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The legendary “Liddell and Scott” Greek-English Lexicon of 1842. Foreign-language dictionaries were for many years the only way to search for ancient Greek vocabulary. Search has got simpler since then!

I’m looking forward to Search Solutions 2023 (Wednesday 22 November, at the BCS HQ in the City of London). Not just because I was invited to co-chair the event (with Martin White), but because I genuinely believe it has a unique (and highly successful) focus. My impressions of SS22 are here.

One feature of SS23 is its scale. I’m a regular at large and small events, from the Frankfurt Book Fair (100K+ attendees)  to ISKO (just 30 or so attending in person). Of all the formats, I prefer well-run small events, where you can talk to the attendees and presenter in an informal way.

I’ve been a regular attendee of Search Solutions for many years, and I believe it remains the only event that focuses entirely on the interplay of academic and professional views of search and discover. There are many purely academic conferences on discovery, and some of them have an “Industry Day” tacked on to look at professional angles, like an afterthought following the real core of the conference – but typically there is not a great deal of interplay between the two activities. Yet search and discovery is so fundamental a part of our lives, being an activity that we pretty much all are involved with on a daily basis, that I would expect the outcomes of academic research to play a big role in understanding and improving the process of finding stuff. As David Haynes succinctly pointed out at the ISKO Conference, one problem with search is that you frequently don’t know what you are looking for, which makes it a particularly thorny problem to solve. And Search Solutions addresses this problem both from the practical and the theoretical angle combined. How should we search? And do the standard tools work?

Of course, Chat GPT and generative AI tools have transformed the way we look at and use search, and Search Solutions will rightly include coverage of these tools. But this is not just another paean to LLMs, or diatribe at the way that robots will take over all our jobs. The focus here is not on wild, untested conclusions, nor exclusively on the theory, but on how these tools are actually working in practice. Does the intended user benefit from the tools provided? To answer that question, we hope to include speakers from both the largest, as well as the smallest organisations. It’s that range that makes Search Solutions unique.

As usual, the day before the event, on 21 November, there will be tutorials and workshops for those who are keen to get up-to-date knowledge on the state of the art. From my experience, these are fast-moving sessions, so not really aimed at beginners.

To ensure that the conference remains informal, and affordable, so that everyone can chat to each other, we are restricting the numbers to around 80, the capacity of the British Computer Society HQ meeting room in the City of London. We expect the event to be fully subscribed, so remember to apply early. Incidentally, we are accepting submissions for the event up to 21 August.

We look forward to meeting you at Search Solutions! And bring plenty of questions!