Curated for content, computing, and digital experience professionals

Month: January 2007 (Page 2 of 11)

Back to Search Roots for the Enterprise – Structured Search That Is

Structured search (noun) was rooted firmly in the enterprise when publishers of print index resources (e.g. Chemical Abstracts, Index Medicus from the National Library of Medicine, GRA&I from the National Technical Information Service) became available on-line in the early 1970s. The Systems Development Corporation launched ORBIT developed by a team lead by Carlos Cuadra. Orbit was a command driven search tool accessible to professional searchers. In those days searchers were usually special librarians in corporations, large public libraries, government agencies and major universities. Using the ORBIT command language through a terminal connected by a phone line to remote large computers, librarians would type search commands to find data in specific structured fields. These remote computers held electronic versions of paper indices. Citations resulting from a query for specific chemical compounds, diseases, or government reports, would contain information needed to retrieve articles, patents or books from library shelves.

Corporations spent hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to access external specialized, and structured indices, and the journals, conference proceeding, patents and government documents to which the indices pointed. Hard copy (paper or microform) was the only practical way to read content. Computer screens were not accessible to most researchers and even if they had been, content could not be rendered on them in easily readable forms. Also, until computer storage technologies became cheap, indexing large amounts of text (full-text, or unstructured content) was not affordable.

Even with the advent of graphical interfaces, searching for non-specialists made only minor advances in the early-1980s when library systems offered index browsing to find citations. Library users still needed to read content in hard copy. It was only in the late 1980s and early 90s that full-text content began to be searchable by large numbers of library users on CD-ROMs. Users would go to a library computer, which held multiple CD-ROMs containing journals and other subscriptions, and use a menu to find content on the CD-ROMs by typing keywords that would look through all the content to find matches. This was the first routine use of full-text searching by library users.

These technologies are just memories for a few of us, and unknown to most, but they do point to the differentiation between structured and unstructured searching. Both have been around for a couple of decades but it has taken Web search engines to put search in the hands of everyone. Only recently is frustration with retrieving buckets of unfiltered content pushing enterprises to reconfirm the added value of structured searching.

Technical and business users are appreciating the value of being able to search for a precise title, all documents contributed to a specific project, or all presentations delivered by the CEO in the past two years. Each of these searches requires a defined set of data points, stored with the content and retrievable with a search interface that can support the “structured” query.

Yes, librarians have been here before but, just now, the rest of the organization is learning how they managed to get such good search results all along. Structured searching is now a lot simpler than it was in the 1970s. It is only one aspect in enterprise search but it is an important requirement for most enterprise users when they need reliable and clearly defined search results. And, by the way, Carlos is still around building systems for enterprises to manage and search their critical proprietary content.

FAST Introduces Business Intelligence Built on Search

Fast Search & Transfer (OSEAX: FAST.OL) (FAST) unveiled the FAST Adaptive Information Warehouse (AIW), a new approach that lets users capitalize on their entire universe of information to make better informed decisions for competitive advantage. Built on a search platform, FAST AIW integrates an end-to-end framework of products that unifies search and Business Intelligence. FAST AIW puts the Business Intelligence solutions on top of the search platform to integrate and orchestrate all of the information needed to make BI more effective. Users can directly search and navigate Business Intelligence data in an ad-hoc manner, then display relevant, usable information to users without the need for predefined report creation. The FAST AIW platform includes FAST Radar, a Web-based Business Intelligence portal and tool that brings actionable information and statistical analysis to decision-makers throughout the organization by means of a familiar search and navigation interface. FAST Radar provides insights into data through personal, flexible dashboards that move intelligence in the enterprise from IT and business analysts to every business user. Also included is the FAST Data Cleansing Solution, which provides up-to-the-minute access to all information, structured and unstructured, regardless of its source or location. It uses linguistics to improve data quality, enabling organizations to match, merge, and cleanse data automatically. The FAST AIW platform, including FAST Data Cleansing and FAST Radar, is available immediately. FAST Data Cleansing and FAST Radar may also be purchased as individual products. http://www.fastsearch.com

Adobe to Release PDF for Industry Standardization

Adobe Systems Incorporated (Nasdaq:ADBE) announced that it intends to release the full Portable Document Format (PDF) 1.7 specification to AIIM, the Enterprise Content Management Association, for the purpose of publication by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). PDF has become a de facto global standard since Adobe published the complete PDF specification in 1993. Since 1995 Adobe has participated in various working groups that develop technical specifications for publication by ISO and worked within the ISO process to deliver specialized subsets of PDF as standards for specific industries and functions. Today, PDF for Archive (PDF/A) and PDF for Exchange (PDF/X) are ISO standards, and PDF for Engineering (PDF/E) and PDF for Universal Access (PDF/UA) are proposed standards. Additionally, PDF for Healthcare (PDF/H) is an AIIM proposed Best Practice Guide. AIIM serves as the administrator for PDF/A, PDF/E, PDF/UA and PDF/H. Adobe will release the full PDF 1.7 specification as defined in the PDF Reference Manual to AIIM for the purpose of submission to ISO. The joint committee formed under AIIM will identify issues to be addressed, as well as proposed solutions, and will develop a draft document that will then be presented to a Joint Working Group of ISO for development and approval as an International Standard. AIIM holds the secretariat for the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Technical Committee (TC) 171 and 171 SC2 for Document Management Applications, and is the administrator for the U.S. Technical Advisory Group to ISO TC 171 that represents the U.S. at international meetings. www.adobe.com/devnet/pdf/pdf_reference.html

CMS Challenges Survey Results

In December 2006, I conducted a mini survey of content management professionals to find out what they have experienced as the biggest challenges when implementing a CMS. I found the results to be pretty interesting and worthwhile sharing with the CM community at large.

To view the survey results, you can download the PDF from my site at www.ziacontent.com/cmfocus.htm. Also checkout my related article on the CMS-Wire site titled “Things that Go Bump in Your CMS Project.

Content, Relevancy, and Customer Experience: Webinar Event

FatWire hosts the second in a series of webinars on overcoming obstacles to delivering relevant customer experiences online.
February 1, 2007, 1:00 pm ET
Take Your Customer Experience to the Next Level, Part 2: Small Content Changes, Big Impact
Gilbane Group’s Mary Laplante and FatWire’s Jeff Ernst use results from a survey on customer experience management to drive a how-to discussion on testing your own site’s relevancy quotient.
Register for the webinar.
Participate in the survey.

Research Shows Businesses Engaging and Listening Through Social Media

In June of 06 I took my first step towards understanding business blogging. As a professor at the University of MA in Dartmouth, and Director of the Center for Marketing Research, I felt I needed to be able to answer the frequent question from businesses, “should we have a blog?” My first study sought advice from experienced business bloggers (and others) and I was clearly cautioned by them: Blogs take time, commitment, planning and respect for the values of the blogosphere.

Eric Mattson (a podcaster I met through the first study) and I released a new study this month on the Inc.500 and their use of social media announced in a post by Frank Gilbane. Much has since been written about the major finding: The Inc. 500 is blogging at more than twice the rate of the Fortune 500. Given that the Inc. 500 are selected based of their rate of growth in one year, it says something about moving quickly and the use of social media.

What we thought was even more interesting is that the Inc. 500 were monitoring social media regardless of if they were using any. Eric and I have submitted a paper on this monitoring behavior to the Journal for New Communications Research and will make that link available as soon as it comes out. Basically, we found that some companies may not be directly engaging customers yet, but have figured out the value of listening and watching. When Business Week in June of 05 wrote about ” The Power of Us”. I think this is exactly what they were referring to…voices being heard. It looks like it is actually happening!

I am still very interested in which businesses or organizations choose to engage their constituents, which choose to listen, and which watch all this from the other side of a search engine. Blogs, podcasts, videoblogging, message boards and all the rest allow organizations to relate to consumers in a more meaningful way. It is definitely not business as usual, but it is definitely business as it should be.

Eric and I are planning a new study on higher education and its use of social media to explore another arena. We will make the findings of that study available here in the spring. I have never enjoyed research so much…..

wikiCalc goes 1.0!

Dan Bricklin’s Software Garden announced the release of wikicalc 1.0. In Dan’s words: “After over a year and a half of work (part-time), I’m finally releasing the wikiCalc web authoring system as a “1.0” product. This means it has a pretty complete set of features for producing the quality output for which it was designed, has been relatively stable for a period of time, and has a reasonable amount of documentation. People who have held off testing or using the product until this point should now start taking a look. This is the code that will be the starting point for the SocialCalc project. You’ll find the new documentation, and a link to the downloads, on the new wikiCalc Product Home Page. This new documentation includes a “Features” page giving an overview of the product, a news page with an RSS feed, an “If you are new to wikiCalc…” page, and more. The documentation on the website is much more extensive than before. There are separate pages with details about setting up “Edit This Page”, “Live Viewing”, and other technical topics. The product Help files are reproduced, too. It is written from the point of view that many users will be setting up remote-access to hosted versions of wikiCalc. I designed it to be localizable into other languages, and reportedly Russian and Polish are far along, with more on the way including German, Italian, and Japanese. (I used Zbigniew Lukasiak’s rather complete Polish translation to test a lot of the localization code and catch bugs.) One person has written code for parsing and searching the edit log audit trail that wikiCalc keeps. As I fire up the Open Source project with the Socialtext people I’ll include places to post and keep track of these things.”

“There are companies in addition to Socialtext considering providing hosted services based upon wikiCalc. One that sprung up on its own is on the iWoorx website. iWoorx adapted the wikiCalc code to create a portal targeted at business users who use spreadsheets and email daily for exchanging simpler spreadsheets. They added more advanced user administration, cool graphing capabilities, and a “test drive” capability. They let users subscribe to some preconfigured collaborative spreadsheet pages designed for coordinating globally sourced consumer products. You can try their “test drives” without signing up. They are meant as an educational tool to introduce regular business people to the “wiki-ness” of wikiCalc in a portal environment. Seeing wikiCalc integrated with animated Flash graphs (in their “Live ChartLinx” test drive) is really cool and is just the type of thing I was hoping to see from others who took advantage of the open nature of wikiCalc. I’m not involved in the iWoorx project and it makes me feel great to see what others are doing all on their own with my creation. With all of the excitement around the experimentation with products and services lumped under the term “Web 2.0” it’s time for a web spreadsheet engine that is open to all around which to innovate. I chose Perl for the implementation because it is accessible to a wide range of programmers with a wide range of abilities and is easy to get running on almost any system. … There are many important features to be added and many people to bring into the project so that it can flourish. I intend to continue devoting a lot of time to this product. Here’s what will happen next: As I wrote back last June, Socialtext is going to integrate wikiCalc functionality into their wiki system and provide hosting and support to those that want it. They are also funding an open source project around the wikiCalc code so that I can move the product forward as part of a community. This wikiCalc 1.0 code will form the base release to start what Socialtext is calling the SocialCalc project. While the Software Garden release of wikiCalc is covered under the GPL 2.0 license, Software Garden is the author of the entire wikiCalc product and owner of the copyright. There have been no “contributions”. This will change with the SocialCalc codebase. That code will be developed much more in the open and will accept contributions from others (subject to my approval for now) who will hold the copyright to their contributions. My development work on new features will be going into SocialCalc, and Socialtext will be providing a lot of developer time, too, so that is where the future action will be. SocialCalc will be released under a Socialtext Public License that, being based on the Mozilla Public License 1.1, may be more appropriate for some companies who have issues with the GPL. (For users that want code covered under the GPL, this wikiCalc version 1.0 will always be available under that license.) There will be more news about SocialCalc at a later time.” http://danbricklin.com/log/2007_01_25.htm#wikicalc1_0

The Right Message for the Small-Medium Business Market

IBM just launched a very interesting suite of enterprise search products. I have yet to try it or examine the specifications but the marketing message is the right one for the small and medium business enterprise buyer. What I like in the message:

  • Pricing ranges from free to reasonable to ? (sky is probably the limit).
  • Deployment is simple, intuitive and clean.
  • IBM knows that simple and easy is the right call for IT but also the way to keep costs down.
  • The solution is scaleable from a departmental solution to the entire business domain on the same basic software platform.

For the short term, I am placing OmniFind on the long list of products to consider for enterprise search. Check out the Web site at:
http://www-306.ibm.com/software/data/enterprise-search/omnifind-enterprise/

How smart is it that IBM and Yahoo have chosen to team in this way? It could be a great strategy.
Disclaimer: This is the first product mention in this very new blog. It won’t be the last; I have a lot of interesting products on my list on which to comment. There will be much backfilling in the next few months but I have to start somewhere. The marketing message resonated; I hope OmniFind users will keep us informed by posting case experiences on whether the product delivers on the promises.

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