She loves football and technology in equal measure

This livewire geek loves to code, adores her tech and digs football. Having worked in senior research roles in two of the biggest internet firms — Google and Yahoo! — Yoelle Marek shares her apprehensions on privacy on the internet, her passion for web search and the tech scene back home in Israel.

Yoelle, who works as senior director at Yahoo! Research at Haifa in Israel, spoke on the sidelines of the Yahoo! Big Thinkers series and described how the tech scene in Israel was bubbling and vibrant.

She felt the scene back home reflects the political climate and uncertainty of the country. Deeply competitive and eager to make what they can in the short time the technology ventures are afloat, the technology is often cutting-edge.

“The entire country is a bit like a start-up. You don't know what's going to happen tomorrow, so you want to make the most of what you have today,” she explained. This ‘now or never' attitude, works very well in the ever-evolving and on-the-move world of technology. Haifa, she said, is second only to Silicon Valley (in California), in terms of concentration of tech start-ups. “We just love gadgets,” she exclaimed.

She drew parallels between the Indian and Israeli cultures, where the middle-class society stresses on education. Having grown up in France, she recalled that most of her friends could not understand why she would want to do a Ph.D. “Things are different at home. Everybody wants to study, and because every child goes through military training as a social duty, the college atmosphere is rather serious and mature.”

Privacy vs. personalisation

On the subject of search, she said it is all about the experience and that the future lies in implicit search and mobile. “If you think of it — why do you even have to express a query?” But isn't it a bit creepy when you log on to your account and find a range of preferences — eerily close to your tastes — staring you back in your face? “Not really,” Yoelle emphasised. The key is not to ‘over-personalise'. “What we are trying to do is instead of personalising you as an individual, we take your facets (based on the way you trawl the web) and generalise.”

For instance, if she were to be generalised according to gender and age, her search engine would direct her to ‘dresses and heels'. “And that is an annoying stereotype. I like football and technology: so if the search engine could take that and then generalise, I would find that deeply useful and not so freaky,” she added.

Keywords: GoogleYahoo


Dropping InMarch 9, 2011