Just a short update on my current position at bol.com.
Finding exactly what a user wants is hard. Even when you have visual clues available. In the past, I experimented with voice applications. In these customer journeys, I thought the biggest problem was with the availability of interface elements, a user can basically say everything to the voice interface. In the visual world, you can compare this to a user who can draw his own filtering and sorting interface. If you don’t exactly know what you are looking for and how things are called at the information-providing end you probably won’t find what you were looking for.
So my focus in information retrieval is currently shifted from voice to visual search at bol.com. It is still incredibly hard to understand users. The many features are made to help users find what they need and still people are creative enough to end up finding things they didn’t expected.