MIT’s OCW implementation uses MIT’s Google Search Appliance to support searching the OCW site. This Development Note discusses customizing this search mechanism to provide richer, more useful results.
MIT’s OCW site contains static content. Unlike dynamic web sites where content can be assembled into a page on demand, each page at http://ocw.mit.edu exists fully formed waiting to be served. While this approach has advantages, it limits the ability of users to query specific results. The reason is that Google is simply looking for words; it doesn’t attribute any semantic meaning to these words. For the query “Marx”, Google depends on the user submitting the query to distinguish between Groucho and Karl.
Use of MIT’s Google Search Appliance yields multiple benefits. The primary benefit is that it leverages the current solution to return a richer query result set. MIT’s OCW has very high standards for stability, scalability, and conventionality. A solution that used its current solution would make it more attractive for future adoption. Another benefit is the power of the Google search algorithms. After all, “Google” is synonymous with online searching.