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Researchers Track Mouse Movements and Hesitations

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the wait-'til-they-track-heavy-breathing dept.

Input Devices 116

lpctstr writes "Researchers from the University of Washington and Microsoft Research have found that cursor movements and cursor hovers can detect the relevance of a search result and whether a user may abandon the search. They use an efficient algorithm written in Javascript to silently record movements and clicks on Bing and find that computing relevance using movements + clicks works better than just clicks (the current state-of-the-art). They explain some of this due to cursor and gaze being closely aligned on the web, and especially so on search result pages. Is this the future of innovation in search ranking — Google and Bing tracking your every twitch and pause?"

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116 comments

Maybe it can tell me which I like better (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35055342)

Asians or Latinas, it's so hard to choose!

Re:Maybe it can tell me which I like better (4, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055350)

I'd like to bing both of them

People like me (2)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055360)

How would this work for people like me who don't move their mouse unless there's something they've decided to click on?

My mouse is not an extension of my eyes. It's a tool I use if and only if there's a task to be accomplished with it.

Re:People like me (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35055384)

Likely their algorithms would be able to determine that you're the kind of user that only moves the mouse when you know where it's going, and disregard any data based on your mouse movements:

Re:People like me (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 3 years ago | (#35059020)

Yeah, instead they'll activate your webcam and track your eyeballs.

Re:People like me (4, Interesting)

martas (1439879) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055400)

Well, AFAIK, you're in the minority. I think most people do in fact move their mouse with their gaze, because it cuts the delay between when they decide to click on something and when they actually click on it. Think of it as a pre-loading or caching technique -- you don't pay much cost for moving your mouse around a little bit, but you can save time. At least that's my hypothesis.

Re:People like me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35055508)

It's a big minority

Re:People like me (5, Insightful)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055530)

Well, AFAIK, you're in the minority. I think most people do in fact move their mouse with their gaze, because it cuts the delay between when they decide to click on something and when they actually click on it. Think of it as a pre-loading or caching technique -- you don't pay much cost for moving your mouse around a little bit, but you can save time. At least that's my hypothesis.

I dunno...

I mean, obviously, they've got some kind of research to back it up... But it seems like this would be pretty useless to me. I mean, do people actually follow what they're reading with the mouse cursor?

I generally plant my mouse cursor in a chunk of whitespace so that it's out of the way while I'm reading. When I find something to click on, I go straight to that link and click. If there's multiple things I want to click on I'll generally hit them with the middle button to open multiple tabs. I don't generally pause my cursor over anything in particular.

And then there are the people who just don't stop moving their mouse cursor... The thing spins and swirls around the screen, slowly circling towards a link or a button that they want to click. I wonder what kind of data they could mine from that sort of behavior?

I will occasionally highlight a few random characters to act as a bookmark if I have to go do something else. What would this be interpreted as?

Re:People like me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35055794)

What about smart phones and tablets? They don't even have a cursor to track.

On a side note, I'm blacklisting javascript on bing (using yesscript)

Re:People like me (1)

ErroneousBee (611028) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055976)

I'm blacklisting javascript on bing (using yesscript)

Dont do that, use a greasemonkey script to pick the most porny link and send hover data back to the server. Or just 'SEO' optimise your own sites with funny bits of javascript that talk back to bing when a user hits your site.

Re:People like me (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 3 years ago | (#35056246)

I mean, obviously, they've got some kind of research to back it up... But it seems like this would be pretty useless to me. I mean, do people actually follow what they're reading with the mouse cursor?

I know plenty of people who read using their fingers as a pointing device. I don't know, just because you (or I) don't need to do something like that doesn't mean the vast majority of the average user does.

I do, however, sometimes pick the mouse up a little and use the nervous tension in my arm to jiggle it up and down on the mouse-mat (too much coffee I guess). Maybe I'll start getting search results for ADHD meds now :)

Re:People like me (1)

Speare (84249) | more than 3 years ago | (#35056318)

I generally plant my mouse cursor in a chunk of whitespace so that it's out of the way while I'm reading. When I find something to click on, I go straight to that link and click. If there's multiple things I want to click on I'll generally hit them with the middle button to open multiple tabs. I don't generally pause my cursor over anything in particular.

This is pretty much the way I browse too. However, on some sites it gets tough to find a suitable blank area that doesn't pop up some stupid hovering element or tool-tip. And on some other sites, it's like a graphic adventure game, where you can't find the invisible links unless you sweep the whole text looking for cursor changes or word coloring to flicker.

Also as more and more people find televisions or touch-screen tablets suffice for their occasional browsing sessions, these guys will have to find some other tracking data. Then again, I imagine that patents are the only reason we might not soon see every tablet device with a tiny Kinect implementation, tracking our noses, fingers and eyeballs directly.

Re:People like me (2)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 3 years ago | (#35056994)

This whole article has had the "you are now breathing manually" effect on me. Now I'm watching my mouse cursor intently, trying to remember what the hell I usually do with it on instinct.

But yeah, I'm probably a lot like you; I just leave it in some whitespace where it faffs about until I need to click on something. I often see it in the periphery more than my direct focus because I have good vision and good reaction times.

Re:People like me (1)

radtea (464814) | more than 3 years ago | (#35058832)

I mean, obviously, they've got some kind of research to back it up... But it seems like this would be pretty useless to me.

This is modded "insightful", which it is. But the insight is entirely into the contents of your own head. If you bother to actually look at the data you might have something to say about the world outside yourself, which might get modded not just "insightful", but "interesting".

Why do people in the 21st century continue to repeat the failed behaviour of the past and report what "it seems like" to them as if it was remotely interesting or relevant to any given problem? We can look back at the past several thousand years and see that what "just seemed like" the truth to generations past was the uttermost nonsense. It "just seemed like" the moons of Jupiter were "useless" and therefore did not exist. It "just seemed like" the impetus theory of motion was correct. It "just seemed like" the brain cooled the blood. It "just seemed like" the continents were stable. It "just seemed like" the human psyche was divided into the id, the ego and the superego, and so on.

Introspection and casual observation of commonplaces--the method of philosophy--is known to overwhelmingly produce results that are false at best, meaningless at worst. So why does anyone anywhere reach for the contents of their own introspective experience as the first and often only datum when considering any question?

Are they unaware of the past three hundred years of intellectual history?

Re:People like me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35055554)

I think most people do in fact move their mouse with their gaze

Really? I'd say only the twitch-surfers who visit sites with little coherent text content would do so (e.g. Facebook twatterers). Well maybe the technologically inept, too. You know, those who take ages to click that menu item you've been telling them to click (and even pointing to with your finger) for the last 5 minutes.

My mouse pointer usually stays near one of the corners where it doesn't distract me from reading. If they'd analyse my mouse movements, they'd come to the conclusion I'm a whitespace fetishist or something :D

Re:People like me (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055596)

I think most people do in fact move their mouse with their gaze

Really? I'd say only the twitch-surfers who visit sites with little coherent text content would do so (e.g. Facebook twatterers). Well maybe the technologically inept, too. You know, those who take ages to click that menu item you've been telling them to click (and even pointing to with your finger) for the last 5 minutes.

Exactly. Most people.

Re:People like me (1)

jrumney (197329) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055922)

Really? I'd say only the twitch-surfers who visit sites with little coherent text content would do so (e.g. Facebook twatterers). Well maybe the technologically inept, too. You know, those who take ages to click that menu item you've been telling them to click (and even pointing to with your finger) for the last 5 minutes.

I'm with you on the technologically inept. People that would never change their browser and search engine from the default.

Re:People like me (2)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055616)

It depends also on the mouse type, for example, if the mouse has a tracking wheel. I use mouse to scroll down the results in Google search. It would be cumbersome to simultaneously mouse over the links.

Re:People like me (2)

ledow (319597) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055438)

I do the same. My eyes can track the page and backtrack in a fraction of a second if there's a mistake, or something I need to double-check. The cursor is a high-cost movement, in that I would have to move my hand back.

I just experimented - my mouse cursor tends to be idle, then move directly for the only button I click, whether I'm in an app, on a website or just opening programs. Anything else is a bit of a waste of movement. "Fake" links and those of no relevance see no more contextual information from my movements than real links that I end up clicking on. So you might as well use my clicks.

And in the end, it's a dubious statistic. If I hover over a link, does that mean I'm considering clicking on it, or does it mean I'm suspicious of it and have stopped myself clicking it at the last moment? Do I just hover over things with my cursor as an "eye-line" to help me cope with the information on the screen? Do I have a trackpad / mouse that jerks and I fight with? Am I even *making* those movements at all or is it involuntary as I type?

I think it's a very, very dubious metric to collect or analyse and I doubt Google would *bother* to follow suit. It's unlikely to provide any significant advantage, especially if you already have things like "Do not show this link again" or "This link is my favourite on this particular search and I'll click it quite often even it other people don't" buttons.

Re:People like me (1)

tixxit (1107127) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055886)

I often hover over links to see the address (in search results), as you can often tell a lot about a page by its URL (other than being spam). I also know that when reading pages I often highlight the current paragraph/chunk of text I'm reading I'm reading. I jump around the page a lot, and it helps me to get back to where I was (visually) quickly.

Re:People like me (2)

ledow (319597) | more than 3 years ago | (#35056064)

So you hover the link to make a decision about whether to click on it or not. Wouldn't that show up as a click, or not a click? And wouldn't suspicious websites end up as "potential click" candidates just as often as those that just don't grab your attention, or ones that have a funny URL?

The point is that the hover doesn't help you *differentiate* the user's intentions. It just lets you see where they happened to stick the mouse. The decision process concerning whether that site is "better" for the user or not is completely removed from their hovers and pretty much invisible to the search engine even if they record your face while you do so.

Knowing that I hovered a link teaches you nothing. Knowing whether I clicked it or not is infinitely more useful. Knowing whether I hit "next page" is also pretty useful too - much more so than any mouse-watching Javascript.

Re:People like me (1)

sycorob (180615) | more than 3 years ago | (#35058014)

"Knowing that I hovered a link teaches you nothing."

Really? You read the description of the page, thought it looked interesting, and then hovered over the link to see the URL. It sounds like I can tell a lot about that link from the fact that you hovered over it. You found it to be a potentially useful link, but then bailed on the URL. For other links, you dismissed them out of hand. If Google could figure out what in the page description interested you, and surfaced more pages similar to that page, they'd have a higher chance of presenting you with a link you find useful.

BTW, the abstract of the paper indicates that there is a study out there that shows a strong correlation between cursor position and where the user's gaze is. The typical Slashdot crowd may not do this, but I have no doubt that my mom might let the cursor roam wherever her eyes look. In driving, the car steers where you look, in snowboarding you go where you look ... it's pretty common. I would not be surprised at all if the same thing occurred on computers.

Re:People like me (1)

PrimordialSoup (1065284) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055482)

How would this work for people like me who don't move their mouse unless there's something they've decided to click on?

My mouse is not an extension of my eyes. It's a tool I use if and only if there's a task to be accomplished with it.

an Eye tracker through the camera on your screen to see how long you look at a particular thing before you click...a few ms more compared to something that you just skim through...

Re:People like me (1)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055486)

I generally try to rest the mouse cursor in some chunk of whitespace, so it's not in my way while I'm reading.

Re:People like me (1)

zarzu (1581721) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055558)

Yea, i do this as well. Move into white space, centered between either horizontal or vertical lines, or both. And when i scroll i will recenter it in the new white space... What?

Re:People like me (1)

dwarfsoft (461760) | more than 3 years ago | (#35056152)

Google works for quickly selecting results using the arrow keys, so I find myself touching the mouse less and less. Oh wait, this was for Bing. Nevermind.

Re:People like me (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055576)

It obviously doesn't. Just like eye tracking doesn't work for people who are blind.

And it doesn't matter since something doesn't have to work with everyone to be useful.

Keyboard User (1)

cmholm (69081) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055678)

Exactly. I typically stick with the keyboard: either page up/down, or cursor up/down. I sometimes use the mouse to adjust the scrollbar, but seldom move within the window until I'm ready to click a link.

Re:People like me (2)

jrumney (197329) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055866)

How would this work for people like me who don't move their mouse unless there's something they've decided to click on?

It doesn't need to work for them, they don't use Bing.

Re:People like me (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 3 years ago | (#35057398)

Once again, someone immediately jumps on to imply that this hasn't been thought out because he s/he doesn't fit into the target demographic; and/or because s/he assumes that the researchers are morons who didn't think of something so basic.

Something like this only has to be valid fora certain percentage of users in order for it to be useful. For you (and your stationary mouse) and me (and my constant text highlighting twitchiness, often highlighting text at random on a page while I read elsewhere), obviously this won't work. For the first user sample they selected ("Cursor and gaze coordinates were collected in an eye-tracking study of 38 participants (21 female, 17 male) performing Web searches. Participants were recruited from a user study pool. They ranged in age between 26 and 60 years (mean = 45.5, = 8.2)," the gaze/mouse correlation was pretty strong. Which let them roll it out to a larger internal population:

Data were accumulated from a random sample of Microsoft employees’ searches on the commercial Web search engine used between May 12, 2010 and June 6, 2010. In total, we recorded 7,500,429 cursor events from 366,473 queries made by 21,936 unique cookies; the actual number of users may be fewer since multiple cookies could belong to a single user

The results of that larger study showed a pretty conclusive correlation between mouse movements and hesitations in predicting what users spend their time reading, how long they take to do it, and how that correlates to where they click.

The negativity to every new idea here gets irritating after a while. It's almost like people are just envious at not having thought of the idea themselves, and so need to discredit it as soon as possible in order to feel better about themselves. Unfortunately, the attempts to "discredit" it are invariably pointing out simple and obvious flaws that - while potentially valid - have very likely been taken into account already. (Especially when you've reached the point of a ~20k user study, in this instance)

Oh well. (1)

RobbieThe1st (1977364) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055398)

I hope Google takes the high ground here and -doesn't- try to track this -- Otherwise, I shall be forced to use Greasemonkey to block it. And it won't be the only thing I'll block if it comes to that.

Re:Oh well. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35055426)

The mouse tracking was only deployed to Microsoft employees using Bing.

Re:Oh well. (3, Interesting)

MollyB (162595) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055546)

If you use Firefox there is an add-on called Scroogle [mozilla.org] that sidesteps these cursor-movement worries, plus leaving no tracks for Google to assimilate. It will add itself to the list of available search engines. I use it almost exclusively nowadays. Of course one must trust Pathetic Cockroach, the author, but the 5-star reviews speak loudly to me. I've never heard any criticism of it and would be interested if there is...

Re:Oh well. (2)

ron_ivi (607351) | more than 3 years ago | (#35057766)

> ... scroogle...

But then you have to trust Scroogle.

I prefer the approach of Searchfuscate.com [slashdot.org] - which continually does random searches that Google can not distinguish from your human powered searches - and you can code review the javascript yourself to prove the automated searches are indistinguishable from the human ones.

If you are searching for suspicious content, you'd probably never show up in the radar thanks to the zillions of innocent searches "you" also perform; and if you're asked, you have a nice plausible deniable activity excuse "it wasn't me, it was my screen saver that searched for donkey porn".

Re:Oh well. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35055560)

Do you already block click tracking? Do you make sure you're always logged out of your Google account when searching? Do you run everything through a proxy server so searches aren't linked to your IP address? Honestly, if you're worried about privacy, search engines are already receiving much more sensitive information than this.

Bing is upfront about it and puts your search history in plain sight if tracking's enabled. You can check if Google's tracking searches, but it takes some digging in the account settings. Personally, I'm happy to help if my subconscious mouse movements can improve search results for everybody.

Re:Oh well. (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055868)

Yes the joy of the http://cs.nyu.edu/trackmenot/ [nyu.edu] browser extension that helps protect web searchers from surveillance and data-profiling by search engines.
Now we need a browser extension to help this effort track all the random data it likes.

"Future" is a mouse? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35055414)

They explain some of this due to [mouse] cursor and gaze being closely aligned on the web, and especially so on search result pages. Is this the future of innovation in search ranking — Google and Bing tracking your every twitch and pause?"

...Just in time for Web use to go mobile and touch-based.

Re:"Future" is a mouse? (1)

Xacid (560407) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055722)

Because everyone's going to migrate to smartphones? Unlikely. Touch screens are nice for environments where a mouse isn't practical but not my favorite for full on browsing. The two are entirely different animals, IMO.

I think the mobile browsing search can be/is covered by other methodologies that are probably equally effective - for example many people stay logged into things such as facebook and whatnot while willfully giving out piles and piles of their own personal information/preferences (look at foursquare for example). It's only *slightly* more difficult with the desktop/laptop-only crowd. This new idea may very well bridge that small gap.

Consumer device (2)

DrYak (748999) | more than 3 years ago | (#35056854)

Yup, device equipped with touch screens are rather different beasts than desktops.

And browsing happens to be among the top activities for which tablets are designed. Keyboard-less, light devices are better suited to consume content, big machines with lots of inputs are better suited to create content.
Lots of browsing will occur on the current and future generation of tablets, and that's what is going to get mined through newer techniques (webcam secretely analysing gaze direction ?!?)

Meanwhile we will continue to use desktops and big laptops to write code (we /.ers) or write TPS reports (the non-/. crowd).

Re:Consumer device (1)

Xacid (560407) | more than 3 years ago | (#35057302)

"Keyboard-less, light devices are better suited to consume content, big machines with lots of inputs are better suited to create content."

You know - I never looked at it that way before, but I really like statement. Good perspective. :)

Re:Consumer device (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 3 years ago | (#35057586)

Yup, device equipped with touch screens are rather different beasts than desktops.

And touching a screen on a typical desktop/laptop would get tiring after a few minutes, even Jobs knows that when all the rumors of a touch-screen Mac were flying around. At best, a touchscreen will augment the existing mouse, but won't replace it on anything other than tablet PCs.

Now... (1)

snookiex (1814614) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055430)

Microsoft is going to patent hesitation

Re:Now... (5, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055444)

Microsoft is going to patent hesitation

Google would have got in first but didn't want to rush it.

Useful to lanuch an investigation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35055436)

I would subpoena all search engines in advance to provide all "hesitations on mouse movements" of their users.

Based on that, it would be possible to track potentially dangerous net users with bad intentions and immediately storm in their houses.

This is news? (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055474)

This is news?

Even my university notes make reference to using mouse gestures or gaze tracking to determine which search results are relevant, whether the user is hesitating or uninterested in the paragraph you're offering him.

How is this news?

Re:This is news? (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 3 years ago | (#35057952)

Maybe it's news because people are doing it (in Javascript no less) not just talking about it?

In fifty years if somebody creates a FTL drive are you just going to sit around yawning, saying "Big deal, Alcubierre thought that up a long time ago?"

Google (3, Interesting)

Meneth (872868) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055480)

They've already started doing a very hacky thing to their search results in order to monitor us. The links are changing to a redirect url when clicked. Had to use YesScript [mozilla.org] to block it.

Re:Google (1)

Xacid (560407) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055650)

I've only run into that when I click the ad links that show up at the top of my results sometimes. It passes through doubleclick I believe. Is that what you're talking about?

Re:Google (2)

definitiv (1987044) | more than 3 years ago | (#35056806)

No, every result has a javascript onmousedown event "return rwt(this...)" that rewrites the url before you click it to redirect you through Google so they can track it. Recently they have also added code to Recaptcha (which they bought) to read your google.com cookie for any site that uses Recaptcha so they can track which websites you register on and presumably link it to your Google account behind the scenes.

Re:Google (1)

imakemusic (1164993) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055738)

You mean how each Google search results link sends a response to Google when clicked before redirecting you to the actual result?

Isn't that kind of vital for them in order to rank and prioritize search results? Wouldn't their service suck if everyone blocked that?

Re:Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35056476)

Yeah, but slashdotters are retarded and will do anything in order to preserve their 'privacy', even if it means their search results will suck more and even if it isn't actually attacking their privacy at all.

Re:Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35055966)

Even better http://honeybeenet.altervista.org/beefree/ [altervista.org]

Re:Google (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 3 years ago | (#35057496)

Erm, started? Dude, they've been doing this for at *least* a couple of years. The plugin CustomizeGoogle removed clicktracking javascript dating back to 2005, which is also the first reference I could find to google's usage of the practice . The plugin has since been replaced with OptimizeGoogle [optimizegoogle.com] .l

Hopefully you didn't think your google clicks were anonymous before you discovered it recently ;) You can take a look at google web history [google.com] to see just how much they've tracked. In theory you can turn it off, but there's no way of knowing how reliable/honest they are in doing so -- you only know that you can't see the history anymore yourself.

Transitory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35055502)

Shame the idea won't last long with the proliferation of touch screen devices where you get no cursor position feedback at all. Maybe they can look at this again when we are able to upgrade eyeballs to a version that supports javascript!

Yeah, I read with my cursor, too. (1)

scotts13 (1371443) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055504)

I already tend to shy away from web pages that use mouseovers; nothing more annoying than having stuff pop up in your face when you're essentially just scanning the content. If I know they're actively tracking this trivia, I WILL find a way to block or spoof it.

only records what appears interesting (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055538)

the method will make spamming and gaming the system easier. well, not easier, but opens up a new route.

and of course, throw this out of the window on touchscreens.

So using vimperator (1)

NtwoO (517588) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055544)

Is suddenly not a cult thing any more, but a quiet protest...

scroll wheel (0)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055628)

There is also a need to study the effect of different methods of scrolling (e.g., via the scrollbar or mouse scroll wheels) on the cursor tracking data.

Indeed

endless possibilities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35055670)

And they could also extend it with facial recognition with your webcam / phone camera, and why not also record sound, in case you're always complaining loudly when getting bad results,....

So I walk away... (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055754)

So I walk away to, oh, I don't know take a piss or something, and when I come back wherever I bumped my mouse getting up is the most relevant thing in my search? Riiight.

Re:So I walk away... (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 3 years ago | (#35057520)

Instead of re-posting my rant, allow me to self-reference [slashdot.org]

Re:So I walk away... (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 3 years ago | (#35057534)

Except the changes to /. seem to automatically convert my link to my comment... to a link to the parent comment. Nice...

Re:So I walk away... (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 3 years ago | (#35058258)

I read the PDF. They do not directly control for an unattended computer during the testing. Their numbers are statistically significant when averaged across their pool of users, though. It won't help with personalizing the results, but it seems it will help with overall ranking of results for particular queries over time and across the average pool of users.

One thing that is more interesting than anything mentioned in the /. summary is the idea of "good abandonment" of the search engine results. They made an attempt at determining when an answer was found in the results page itself rather than requiring a click to a result page. They actually found that, on average, mouse movement was less and slower when things like stock prices, unit conversions, weather conditions, etc. are displayed directly at the top of the page than when someone closes the browser or leaves the page because they just didn't find any results that looked relevant. This means they can work on better choosing what kind of searches to return final results for above the organic results.

Now, the population is selected from an exiting selected population, which they admit is not ideal. They address that. What they don't address is that they only worked with one search engine. One might assume that since they are all Microsoft employees in the large study group that they'll all use Bing because it's their dog food. Yet there's something to be said for different personalities using different search engines, and the behavior of users of a different search engine would be interesting to compare and contrast to see how the statistics hold.

Re:So I walk away... (1)

radtea (464814) | more than 3 years ago | (#35058930)

So I walk away to, oh, I don't know take a piss or something, and when I come back wherever I bumped my mouse getting up is the most relevant thing in my search? Riiight.

Wow, you've sure demostrated with that anecdote that statistical analysis is a bunch of nonsense! Incredibly insightful!

So if I'm reading correctly, EVERY TIME you do a search you get up and take a piss, bumping the cursor in the process?

Or you think--for some undisclosed reason--that everyone does this kind of thing often enough to overwhelm any statistical power in these results?

Why is that, exactly? Where are the data on how often people get up, bump their mouse, etc? Why do you believe that accidental mouse motions are the dominant phenomenon, rather than deliberate ones? Where is your data?

efficient algorithm written in Javascript (2, Insightful)

miknix (1047580) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055916)

From TFA:

They use an efficient algorithm written in Javascript.

Is it me or they are using two incompatible words in the same phrase?

Re:efficient algorithm written in Javascript (3, Interesting)

zwei2stein (782480) | more than 3 years ago | (#35056160)

have fun optimizing bubble sort in assembler ...

Re:efficient algorithm written in Javascript (3, Insightful)

kcitren (72383) | more than 3 years ago | (#35056212)

If you think you can compare an algorithm and a language I suggest you don't go into programming or computer science.

Re:efficient algorithm written in Javascript (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35057456)

it's you

Re:efficient algorithm written in Javascript (1)

Rizimar (1986164) | more than 3 years ago | (#35058274)

Funny thing is, IE isn't even that good with Javascript. This algorithm will probably end up working the best in Google Chrome

Re:efficient algorithm written in Javascript (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35059238)

I can perform efficient search algorithms with just my hands.

Just ask my girlfriend.

Re:efficient algorithm written in Javascript (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35059608)

Definitely! They should have went with something written in Flash or a Java applet! Heck, even an embedded .mpg file should have been better than JavaScript... Right? ... RIGHT?

Pointer vs Cursor (2)

Sryn (976155) | more than 3 years ago | (#35055932)

Thought I'ld comment on "It's not a cursor, it's called a pointer." but then WikiPedia says that MS tends to use carets to call cursors and cursors as pointers, and that some people use text cursor and mouse pointer to call the two respectively, to avoid ambiguities. So, that is new to me, as I've always called the blinking vertical line where text will be entered as cursor, and the arrow-like thing that moves when you move the mouse as pointer. Which is also what I teach my students. Now, I question why they would call it WIMP and not WIMC...

5ryn

Re:Pointer vs Cursor (1)

Saint Stephen (19450) | more than 3 years ago | (#35056032)

In windows they are called carets (typing) and cursors (mouse) . I miss the really old days (win31) when you'd sometimes call your own caret create and destroy functions. You could have two! :)

Re:Pointer vs Cursor (1)

ledow (319597) | more than 3 years ago | (#35056610)

They're both interchangeable and have been for decades.

The ZX Spectrum had "cursor keys" which were originally to move the text "cursor" around. Most games used the cursor keys to move pointers rather than a text cursor. By the time the +2 came out, the cursor keys were used to navigate menus in the default ROM. Even before that, someone re-used those keys in a keyboard-mapped joystick and called it a Cursor joystick. That then moved into all games I've ever played on the system calling it a cursor, not a pointer, even back in the 80's.

Pointers and cursors are interchangeable, so "WIMP" is just as valid (and makes a better acronym). A pointer, however, isn't as generic - it's somewhat correct to say that a pointer is a specific case of a cursor.

"Caret" is a term I haven't ever used myself except to describe the "^" (upwards pointing arrow) character because that's the only name I'd ever heard used for it - some people now call it "the hat" but that's easily confusable with "the hash" (which in UK English makes no sense for what is clearly a noughts-and-crosses board - that's tic-tac-toe to you US foreigners - and why most automated phone systems tend to avoid using it). Microsoft's use of the word would only confuse and was probably just to make it sound more technical.

You might be technically correct, and possibly historically correct (but read on), but naming follows popular usage. Most people I work with call the mouse cursor (my preferred term for BOTH text/graphics indicators) the "arrow", and I don't see anything wrong with that either - probably comes from the same sort of derivation as "the arrow keys", again merging "cursor keys" with the same term for a mouse pointer.

I personally use the term "cursor" for both, with "text cursor" or "mouse cursor" when I need to differentiate (it's so rare, having a new specific word seems pointless). Most people understand that word immediately and don't need to think "which way round" it is (i.e. is "pointer" the text or the graphics cursor?). Once you get into explaining about the text cursor / mouse cursor, they have a complete grasp of the concept anyway and you're just being pedantic.

As the Wiki points out - cursor is a term that just indicates a position and has done since the 16th Century. There's nothing wrong with calling something a cursor at all. Being pedantic over decades-out-of-fashion naming when trying to educate people, though, is only going to cause you more problems (like the teachers I work with who still call things "floppy disks" or "Xerox machines" or still use "wireless" in it's original use!). If the kids call it an arrow, but they know the "proper" name if asked, that's good enough for me.

Cursor seems to historically be much more generic and trying to pin it down to a specific usage is silly. Hell, the original names for the mouse cursor are ludicrous ("the bug"!).

Basically: It's not *wrong*, and if you convey meaning unambiguously in the majority of everyday contexts, who cares?

Re:Pointer vs Cursor (1)

SkimTony (245337) | more than 3 years ago | (#35057666)

After 15 years of computer support, I'd have to say that the cursor is generally sitting at the desk looking at the screen or some other peripheral. You can usually gauge the level of difficulty the cursor is experiencing based on the volume of the cursing.

we need more front-ends to the front-ends (3, Interesting)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 3 years ago | (#35056350)

I hate javascript. I knew from the very start it would be a source of abuse more than use. I knew it and avoided using it in my code whenever possible.

I turn it off at every chance and only allow it sparingly on some sites.

and now they want to meta-watch us. just wonderful. as if working around the 'helpful autocompletes' all over the place (I'm talking to you, google) isn't enough hassle to get the data we want.

typing into text boxes is a huge pita. SO much other processing goes not (even if you disable spellchecking) that I lose characters, find repeated characters and the typing lag is WORSE than it was 20 yrs ago with an 8 or 16bit cpu and less than a meg of ram. I'm not kidding - the more js that runs 'in the background' the laggier shit gets as you type. my 3ghz dualcore 'drops characters' like its no one business; and I know that I'm not alone since I see so many posts on so many forums with dropped and repeated chars. the web SHIT has taken over our computers and only gives us tiny slices of time to do OUR work in.

the solution is to go back to a batch oriented web again, for at least some things. I do NOT want 'journalling - saving!' happening WHILE I am typing in a text box. the only thing happening should be cursor moves, chars entered and cursor blinking. while in emacs or vi, my text speed is very fast; so why is it that web-based text areas are SLOW AS SHIT ?

its the javascript. the language for advertisers and webfuckers (what I call webmasters who fuck wtih your browser, thinking that THEY own the formating and content display on your system and not you).

do a view source and see all the crud that comes thru. how much is really need to query and display results? I could do that in simple forms/cgi's and bypass all the crud.

so, we need more 'submit' style front ends that sit there and do NOTHING until you hit submit. no animation, no character counting, no 'journalling - saved!' bullshit. no copying of my data to you 'in case'. just fucking sit there, take my text and when *I* hit submit, THEN you can bulk upload it to the main server.

javascript annoys the hell out of me. it has ruined what was once a nice responsive web. now, I drop characters as the background jscript tasks own more cpu than the foreground ones do. ;(

Re:we need more front-ends to the front-ends (1)

TheMidget (512188) | more than 3 years ago | (#35057320)

Well said!

I've have started using NoScript since recently, and remove those cheesy Skybuttons that came with kopete, and it's amazing how responsive Firefox has now become :-)

Re:we need more front-ends to the front-ends (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35058380)

Upgrade your computer more often. If you want to stay ahead of bloated software, you still need to spend money on serious hardware. My annual upgrade budget is $1000/year. I budget that in right below my health and car insurance in terms of priority. My current refresh is an i7 overclocked to 4.1 ghz, 12 gigs of ram, an intel X-25m ssd, and so on. Web seems plenty responsive to me.

Re:we need more front-ends to the front-ends (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35059030)

This used to bug me for quite a while, but then I switched to vimperator, which helps a little. To google a term i type ":o term i want to google" and then hit enter. What is displayed is the google result, no autosuggest, no instant, no nothing. If I need to slightly correct my search term, you betcha I'm not gonna click the google box at the top, I just go back to step 1, ":o another search term".

A lot of my "searches" are not searches... (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 3 years ago | (#35056362)

I find I am using the search engines as a spell-checker. It is pretty handy to start typing a word and have it present the correct spelling. In these cases I never had any intention on clicking anything.

SEO (1)

javalizard (781952) | more than 3 years ago | (#35056406)

Queue the automated search that sends back fake interaction data.

Re:SEO (1)

Tarlus (1000874) | more than 3 years ago | (#35056654)

Yeah, the more details they try to mine from their user base, the easier it is for people like us to completely fuck with their results. ;)

new setup for me : (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35056798)

no-flash, no-java allowed on search page including google, bing or whatever. Thanks for the head up.

Tourettes', motherf**kers! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35056930)

I have Tourettes Syndrome (srsly), and have a habit of randomly clicking my mouse buttons on empty areas of the screen while reading. Let's see you read into THAT, bitches!

Re:Tourettes', motherf**kers! (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#35057798)

I have Tourettes Syndrome (srsly), and have a habit of randomly clicking my mouse buttons on empty areas of the screen while reading. Let's see you read into THAT, bitches!

You are obviously very interested in white space. Expect empty pages to get top rank in your searches!

Microsoft NEEDS to track gestures for Windows UI (3, Interesting)

Miamicanes (730264) | more than 3 years ago | (#35057110)

What Microsoft REALLY needs to do a better job of is tracking mouse movement (specifically, acceleration, ballistics, etc) to do a better job of discerning intent when you go to grab something... and a better job of adaptively figuring out over time whether its assumptions about your intent are right or wrong. It really seems like every new version of WIndows leaves me fighting and frustrated with it a tiny bit more.

Here's a real-world concrete example. Suppose the mouse pointer is approaching the right edge of a window that's maximized to the left panel of a multi-monitor setup. The mouse pointer slows down, and seems to also be approaching the scrollbar. The left button gets pressed, and the mouse moves in a direction that's mostly upwards. Well, except the pointer overshot the edge a bit, and the left click technically occurred 2 pixels into the window on the monitor adjacent to the right. Taken in isolation, Windows has no real choice but to assume the user meant to click the pixel on the other monitor even though it contextually makes no sense. But combined with the observed ballistics (slowing down, slight arc towards the scrollbar, motion after left-click that makes more sense as a scroll-gesture than a... well... meaningless gesture), it's obvious what the user meant to click. And for the most part, Windows, seems to be completely oblivious to it.

Now, for a counter-example: trying to select text without adjacent whitespace. For me, Windows (Word and Outlook in particular) NEVER seems to get this right. I'll click at the right starting point, letting go and starting over if I'm not happy with it. Then I'll start highlighting. But way too often, it'll stop selecting a character or two short of where I want. If I keep moving the mouse, it'll grudgingly select the remaining characters... but feels compelled to ALSO ignore my hard initial-selection work and expand the other end of the selection too. Dammit. I'll then spend the next 10 seconds fighting with it trying to select the text I REALLY want. Half the time, I'm forced to give up, let it select the damn adjacent whitespace, and edit it away after I paste. It annoys me to no end.

In the end, it feels like Windows has simultaneously gotten worse in two directions. It forces its opinion on me without learning from its mistakes or giving me the option to beat it into submission so it quits interfering, and simultaneously forces selection with almost single-pixel precision to make increasingly-dense window gadgets work. I'll admit that Java is even worse in this regard, and Linux (or at least Gnome/Compiz) doesn't seem to be any better, but it's still annoying as hell.

Re:Microsoft NEEDS to track gestures for Windows U (1)

swilver (617741) | more than 3 years ago | (#35058010)

I prefer a computer to do what I want to do. However, given that the computer cannot read my mind, it will probably do what it THINKS I want to do...

...which is much MUCH worse than just being pedantic and doing what I said that it should do with 100% precision, even if it is not what I intended.

Re:Microsoft NEEDS to track gestures for Windows U (1)

randy of the redwood (1565519) | more than 3 years ago | (#35059322)

As an application designer, I'd like data this too. It would be great to get feedback on long pauses when in the middle of a process. For a real example, most of us suffer from the ribbon bar in Microsoft Office. What used to be a 3 second task is now a minute wasted trying to find the option in the ribbon bar, followed by resolving it in 3 seconds like before.

If they got feedback that the first time it was this slow, but then subsequently it took 2 seconds every time, great - we can chock it up to learning curve. However, I suspect they would find it consistently takes longer to poke around the ribbon bar and would come to the conclusion it sucks and we could go back to the perfectly useful menu system.

Conversely, I watch my 3 year old nephew pick up an iphone, swipe through two pages of icons, pick the one he wants, and start playing the game. No pauses, no hesitation. That seems to me they captured how (at least a 3 year old) intuitively works.

I do focus groups all the time, but this only lets me capture users at a specific point in time. If we could get this level of feedback from a built in usage library (without affecting performance), I think we could all do a better job of UI design that is intuitive.

Re:Microsoft NEEDS to track gestures for Windows U (1)

dargaud (518470) | more than 3 years ago | (#35059842)

but feels compelled to ALSO ignore my hard initial-selection work and expand the other end of the selection too.

Yeah, I remember that shit too, before the ribbon made me give up Office completely. There's actually an option somewhere called 'intelligent selection' or some stupid crap like that. Remove it and it will select from where you clic.

ClickTale is doing this for sometime now (1)

thinktank2 (595484) | more than 3 years ago | (#35057112)

ClickTale [wikipedia.org] is already doing this sort of mouse movement tracking as part of its web analytics service.

Can they tell ... (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#35057336)

... when I switch my mouse over to my left hand? That's the best indication that I've found an interesting page I can think of.

OCD (1)

jaminJay (1198469) | more than 3 years ago | (#35057488)

Fine by me. My mouse cursor resides in white space until I'm ready to click. Nervous habit.

In more news... (2)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 3 years ago | (#35057760)

Microsoft Research is found to be copying Google.

Roughly a year or two ago Google made it known they've long been searching the subject and have long had plans to bring this to market.

Suddenly both Apple and Microsoft are constantly trailing Google. You can say what you want about the three companies, but clearly both Apple and Microsoft have fallen behind Google as so far as real tech companies go. I'll leave it as a reader exercise to determine if its Apple or Microsoft which claims position two or three.

Won't be long... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35058174)

...before they start building heartbeat and moisture sensors into the mouse so they can gauge emotional responses to what's on the screen. Then they can really target specific demographics. Or at least sell the information so others can.

again? (1)

cdpage (1172729) | more than 3 years ago | (#35058194)

thought i should post this

http://tech.slashdot.org/story/10/07/27/1624251/Google-Nabs-Patent-To-Monitor-Your-Cursor-Movement

http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1734136&cid=33049918

Won't be long... (1)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | more than 3 years ago | (#35058222)

...before they start building heartbeat and moisture sensors into the mouse so they can gauge emotional responses to what's on the screen. Then they can really target specific demographics. Or at least sell the information so others can. (The AC post before was mine...I wasn't logged in)

Re:Won't be long... (1)

cdpage (1172729) | more than 3 years ago | (#35058290)

... but first they have to start with a reason why we want a mouse like that... Queue in "Game Company Name"

FPS will track your heart rate, so that if you are shot, you need to take cover, and let your heart rate go down to heal... (or something to that effect)

There, now we have mice with heart rate monitors.

Google's turn.

Gross (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35058322)

Researcher 1: Why does his mouse cursor keep going up, then down, then up, then down...
Researcher 2: Look at his search parameters. He's masturbating.
Researcher 1: Gross.

Frankly... (1)

Syberz (1170343) | more than 3 years ago | (#35058480)

What surprised me more about this story is the fact that they found enough Bing users to get a decent dataset for their research.

Not always correct. (1)

sir lox elroy (735636) | more than 3 years ago | (#35059612)

LOL While reading this my cursor was on the story 2 above this one, does that mean I was reading it? :-)
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