Curated for content, computing, and digital experience professionals

Month: February 2008 (Page 2 of 4)

Taxonomy and Enterprise Search

This blog entry on the “Taxonomy Watch” website prompts me to correct the impression that I believe naysayers who say that taxonomies take too much time and effort to be valuable. Nothing could be further from the truth. I believe in and have always been highly vested in taxonomies because I am convinced that an investment in pre-processing enterprise generated content into meaningfully organized results brings large returns in time savings for a searcher. S/he, otherwise, needs to invest personally in the laborious post-processing activity of sifting and rejecting piles of non-relevant content. Consider that categorizing content well and only once brings benefit repeatedly to all who search an enterprise corpus.

Prime assets of enterprises are people and their knowledge; the resulting captured information can be leveraged as knowledge assets (KA). However, there is a serious problem “herding” KA into a form that results in leveragable knowledge. Bringing content into a focus that is meaningful to a diverse but specialized audience of users, even within a limited company domain is tough because the language of the content is so messy.

So, what does this have to do with taxonomies and enterprise search, and how they factor into leveraging KA? Taxonomies have a role as a device to promote and secure the meaningful retrievability of content when we need it most or fastest, just-in-time retrieval. If no taxonomies exist to pre-collocate and contextualize content for an audience, we will be perpetually stuck in a mode of having to do individual human filtering of excessive search results that come from “keyword” queries. If we don’t begin with taxonomies for helping search engines categorize content, we will certainly never get to the holy grail of semantic search. We need every device we can create and sustain to make information more findable and understandable; we just don’t have time to both filter and read, comprehensively, everything a keyword search throws our way to gain the knowledge we need to do our jobs.

Experts recognize that organizing content with pre-defined terminology (aka controlled vocabularies) that can be easily displayed in an expandable taxonomic structure is a useful aid for a certain type of searcher. The audience for navigated search is one that appreciates the clustering of search results into groups that are easily understood. They find value in being able to move easily from broad concepts to narrower ones. They especially like it when the categories and terminology are a close match to the way they view a domain of content in which they are subject experts. It shows respect for their subject area and gives them a level of trust that those maintaining the repository know what they need.

Taxonomies, when properly employed, serve triple duty. Exposing them to search engines that are capable of categorizing content puts them into play as training data. Setting them up within content management systems provides a control mechanism and validation table for human assigned metadata. Finally, when used in a navigated search environment, they provide a visual map of the content landscape.

U.S. businesses are woefully behind in “getting it;” they need to invest in search and surrounding infrastructure that supports search. Comments from a recent meeting I attended reflected the belief that the rest of the world is far ahead in this respect. As if to highlight this fact, a colleague just forwarded this news item yesterday. “On February 13, 2008, the XBRL-based financial listed company taxonomy formulated by the Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE) was “Acknowledged” by the XBRL International. The acknowledgment information has been released on the official website of the XBRL International (http://www.xbrl.org/FRTaxonomies/)….”.

So, let’s get on with selling the basic business case for taxonomies in the enterprise to insure that the best of our knowledge assets will be truly findable when we need them.

A Sharp Stick in the Eye: Tying $$ to Multilingual Content

Hewlett-Packard has long been a poster child for the application of people, process, and technology to content globalization solutions. The Gilbane case study on HP documented the company’s commitment to satisfying customers in their local langauges. The mandate for multilingual content was made clear by the then-VP of content and product data management: 90% of HP’s customers buy based on content, not on touching the product.
The importance of investment in content globalization solutions was driven home once again with HP’s announcement of quarterly earnings on Feb 19. Overall, the company posted a 38% increase in earnings and a 13% rise in revenue for its fiscal first quarter. Of note to our readers:

In its first quarter, H-P’s results were fueled by strong sales in its personal-computer division and robust sales overseas, particularly in markets such as Brazil, Russia, India and China. International markets accounted for 69% of H-P’s revenue for the quarter.

Put these results together with customer buying patterns.

  • 69% of the company’s revenues were in markets outside the US.
  • 90% of customers buy based content, not on touching the product.

Can there be any more compelling reason to develop a multilingual content strategy? And invest in people, process, and technology to execute against it?

Oprah and eBooks

eBook followers will remember that Oprah endorsed eBooks early on, even choosing one of the early eBook readers as one of her Favorite Things. Now she has caused a bitstorm around an eBook version of Suze Orman’s book Women and Money.
The Oprah touch doesn’t just work for traditional books. More than 1 million copies of Suze Orman’s “Women & Money” were downloaded after the announcement last week on Winfrey’s television show that the e-book edition would be available for free on her Web site, , for a period of 33 hours.
“I believe `Women & Money’ is the most important book I’ve ever written,” Orman said in a statement released Saturday by Winfrey. “So this was not about getting people to buy the book, but getting them to read it, and that was the intention behind this offer.”
The download offer “has built excitement for Suze’s book across all formats,” Julie Grau, the book’s publisher, said in a statement.

RIXML

If you follow XML in the financial services arena, you undoubtedly know about XBRL, the emerging standard for financial data reporting that is really taking hold at the SEC and the regulatory agencies of EU countries. But a lesser known but equally intriguing standard is RIXML, the Research Information Exchange Markup Language. RIXML.org is a consortium of buy-side and sell-side research firms, and vendors, that is defining an XML-based standard for categorizing, tagging and distributing global investment research.

Like XBRL, RIXML has great potential to enhance how financial analysts work with financial content. With rich, XML-encoded financial information, you can imagine analysts finding ways to better filter information, to develop powerful queries and reports, and to commingle research content from various sources. I was talking to colleague Geoff Bock about this, and we both know financial analysts who do all this now, but do it with Excel. They are the ultimate Excel power users, and they consume and model vast amounts of financial information. And they typically do this under tremendous time pressure.

XBRL clearly has traction–9,540,000 Google hits, lots of vendor support, and a roadmap to mandatory SEC adoption (warning, big PDF file!). RIXML is a more nascent effort–9,740 Google hits–but its potential impact is significant. Financial reporting and research data already has an important lifecycle. We see it in the markets every day, though most of us only from a distance. XML has the potential to make this lifecycle much more efficient, much more content-rich, and much less dependent on the manual efforts of those frazzled financial analysts. Instead of 16-hour days during earnings season, maybe they can work, heck, 14-hour days! (Actually, their managers will likely just give them a few more companies to cover…)

By the way, an obvious question to ask about RIXML is how it might integrate with XBRL. This too is nascent, though the two organizations have signed a very general memorandum of understanding. You can also find a related presentation here (PDF again).

UPDATE: The SEC has launched a new website, Financial Explorer, that enables users to generate custom data from the underlying XBRL-encoded reports.

Take Our Survey on Enterprise Digital Rights Management

Are you investigating technology for protecting your company’s high-value documents and other intellectual property? Is better content security on your company’s plate for 2008? Need to know the current state-of-the-art regarding enterprise rights management?
Gilbane Group is conducting a survey of companies that are investigating, adopting, and using rights management solutions for high-value enterprise content (contracts, HR policies, product strategies, regulatory compliance certifications, and so on). The results will be included in our upcoming study on Enterprise Rights Management: Business Imperatives and Implementation Readiness.
We are seeking input from IT, content management, and IT security professionals across multiple industries (excluding consumer media companies, which are outside the scope of this study). Some familiarity with enterprise rights management (ERM) or information rights management (IRM) is necessary (i.e., respondents need to have at least heard of the term).
The survey is online and takes about fifteen minutes to complete. In exchange for participation, qualified respondents will receive the aggregated survey results and the executive summary of the analysis. Respondents who fill out the survey in full and provide a valid email business address are also entered into a random drawing for a free one-hour phone consultation with the Gilbane ERM analyst team. Take the survey now. Contact us if you have any questions about the research or qualifications to take the survey.

Search Engines Under the Hood

This week’s thoughts come from the pile of serendipitous reading that routinely piles up on my desk. In this case a short article in Information Week caught my eye because it featured the husband of a former neighbor, Ken Krugler, co-founder of Krugle. I’d set it aside because a fellow, David Eddy, in my knowledge management forum group keeps telling us that we need tools to facilitate searching for old but still useful source code. In order to do it, he believes, we need an investment in semantic search tools that normalize the voluminous language variants scattered throughout source code. That would enable programmers to find code that could be re-purposed in new applications.

Now, I have taken the position that source code is just one set of intellectual property (IP) asset that is wasted, abandoned and warehoused for technology archaeologists of centuries hence. I just don’t see a solid business case being made to develop search tools that will become a semantic search engine for proprietary treasure troves of code.

Enters old acquaintance Ken Krugler with what seems to be, at first glance, a Web search system that might be helpful for finding useful code out on the Web, including open source. I have finally visited his Web site and I see language and new offerings that intrigue me. “Krugle Enterprise is a valuable tool for anyone involved in software development. Krugle makes software development assets easily accessible and increases the value of a company’s code base. By providing a normalized view into these assets, wherever they may be stored, Krugle delivers value to stakeholders throughout the enterprise.” They could be onto something big. This is a kind of enterprise search I haven’t really had time to think about but may-be I will now.
One thing leading to another, I checked out Ken Krugler’s blog and saw an earlier posting: Is Writing Your Own Search Engine Hard? This is recommended reading for anyone who even dabbles in enterprise search technology but doesn’t want to get her/his hands dirty with the mechanics. It is short, to-the-point and summarizes how and why so many variations of search are battling it out in the marketplace.

I don’t want end-users to struggle too much with the under the hood details but when you are thinking about enterprise search for your organization, it is worth considering how much technology you are getting for the value you want it to deliver, year after year, as your mountains of IP content accrue. Don’t give this idea short shrift because search is an investment that keeps giving if it is chosen appropriately for the problem you need to solve.

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