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Extending the dialog with \RelFbk

Figure (figure) focuses on a single instance of \RelFbk, shown as a labeling over the set of \Ret documents. But beyond any one reaction to a single retrieved set product, a central premise of the FOA process is that users' reactions to just-retrieved documents provides the pivotal link many such assesments into the FOA search dialog. This is perhaps most clear in Figure (figure) , where RelFbk is used to link a series of reactions into a QUERY SESSION .

Attempts to support this searching process, and then attempts to rigorously evaluate how well software sytems support browsing users as they FOA is one of the most vexing issues within IR evaluation. [Daniels85] [Saracevic88] [Larson91] [REF1045] [ODay93] [Cawsey92] [Russel93] [Koenemann96] . Part of the problem is the misconception that, if a search engine works perfectly, and the user issues the perfect MAGIC BULLET QUERY , out will spill all and only relevant documents! Such simplistic definitions of optimality come naturally to computer scientists; library scientists who are used to the naturalistic behaviors of real patrons in their libraries know that a much more extended and nebulous form of support is required.

Marcia Bates' famous BERRY PICKING metaphor [REF839] [Bates89] is useful here. [a] query is not satisfied by a single final retrieved set, but by a series of selections of individiual references and bits of information at each stage of the ever-modifying search A bit-at-a-time retrieval of this sort is here called beryypicking. This term is used by analogy to picking huckleberries or blueberries in the forest. The berries are scattered on the bushes; they do not come in bunches. One must pick them one at a time. One could do berry-picking of information without the search need itself changing (evolving) but ... [we] consider searches that combine both of these characteristics. [Bates89]

In addition to highlighting the same iterative, browsing behavior central to FOA's characterization of the dialog, the ``evolving'' character of the information need in Bates' metaphor is also important. Imagine that you are in the forest on an idyllic day with only one purpose: fill your bucket with the best blueberries you can find. Early in the day, with your whole afternoon in front of you, you are likely to be very choosy. At this juncture, you could bump into a bush full of blueberries that were not as ripe nor as large as you imagine must exist somewhere else in the forest, and not drop a single one into your basket. But late in the afternoon, if you have had poor luck and little to show for your efforts, you could come across an even worse bush and grab every single berry, shriveled or not!

Applying this metaphor to FOA is provacative in many respects. For example, it suggests that maintaining an explicit representation of the retrieved document ``basket'' might be a useful addition to any search engine interface. It predicts a time course to the distribution of users' RelFbk assessments. For now, we simply observe that it seems quite likely that an assessment of one document's relevance will depend greatly on the ``basket'' of other documents we already have seen. The general idea of thinking of an ``evolutionary ecology of information foraging'' [Pirolli97] has become less metaphoric and more concrete as information search agents (like the InfoSpiders described in §7.6 ) explore the ``environment'' of the WWW.


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