i141:   Search Engines: Technology, Society, and Business

   Course Information, Fall 2007
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Search Engines: Technology, Society, and Business

(Note new time and location!)
Mondays 10:00am-12:00pm, (2 units)
1.5 hour of lecture per week, 0.5 hour of discussion per week.
CCN: 42706
Prerequisites: None.
Location: 155 Kroeber Hall
Open to all undergraduate students and designed for those with little technical background.

( Graduate student version of this course)


We will schedule a set of top-notch experts to speak during Fall 2007. A speaker schedule is now available. You can also see the schedule from Fall 2005.

The instructor, Prof. Marti Hearst, is an Associate Professor at the School of Information at UC Berkeley. She has done extensive research on search user interfaces, was on the Science Advisory Board for Search at Yahoo from 2004-2005 and for Altavista from 2002-2004. She will provide the introduction to the course, devise the homework assignments, and create lectures for topics that are not covered by other speakers.


The World Wide Web brings much of the world's knowledge into the reach of nearly everyone with a computer and an internet connection. The availability of huge quantities of information at our fingertips is transforming government, business, and many other aspects of society.

For most people, Web search engines (such as Google and Yahoo) are technologies which have enormous influence on how people find and think about information. They are the gateways, (or some might argue, gate keepers) to this vast sea of information. With the rising importance of search engines come new legal, business, and policy questions and considerations.

This course will examine these issues via a series of lectures from experts in academia and industry. Students will first gain an understanding of the basics of how search engines work, and then explore how search engine design impacts business and culture. Topics include search advertising and auctions, search and privacy, search ranking, internationalization, anti-spam efforts, local search, peer-to-peer search, and search of blogs and online communities.


Prof. Marti Hearst
212 South Hall, 510-642-8016
Office hours: Mon and Wed, 1:10-2:10
Check here for Prof's Hearst's office hours cancellations

Eun Kyoung Choe, eunky@ischool.berkeley.edu
Ani Sen, asen@ischool.berkeley.edu
TA office hours take place in 210 South Hall at the following times:
  • Tue 12:00- 1:00pm (Ani)
  • Wed 3:30- 4:30pm (Both Ani and Eun Kyoung together)
  • Thu 12:00- 1:00pm (Ani)
  • Thu 2:00- 4:00pm (Eun Kyoung)
  • Fri 10:00-11:00am (Both Ani and Eun Kyoung together)

Class Meetings

The course will consist of one 1.5-hour lecture per week and one 30 minute discussion per week. Each lecture will be delivered by one or more experts from academia or industry. Each lecture will include time for question-and-answer sessions. Discussion sections will take place in the same room as the lecture room; we will break into groups for discussion after each lecture.

To better understand the issues, it is important to have an understanding of the underlying technology. Thus, in this course, students will learn and explore the basics of how search engines work via readings and homework exercises.

Discussion Sections

We are having TA office hours instead of discussion sections.


Students will be required to write a 5-10 page final essay in lieu of a final exam. Technically-oriented students will be allowed to do a programming project instead of a final paper. Grading will be a combination of scores for lecture attendance, homeworks, and the final essay or project. Discussion section attendance will not be graded.

Grading breakdown: Attendance 40%, Homeworks 35%, Final Project 25%.

Attendance is required. You may miss only one class all semester; additional missed classes will result in significant grade reduction.


Required Book

There is a required book for this course, The Search, by John Battelle.

Optional Suggested Book for Techies

For computer science students who are interested in independently studying how search engines work in detail, I recommend Mining the Web by Soumen Chakrabarti.

(Another book will be coming out soon ... this is the revised version of Modern Information Retrieval ... stay tuned.)