i141:   Search Engines: Technology, Society, and Business

   Fall 2007
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i141 Final Projects

Turn in project online here

The purpose of the final project for this course is to allow you to study a topic in a bit more depth than you have so far. It is not meant to be a huge, time-consuming project. Each student should spend about 10-15 hours on it total.

Project proposals due in two weeks, on Monday Dec 3rd. If you want feedback on your proposal earlier, then turn it in a week earlier, on Monday, November 26th.

Projects themselves are due online on Sunday December 16 at 9am PST (hard deadline). Feel free to turn them in earlier.

(Note that Professor Hearst will be grading the final projects.)

Suggested Projects

Below we provide several suggestions for projects. These suggestions are intended to give you a general idea of the kinds of projects we are looking for. If you would like to do to something other than one of the suggested topics, then write a one-page project proposal. Either way, you should turn in your topic proposal by 9am on Dec 3rd.


Essays must be done by students individually (not in pairs) and should be 1500-2500 words in length (no more than 5 pages, not counting illustrations and references). If you want to use someone else's words verbatim, be sure to mark clearly that it is a quotation and cite the source. Be sure to carefully proofread your essay before you turn it in.
  1. Intellectual Property and Search. What are the pressing issues in IP and search, and how will they likely be resolved in future?

  2. Search and Culture. Write an essay about the database of intentions and/or the cultural implications and effects and/or the democratizing effects of the searchable availability of huge amounts of information. If you choose this option, give a rough idea of how you'll tackle it when you turn in your topic on Dec 3rd.

  3. The Future of Search. Make some bold predictions about how internet search will change in the next five to ten years. To do this topic well, you should back up your claim with solid support. So don't simply state something like "computers will be able to fully interpret human language" unless you have a good reason to think so, and state that reason.

  4. The Democratizing Nature of the Web and Search. Sergey Brin has stated the view that some access to the information on the Web is better than no access at all, and that a company must respect the laws of the countries it operates in. Discuss this topic.

  5. Study and Compare New Search Engines. New search engines appear all the time. This list at SearchEngineWatch shows whole categories of search engines, including specialty search engines and multimedia search engines. Choose two or three such non-standard search engines, experiment with them, and write an essay assessing how useful they are, how well they work, and (optionally) their likelihood of financial success.

  6. Study and Discuss some aspect of Search Engine Technology. If you've found some technical aspects of search engine technology to be fascinating, read several papers on the topic and describe how the technology works in depth. If you choose this topic, be sure to list the papers you will be reading about the topic when you turn in your topic description on December 3rd.

Programming and Design Projects

Programming and design projects can be done by individuals or teams of two (2) students. For programming projects, your writeup should include a pointer to your demo (even if it isn't working!) as well as the source code. Describe what your goals were, how far you got, what you did, and what tools you used. For interface design projects, you should create mock-ups and you should show your design(s) to at least 3 people (not related to you and not close friends) and obtain and report on their responses to the design.
  1. Design an interface for book search. Now that full text of tens of thousands of books are online and searchable (at Amazon, Google print, and soon Yahoo), how should the user interface for showing results or issuing queries differ from standard search and from the current book search interfaces? Justify your design choices in your writeup.

  2. Use a search engine API: Use the Yahoo or Google or another search system's API to build some kind of application or tool. (When you turn in your topic on Dec 3, state what the application will be.)

  3. Make a Mashup. According to Wikipedia, a mashup is a website or web application that seamlessly combines content from more than one source into an integrated experience. (See this BusinessWeek article on the topic.) One of the more well-known mashups is HousingMaps.com which combines Craiglist apartment listings with Google maps. To get more ideas, try browsing this Google maps mashup blog.

    For this project, design and build a mashup. It's important that it has some form of search in it so that it's relevant to the class.


For essays, grading will be based primarily on the quality of the arguments and the quality of the writing. Essays should back up their arguments and should not contradict themselves. References should be used and cited appropriately. Programming and design projects should demonstrate an interesting and/or well-executed idea.


  • Monday Dec 3: turn in a one-page (or less) project proposal. (Update: For the proposal you do not have to bring a hardcopy to class, just turn it in online.)

    If you're doing one of the suggested projects, simply state which one you are doing. If you are doing a project you devised, describe it in more detail.

  • Sunday Dec 16th, 9am: turn in your project (online only). Please name your project proposal in the following way:


    Turn in project online here