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How Facebook Built Natural Language Into Graph Search

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the keep-looking dept.

Facebook 39

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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39 comments

Global Warming Is Going to Turn Women Into Whores (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43584921)

Proposed Democratic Resolution: Be It Resolved That Global Warming Is Going to Turn Women Into Whores and Coochmongers

http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/house/296679-dems-warn-climate-change-could-drive-women-to-transactional-sex#ixzz2RrkVzmJL

The resolution, from Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and a dozen other Democrats, says the results of climate change include drought and reduced agricultural output. It says these changes can be particularly harmful for women.

"[F]ood insecure women with limited socioeconomic resources may be vulnerable to situations such as sex work, transactional sex, and early marriage that put them at risk for HIV, STIs, unplanned pregnancy, and poor reproductive health," it says.

The brightest minds of a generation (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43584923)

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

Re:The brightest minds of a generation (1, Interesting)

SimonTheSoundMan (1012395) | about a year ago | (#43584987)

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.

Re:The brightest minds of a generation (5, Insightful)

fph il quozientatore (971015) | about a year ago | (#43585127)

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.

Re:The brightest minds of a generation (3, Insightful)

elloGov (1217998) | about a year ago | (#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:The brightest minds of a generation (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43585623)

Goddamn I'm sick of seeing you bastards whine about this. Why do you give a fuck? It's not your fucking money.

Re:The brightest minds of a generation (4, Interesting)

elloGov (1217998) | about a year ago | (#43585835)

Civilization is an ongoing collective effort. Why do we whine about this? Next time you or a loved one who desperately needs the same bright minds to come up with remedy or a cure to a devastating disease, tell me why you don't whine.

Re:The brightest minds of a generation (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43586033)

It's not your fucking money.

Actually it is. Where do you think Hedge funds get their money form? And when the whole thing pisses itself whose Govt creates bailouts to fix the fuck-ups? that's right, it comes from us.

Say what you want, we are nothing if not generous about it but I wouldn't push the point too hard because confusing generously with idiocy would be your first mistake as history has shown with every civilisation prior to this one. For example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decline_of_the_Roman_Empire [wikipedia.org]

Re:The brightest minds of a generation (2, Insightful)

tyrione (134248) | about a year ago | (#43585983)

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.

Re:The brightest minds of a generation (0)

perryizgr8 (1370173) | about a year ago | (#43587891)

they most definitely are.

Re:The brightest minds of a generation (1)

tyrione (134248) | about a year ago | (#43607559)

they most definitely are.

Keep deluding yourself into thinking it is so.

Re:The brightest minds of a generation (2)

PhamNguyen (2695929) | about a year ago | (#43586061)

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 likely, but we are not at the stage now, and so ads play a vital role in the economy, forming a kind of implicit micro-payment system.

Re:The brightest minds of a generation (1)

turp182 (1020263) | about a year ago | (#43589225)

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 this case it's nice to know when True Blood will start back up).

Now if you can make advertisements entertaining (think Old Spice, I would never use the stuff but I watch their commercials) then that's another story. It's basically reverse product-placement, and sometimes quite watchable.

Kind of like Google 10-15 years ago? (4, Insightful)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | about a year ago | (#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?)

Re:Kind of like Google 10-15 years ago? (1)

game kid (805301) | about a year ago | (#43585731)

As long as they don't break +word searches [wired.com] in the name of The Social(tm), I guess it's an improvement over Google.

What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43584957)

Google can already tell the difference. How is this ambitious?

Re:What? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43585001)

Because Facebook's charter allows them to be evil.

Re:What? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43585053)

Mark Suckerberg's about to make you his bitch.

Suck It Down

Re:What? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43585287)

Wow, mods. Sense of humor broken?

It wasn't that hard (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | about a year ago | (#43584995)

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.

Re:It wasn't that hard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43587537)

After feeding a few years of Slashdot into it they pretty much had every error possible indexed and understood.

You mean like people thinking it's "suppose" to be, instead of "supposed"?

Re:It wasn't that hard (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | about a year ago | (#43590507)

Exactly!

Punctuation Facebook. Do you speak it? (4, Funny)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about a year ago | (#43585321)

A Panda walks into a bar ...

  • ... eats, shoots and leaves.
  • ... eats shoots and leaves.

Thi5 FP for GNAA (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43585345)

into a sling unlees they started to with any sort Jesus Up The OpenBSD guys. They cuntwipes Jordan and financial crisco or lube. PAPER TOWELS The mobo blew we need to address OF AMERICA) today, Talk to one of the been many, not the outstrips the resignation Slashdot's bulk of the FreeBSD move forward, Distro is done Here butts are exposed Problems with so on, FreeBSD went is the worst off includes where you legitimise doing is EFNet, and you , a proud member BSD machines first avoid going 4, which by all go of the minutiae mechanics. So I'm downward spiral. In have left in 3 simple steps! bottoms butt. Wipe towel under the Whatever path is any doubt: FreeBSD you get distracted to be about doing I've never seen worse and worse. As 800 mhz machine Dying' crowd - poor dead last and committees fly...don't fear revel in our gay

Predefined grammar... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43585421)

They use predefined grammar and don't allow free form queries, that's very natural...

Fine until.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43585445)

It's fine and dandy until you try to implement internationalization. You know, the majority in Facebook don't speak English..

Tell us what you really think (1)

omems (1869410) | about a year ago | (#43585587)

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"

Stackoverflow posts... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43585683)

Stackoverflow responses fall into two categories:

1) why would you want to do that?!?
2) just use boost. it knows all, does all.

yyuo fail it!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43586265)

Very limited search capabilities (3, Insightful)

adisakp (705706) | about a year ago | (#43586677)

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.

I blame Chomsky. (1)

JimtownKelly (634785) | about a year ago | (#43586977)

Facebook also introduced something called “parameterization” ? My hiny. Those tree diagrams come straight out of transformational linguistics.

Natural Language My Ass (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43587115)

Natural Language My Ass
Most rudimentary NL capabilities ever.

i'll take keywords over natural anyday (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43587167)

eom eom eom

Facebook Graph search is a liberal myth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43587569)

Does anyone actually have access to it yet? I've been on the waiting list for ages.

If I can't actually use it, I'm kind of of the opinion that they can shut the hell up about it.

At this point, they could post an article, "How Facebook Managed to build Thought-control into Graph Search", like anyone could deny it.

Re:Facebook Graph search is a liberal myth (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | about a year ago | (#43591623)

I do have it. It's not that great. My first searches yielded nothing... it seems you kinda have to use specifically crafted English that makes sense to Facebook... or, at least, choose from the list of search suggestions. That said, it's handy to be able to string multiple search filters together (like, My friends that went to with who like pizza)

Taken for granted (1)

r0kk3rz (825106) | about a year ago | (#43587933)

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.

Priorities (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43588887)

Yet I still can't search for people who graduated from my high school the same year as me (without looking through EVERY person who went to the school in the past 50+ years, or searching by name). University is even worse. My small HS graduated 150-250 people per year, I went to a university that graduates one or two hundred times that per year.

Let me guess (1)

FiveLights (1012605) | about a year ago | (#43589085)

They asked Jeeves?

Right... and we never had to learn languages? (1)

1800maxim (702377) | about a year ago | (#43590209)

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 errors that inevitably pop up. Hang around Slashdot, and you'll read story summaries that will test this ability to the limits.

The difference is that we do self-learn, and machines do not (at this point).
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