As we continue to focus on making search improvements and building a discovery engine, we recently invited members of the local search communities to Pinterest for a Discover Pinterest event. Hugh Williams joined a few Pinterest engineers to keynote the event and share insights he’s learned from over two decades in the field. Hui Xu, Charles Gordon, Rui Jiang and Kevin Jing from our discovery team shared some of the work they’ve been focused on over the past year and how it’s improving the Pinner experience. You can find a recap of the speakers and their presentations below or by checking out the videos (one has a bonus sneak-peek of what’s to come!) on our YouTube channel.

Here’s a quick look at the speakers.

A whirlwind tour of a search engine (Hugh Williams)

Hugh spent nearly 25 years working in search and information retrieval prior to his current role as a consultant, advisor and leadership coach. He led the team that built eBay’s user experiences, search engine, big data technologies and platforms. Before eBay, he managed a search engine R&D team at Microsoft’s Bing and spent five years running his own startup and consultancy. He’s published over 100 works, mostly in the field of information retrieval, and holds 19 U.S. patents. In his talk, Hugh explains how search works in practice, touching on everything from web crawling and spam detection, to search ranking and search infrastructure.

Discovery overview (Hui Xu)

As head of the Pinterest Search and Discovery team, Hui oversees the teams responsible for building a discovery engine based on the world’s largest human-curated indices. Previously, Hui was a core member of Google’s web search indexing team, co-authored Google’s Caffeine indexing system and managed Google Custom Search. Watch Hui explain how human curation builds the interest graph that we use to build our discovery products.

The life of a Pinterest search query (Charles Gordon)

Charles joined Pinterest in 2012 as the first search engineer, and has since architected and built major parts of the serving and indexing infrastructure. Previously, he worked as a principal engineer for AWS CloudSearch at Amazon and In his presentation, Charles walks through the steps our search engine takes once a query is submitted through analyzing the images, comments and meta tags of different Pins. Is there a gender associated with the profile? Our system takes that into account to return the most relevant Pins. Is there a location? We look at that, too.

Search guides (Rui Jiang)

Rui joined Pinterest in 2013 as the tech lead for search quality and search features, where he helped launch Guided Search. Before Pinterest, Rui worked at Google on the custom search engine and at Microsoft on a distributed build system and code search. In his tech talk, Rui dives into search guides, the horizontal keyword search prompts that help Pinners narrow down their searches.

Visual search (Kevin Jing)

Kevin joined Pinterest and created our Visual Discovery team in early 2014 after the acquisition of VisualGraph, a visual-search company he co-founded with two ex-Googlers. Before founding VisualGraph, Kevin worked at Google Research for seven years in the space of computer vision and machine learning, helping to develop Google’s first image processing application in 2004. In his presentation, Kevin walks through the history of visual search, starting with its uses for analyzing spam patterns and predicting abusive material, and ending with the techniques that are in place in the industry today.

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Pinterest Engineering Blog

Inventive engineers building the first visual discovery engine, 200 billion ideas and counting.

Pinterest Engineering

Written by | Inventive engineers building the first visual discovery engine |

Pinterest Engineering Blog

Inventive engineers building the first visual discovery engine, 200 billion ideas and counting.

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