Dublin wins out over four EMEA cities to host debate on future of the web

29 Jul 2013

Gareth Jones, PI, CNGL; Stephen Robertson, visiting professor, UCL; Jonathon Fletcher, creator of JumpStation; Paddy Flynn, director, product quality operations EMEA, Google Ireland; and Páraic Sheridan, associate director, CNGL. Photo by Jason Clarke

Dublin has won out over four EMEA cities to host SIGIR 2013, where some of the biggest players in the search engine industry are converging this week to present their latest findings on information retrieval and web search.

Senior experts from the likes of search engines such as Yandex, Google and Baidu will be mingling with some of the best-known web search pioneers in Dublin to thrash out ideas on the next big waves that the web will surf.

Dublin edged ahead of Barcelona, Spain; Vienna, Austria; Haifa, Israel; and Edinburgh, Scotland, to host this year’s SIGIR conference.

Having kicked off on Saturday, the event is running concurrently at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and the Mansion House in Dublin.

Experts from both academia and industry, such as Jonathon Fletcher, creator of the JumpStation search engine, and John Smith of the IBM Watson Research Center, mingle with some 500 delegates in the scientific and industrial space.

SIGIR has been organised by the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI)-funded CNGL centre for global intelligent content, which is co-hosted by both TCD and Dublin City University (DCU).

Conference general co-chairs Dr Páraic Sheridan and Dr Gareth Jones of CNGL at DCU won out in a competitive bid process with four other EMEA cities to host the week-long event.

In scientific circles, the conference is apparently deemed one of the best international forums for the presentation of the latest research results and the demonstration of new systems and techniques in the field of information retrieval and web search.

According to a TCD representative, more than 500 information retrieval experts from industry and academia have travelled from 35 countries to share ideas and debate on the development of web search.

On the industry side, such experts will be talking about continuing innovation in areas such as web user behaviour, information retrieval and retrieval models

For example, senior professionals from Google, Microsoft, Baidu, Yahoo!, AOL, IBM, Yandex, Facebook and LinkedIn will be mingling with academic experts from top universities.

Celebrating 20 years of web search

Saturday’s opening session was all about celebrating the 20th anniversary of web search engines.

It was on 12 December 1993 that JumpStation (often considered the world’s first search engine) started indexing on the web. The search engine was hosted at University of Stirling, Scotland. The site was written by Fletcher. He had graduated from the aforementioned university in 1992 with a first-class honours degree in computer science.

At the Mansion House, Fletcher joined senior representatives of Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! to recall web search 20 years ago and discuss emerging innovations in web search today. The panel was hosted by Prof Alan Smeaton of DCU.

Riding the big data wave via multimedia

On Tuesday, Smith from IBM Watson Research Center is set to deliver the conference keynote. He will be covering how multimedia can ride the big data wave.

Today, multimedia – think images, video, speech – makes up to 60pc of internet traffic and 70pc of mobile phone traffic.

Smith is set to address why multimedia content requires highly sophisticated algorithms for content analysis. He will evaluate how this is spurring on large volumes of R&D techniques to potentially pave the way for more effective multimedia information extraction and retrieval.

Wednesday will be industry track day. Senior staff from Yahoo!, LinkedIn, IBM and Microsoft will be covering the area of information retrieval. The keynote speakers will be Stefan Weitz, senior director, Bing Search, Microsoft Corp; and Ricardo Baeza-Yates, vice-president of Yahoo! Research Europe and Latin America.

Ireland’s pioneering R&D in the web space

Sheridan said that Ireland’s hosting of SIGIR in Dublin will be a “great” showcase for the research and innovation happening in the country through the collaboration of academics and industry.

“It provides an opportunity for us to highlight our leadership in areas such as digital content, platforms and applications through centres such as CNGL, as well as with the many companies with a strong information retrieval base in Ireland,” he said.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic