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James Temple of the San Francisco Chronicle profiles Daniel Russell (video), Google’s search scientist (or as he calls it “search anthropologist”).

“About four years after forming, Google came to realise it needed human insights to infuse that information with context and meaning.

The company began conducting user research studies and hiring human-computer interactions experts, eventually snagging Russell from IBM in 2005. His main role is studying web searchers in their natural environment, at home or work, picking up the human scent where the data trail goes cold. […]

Russell is part of a small team at Google that focuses on the human side of the equation for search. In addition to regularly observing searchers in the wild, they conduct user surveys, pay people in cafes to try out new products, and invite people into Google to run them though exercises and eye-movement studies. The goal is to better understand how people interact with Google’s products and why.”

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