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How Facebook Built Natural Language Into Graph Search 39

Posted by samzenpus
from the keep-looking dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Facebook's Graph Search is an ambitious project: give users the ability to search through the social network's vast webs of data via natural-language queries. But that's much easier said—so to speak—than done. Although human beings think nothing of speaking in 'natural' language, a machine must not only learn all the grammatical building-blocks we take for granted—it needs to compensate for the quirks and errors that inevitably pop up in the course of speech. The Facebook team tasked with building Graph Search also knew that the alternate option, keyword-based search, wasn't a viable one. 'Keywords, which usually consist of nouns or proper nouns, can be nebulous in their intent,' Facebook engineering manager Xiao Li wrote in an April 29 posting on Facebook's blog. 'For example, "friends Facebook" can mean "friends on Facebook," "friends who work at Facebook Inc," or "friends who like Facebook the page."' That left the team with building a natural-language interface. The posting digs deep into the elements of the backend, including everything from 'parse trees' to a lexical analysis system."
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How Facebook Built Natural Language Into Graph Search

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 29, 2013 @05:05PM (#43584923)

    And all they're doing is coming up with new ways to get you to look at ads.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      Well I haven't seen it rolled out to anyone yet so they're holding back the ads. Vapourware as far as I care.

      Not seen the new news feed either.

    • by fph il quozientatore (971015) on Monday April 29, 2013 @05:36PM (#43585127) Homepage
      Don't forget all those bright minds trying to syphon truckloads of money out of meaningless microsecond virtual financial transations. This should give you a more thorough picture of how screwed up this world is.
      • by elloGov (1217998) on Monday April 29, 2013 @06:07PM (#43585453)
        What about the bright minds coming up with new ways to kill people (military)?
        Moral codes, ethics and philosophies are for the classroom, cash is what rules in the real world. The massive efforts of society to abstract our ill-doings (work) from our morals shouldn't be overlooked either.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tyrione (134248)

      And all they're doing is coming up with new ways to get you to look at ads.

      Whoever said they were the brightest minds? I can guarantee they aren't remotely the brightest of their generation. Not by a long shot.

    • Capitalist economies always tend to work in strange ways. The first European explorers went in search of trivial luxury items like pepper. When you let people spend their money on precisely what they want, they often spend it in ways that don't seem to match up with what a rational person's wants and needs would seem to be.

      Ads make money because people, for whatever reason, choose to click on ads. In the future, is is possible that people will prefer to pay a flat fee and see no ads? I think this is very

      • by turp182 (1020263)

        Quote: "[it] is possible that people will prefer to pay a flat fee and see no ads?"

        You are describing cable in the early 1980s, there were no commercials. Where are we now?

        As long as there is something to market, there will be ads. Shoot, I was paying $100 a year for the Wall Street Journal online (great newspaper) and there were still ads (not that I saw them much thanks to AdBlock and Ghostery).

        Even the premium cable channels have ads, except they are for their own shows/movies so it's not so bad (in t

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Monday April 29, 2013 @05:06PM (#43584929)

    >> give users the ability to search...data via natural-language queries

    Kind of like Google and any other search engine that's caught on since. Cool story, bro. Can anyone explain to me why Facebook thought that its search function v 2.0 deserved its own name - and not a very sexy one at that? ("Graph search?" OK...that's Facebook for math nerds, right?)

  • They just compared Slashdot articles to what they were actually suppose to be. After feeding a few years of Slashdot into it they pretty much had every error possible indexed and understood.

  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Monday April 29, 2013 @05:52PM (#43585321)

    A Panda walks into a bar ...

    • ... eats, shoots and leaves.
    • ... eats shoots and leaves.
  • It shows what they think of users right in the pseudocode:
    "In loose terms, the grammar consists of a set of production rules that generate more specific expressions from abstract symbols:
    start -> users $1
    users => user $1
    start => photos $1"
  • by adisakp (705706) on Monday April 29, 2013 @08:52PM (#43586677) Journal
    You can't even search your past posts or friends posts for keywords or by a date range... and those seem like "easy" data searches.
  • Facebook also introduced something called “parameterization” ? My hiny. Those tree diagrams come straight out of transformational linguistics.
  • Although human beings think nothing of speaking in 'natural' language, a machine must not only learn all the grammatical building-blocks we take for granted—it needs to compensate for the quirks and errors that inevitably pop up in the course of speech.

    Excuse me? Humans spend years learning 'natural-language', and even then it is frequently misinterpreted or used incorrectly. Natural language is difficult to say the least.
  • They asked Jeeves?
  • Although human beings think nothing of speaking in 'natural' language, a machine must not only learn all the grammatical building-blocks we take for granted—it needs to compensate for the quirks and errors that inevitably pop up in the course of speech.

    We, humans, had to "learn" to speak, and the process began at a very young age - at birth (or some say even before that). We only take it for granted because we managed to learn and excel at languages.

    We also need to compensate for the quirks and

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