Curated for content, computing, and digital experience professionals

Month: May 2007 (Page 1 of 4)

Don’t Hire Fancy Pants Consultants Like us to Tell You the Obvious

I was talking to someone in the office this morning. I was actually watching tech support change a failed hard drive – that’s how badly I didn’t want to sit down and write a particular document. He told me that I didn’t have to watch him change the hard drive (especially because it wasn’t my laptop). I told him – “I’m procrastinating on writing a client document.” After a few polite questions he asked me what the problem was with the client. I sighed and said the conversational equivalent of: “Senior management is completely disengaged when it comes to setting strategic direction for the web.

So, middle management and the web team are just flailing about in a reactionary way putting up whatever content needs to be had at the moment and fighting with each other about what’s the most important content on the site, and watch technology to use, yadda, yadda, yadda…” He nodded knowingly. Then I realized, this statement could be made for just about all of our clients. Most “web site problems” stem from the rotten root of ambivalent senior management. So in a moment of largesse (and finding a more creative way to procrastinate), I thought I would write this blog entry.

If you’re having Web problems, the first thing to consider (before calling a content management system vendor, a taxonomist, a web design firm, or Web Operations folks like us), is whether or not the CEO, Administrator, President or whoever heads your organization is even thinking about the site – strategically. If they are not, then more than likely any changes that the web team makes to the site will just be “interim” or “quick fixes.” For a lot of organizations, the organization’s public facing web site is the first point of contact for business partners and customers, prospects, and information seekers it deserves serious senior consideration.

I’m not just talking about making sure that the web site looks good either. Good web design – while shockingly rare in some segments of the Web – is not a mystery and good web designers and information architects are easy to locate. I’m talking about establishing performance and quality objectives for web sites – objectives, which support the overall mission, service and/or business objectives of your organization and then holding folks accountable for meeting those objectives – like you don’t get your raise if you don’t get it done. If you establish these basic strategic and governance related principles, you will find that a lot of the other decision related to web design, what types of software needs to be utilized, etc. become a lot easier to answer.

So, get your Web Strategy and Web Governance ducks in a row before you shell out the big bucks for a web site redesign or a new web content management system or fancy pants consultants like us.
But if your still dying to talk to someone anyway or just commiserate with other folks with messed up web sites, we’ll be talking a lot about various strategic and governance issues at the Gilbane conference in Washington DC next week.

Hope to see you there.

The Google Effect on Cross-Language Search

As the Internet continues to redefine ubiquitous, the issue of cross language search becomes more critical. It’s a pervasive challenge with extreme scalability requirements. Hard to imagine, but the Internet will be full by about 2010 according to the American Registry for Internet Numbers. ARIN’s recommendation for IPv6 demonstrates the potential breadth of information overload.

Organizations such as the European-based Cross-Language Evaluation Forum (CLEF) have moved beyond discussion and into in-depth testing on cross-language search for many years. With its “Leaping over Language Barriers” announcement, Google has moved beyond experimentation and toward productization of its cross-language search feature.

  • The Wall Street Journal’s Jessica Vascellaro weighs in here, and includes commentary on rival strategies from Yahoo and Microsoft.
  • Google Blogoscoped weighs in here.
  • Clay Tablet’s Ryan Coleman weighs in here.
  • Global by Design’s John Yunker has a review here.
  • And from Google themselves, here’s the beta UI, the FAQ, and the “unveiling” at the company’s Searchology event held earlier this month.

IMO, any discussion of what the interconnected world “looks like” in the future, whether focused on fill in your label here 2.0, social networking, customer experience, global elearning, etc., (should) eventually drill-down to translation and localization issues. Once we’re at that level of conversation, there’s more challenges to discuss — the ongoing evolution of automated translation, the balance between human and machine translation, the conundrum of rich media and image translation, and as Kaija will always remind us, the quality and context of search results as opposed to merely the quantity.

As a researcher, I’ve used Google’s “translate this” functionality and Yahoo’s Babel Fish (originally AltaVista’s) numerous times to “get the gist” of a non-English article. But my reliance on the results has been more for sanity-checking trends than for factual data gathering. Inconsistencies skew the truth. I just can’t trust it. Can we trust this? Time will tell. Is it a step in the right direction for the masses? No doubt.

SiteKreator Introduces Aurora Site Design Platform

SiteKreator.com, a service which enables small businesses to instantly design and host Web sites, has introduced a customizable design platform, SiteKreator Aurora. Along with Aurora, SiteKreator has restructured its small business packages to help users better match a pricing program that includes the features they need at the price that best suits them. The new Aurora is a completely brandable platform for designing elaborate, interactive, and customizable business-ready Web sites. Aurora offers enhanced capabilities for creating a sophisticated navigation structure that scales from a few pages to a few thousand. SiteKreator has interactive features such as blogs, Web forms, newsletters, and discussion forums. Web site information can be tiered through multiple content layers by adding members-only areas and registration forms to encourage people to share key information in exchange for access to deeper layers of content. All SiteKreator packages include a 14-day free trial. The business version starts from $19.95 to $39.95 per month, including a domain name, email, and global high-performance Web hosting. http://intro.sitekreator.com/

Altova Introduces Version 2007 Release 3 of its XML Development, Data Management, UML Modeling, and Web Services Products

Altova announced general availability of Version 2007 Release 3 (v2007r3) of its software product line. Altova v2007r3 software provides support for the new Microsoft Office 2007 Open XML document format and IBM DB2 9 pureXML databases, as well as other application development and data management capabilities. Altova XMLSpy is an XML editor and development environment for modeling, editing, transforming, and debugging XML-related technologies. New features in XMLSpy 2007r3 include: Extended database functionality, Microsoft Office 2007 Open XML support, Cascading stylesheet (CSS) editor, Enhanced XML Schema and WSDL documentation, and an XSLT 1.0 profiler. AltovaXML is an XML standards processor, comprising the same engines that drive Altova’s XMLSpy, MapForce, and StyleVision development tools. AltovaXML includes Altova’s XML validating parser, XSLT 1.0 engine, schema-aware XSLT 2.0 engine, and schema-aware XQuery 1.0 engine, as well as COM, Java, and .NET interfaces so that it can be used within a variety of different applications. New developments in AltovaXML 2007r3 include: Office Open XML support, and Significant speed increase in the XSLT 1.0 processor. Version 2007 Release 3 of Altova XMLSpy 2007, MapForce 2007, StyleVision 2007, UModel 2007, DatabaseSpy 2007, and SchemaAgent 2007 is currently available with pricing starting at (USD) $499, $249, $249, $129, $129 and $129 respectively. These products may be purchased directly from Altova. 30-day free trials of all Altova products may be downloaded from: http://www.altova.com/download.html

Adobe Announces Availability of Acrobat 3D Version 8

Adobe Systems Incorporated (Nasdaq:ADBE) announced the immediate availability of Adobe Acrobat 3D Version 8 software, a major upgrade to the desktop application for driving document-based 3D design collaboration and CAD data interoperability capabilities to anyone inside manufacturing organizations and across the global supply chain. With Acrobat 3D Version 8, CAD, CAM, CAE, and technical publishing professionals in the aerospace, automotive, consumer electronics, heavy machinery, life sciences, and AEC industries can convert virtually any 3D CAD file, including large assemblies of more than 500 megabytes, into a single PDF document. The PDF file can maintain precise geometry or be compressed over 100 times smaller than the original file. Three-dimensional CAD data can also be combined with other project information, such as product specifications, spreadsheets and bills of materials, into a secure PDF document containing product manufacturing information (PMI). PMI is used to convey geometric dimensioning and tolerancing, annotations and other specifications directly on a 3D model. Acrobat 3D Version 8 supports conversion to 3D PDF from over 40 formats, including those for Autodesk Inventor, Dassault Systemes CATIA, PTC Pro/ENGINEER, SolidWorks, and UGS NX and I-deas. The software also provides users the option of exporting precise manufacturing CAD data from PDF into neutral file formats such as STEP, IGES and Parasolid for downstream processes, including machining operations and tool and mold design. Acrobat 3D Version 8 is immediately available in English, French and German language versions. The Japanese language version is expected to be available in June 2007. Adobe Reader 8.1, which provides updated support for PDF functionality enabled by Acrobat 3D Version 8, is expected to be available for download in June 2007. http://www.adobe.com

Reflecting on BI Shifts and Google Big Moves in the Search Market

Sometimes it pays to be behind in reading industry news. The big news last week was Google’s new patents and plans to enhance search results using metadata and taxonomy embedded in content. This was followed by the news that Business Objects plans to acquire Inxight, a Xerox PARC spin-off that has produced a product line with terrific data visualization tools, highly valued in the business analytics (BI) marketplace.

I had planned to write about the convergence of the enterprise search and BI markets this week until I caught up with industry news from April and early May. This triggered a couple of insights into these more recent announcements.

In April an Information Week article noted that Google has, uncharacteristically, contributed two significant enhancements to MySQL: improved replication procedures across multiple systems and expanded mirroring. Writer Babcock also noted that “Google doesn’t use MySQL in search” but YouTube does. I believe Google will come to be more tied to MySQL as they begin to deploy new search algorithms that take advantage of metadata and taxonomies. These need good text database structures to be managed efficiently and leveraged effectively to produce quality results from search on the scale that Google does it. Up to now Google results presentation has been influenced more by transaction processing than semantic and textual context. Look for more Google enhancements to MySQL to help it effectively manage all that meaningful text. The open source question is will more enhancements be released by Google for all to use? A lot of enterprises would benefit from being able to depend on continual enhancements to MySQL so they could (continue to) use it instead of Oracle or MS-SQL server as the database back-end for text searching.

The other older news (Information Week, May 7th) was that Business Objects was touting “business intelligence for ‘all individuals’” with some new offerings. BO’s acquisition announcement just last week, that they plan to acquire Inxight, only strengthens their position in this market. Inxight has been on the cusp of BI and enterprise search for several years and this portends more convergence of products in these growing markets. Twenty-five years ago when I was selling text software applications, a key differentiator was strong report building tool sets to support “slicing and dicing” database content in any desired format. It sounds like robust, intuitive reporting tools for all enterprise users of content applications is still a dream but much closer to reality for the high-end market.

With all the offerings and consolidation in BI and search, the next moves will surely begin to push some offerings with search/BI to a price point that small-medium businesses (SMBs) can afford. We know that Microsoft sees the opening (Information Week, May 14th) and let’s hope that others do as well.

Adobe Unveils ColdFusion 8 Public Beta

Adobe Systems Incorporated (Nasdaq:ADBE) announced the public beta of Adobe ColdFusion 8 software. ColdFusion 8, designed for developers building dynamic Web sites and Internet applications, addresses day-to-day development challenges to increase developer productivity, integrate with complex enterprise environments, and deliver rich and engaging application experiences for users. The ColdFusion 8 public beta is a feature complete preview. ColdFusion 8 leverages Adobe Flex technology and Ajax-based components. The new ColdFusion 8 development environment also features advanced Eclipse-based wizards and debugging. The ColdFusion 8 Server Monitor lets developers identify bottlenecks and tune the server for better performance. ColdFusion 8 integrates with a broad range of platforms and systems, including integration with .NET assemblies, support for Microsoft Windows Vista and new J2EE servers including JBoss. ColdFusion 8 also delivers significant performance gains over ColdFusion MX 7 and earlier versions of the product. Additionally, ColdFusion 8 applications interact with Adobe PDF documents and forms. The ColdFusion 8 public beta is immediately available at Adobe Labs at http://labs.adobe.com or through Adobe’s hosting partner, http://www.hostmysite.com/cf8

Curl Rich Internet Application Platform Adds Macintosh Support with Public Beta of Curl Run Time Environment

Curl, Inc. announced the availability of the public beta version of the Curl Run Time Environment (RTE) for Macintosh. The Curl RTE, a key component of the Curl Rich Internet Application (RIA) Platform, is the engine that executes Curl applications and displays their user interfaces. The Mac Beta release of the RTE is intended for customers looking to run their Curl Windows and Linux-developed applications on the Macintosh. The Curl RTE is part of the Curl RIA platform that allows developers to implement, complex enterprise Web-based applications. In addition to the RTE, the Curl platform consists of two other main components: the Curl Language, an object-oriented programming language that integrates rich text formatting, GUI layout and presentation scripting; and the Curl Integrated Development Environment, which includes tools for developing and debugging Curl applications and a Visual Layout Editor and numerous code examples. The Mac Beta RTE obeys standard Macintosh user interface conventions and supports the full range of features that are supported by the Curl Windows and Linux RTE products. The Curl RTE can run on Power PC and Intel Macintoshes with operating systems of OS 10.3 and later. The Beta version can execute applications developed for the most recent version of the Curl RIA platform, Version 5.0. The Mac Beta RTE can be downloaded free of charge. http://www.curl.com/

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