the exact location of every individual, who they are talking to, what they are saying, but also what they are doing at any particular moment. It is this last factor that makes virtual world observations particularly useful: it allows us to explore the connections between words spoken by one individual and actions performed by another. We can study how words can influence crowds, how a swarm can self-organize into an efficient structure, how individuals negotiate the role they play in a particular task and how they react to outcomes of virtual-world events.