Curated for content, computing, and digital experience professionals

Month: July 2008 (Page 1 of 3)

Before You Start a List of Vendors: Map Your Course

There is a pattern in how many small to mid-sized enterprises go about researching technology applications, one that does not serve them well. As I interact with colleagues, business affiliates and professional peers, I play into this behavior unwittingly. For example, how many times have you been on the asking or answering side of this question: “My organization is planning to procure a search system this year, what systems should we be looking at?” Too often, I make a quick judgment based on what little I know about the asker and toss out a few potential candidate vendor names.

This scenario plays out frequently and now I am uncomfortable because, as a consultant and search analyst, I know that there is a lot more I need to know before offering off-handed advice to that question. Here are some ideas for questions that you should be asking first so that, when someone like me wants more context, you have ready answers.

Your first step is to survey your internal landscape and clearly document the following:

  • What are the business outcomes you expect to derive from the search product, who will be using it, under what circumstances and for what purpose?
  • What is the scope of the content that will be indexed for retrieval? Create a content map that explicitly illustrates: What, Where, Who, When. This means capturing what the content is in terms of document types and formats, numbers and size, and topic, and where it is being created, stored and managed. You need to know who created it, owns it, and will have access to it. Finally, it helps to document when it was created and information about retention.
  • Who will be involved in product selection and evaluation, who needs to sign off at every stage of selection and procurement, who will be involved in installation and deployment, and who will maintain the system on an ongoing basis?
  • What is your IT infrastructure and who controls it? If a schematic is not in place that depicts at least the portion of the computing infrastructure that will be integral to your search support, it is time to make sure one is prepared. You cannot make an informed decision about appropriate and workable search solutions without this information.

You will also be wasting the time of vendors when you seek product and licensing information if you do not have all of these issues sorted out. Much of the packaging of search products is dependent on numbers of documents or size of the corpus to be indexed, how the software will be installed, and who and how many will be accessing it. Pricing information will be vague until you have concrete content “demographics” to share with prospective vendors. You can’t even establish a budget without answering the questions above, and you need a ballpark budget figure to help narrow your choices.

So, I am resolving to be more thoughtful in my responses when queried by friends and colleagues. Before answering I will be asking you for some meaningful data in advance of reeling off a list of products. It is time for you to do some preliminary research in-house before establishing the lineup of suitors. More on the next steps, next time up.

Gilbane Boston Speaker Proposal Update

Thank you for all of the emails and phone calls regarding Gilbane Boston 2008 which will take place December 2-4 at the Westin Copley. Our conference team is currently in the process of reviewing all speaker proposals and putting together the conference curriculum. If you have submitted a speaker proposal you will be receiving a notification from us soon, thank you all for your interest in our conference. If you have any further questions you can email us at

New Report: Open Source Web Content Management in Java

Well, actually the report was published by the author, Seth Gottlieb, a few months ago, but it is now available at the Gilbane store. Seth has worked with open source content management systems for years and for this report personally installed all the products he evaluated. Seth has written a really excellent report that is a must-read for anyone considering investing in and open source web content management system, or for anyone inclined to dismiss them out of hand.
Report Description
Open Source Web Content Management in Java provides an in depth analysis of seven of the leading open source Java web content management platforms. Written for technical decision makers, the report breaks down the open source marketplace and describes various categories of open source software and where they are most effectively used. The report also provides a framework for understanding the cost and risk implications of selecting an open source platform over commercial software.
Each 15+ page product evaluation explains the technical architecture and functional capabilities of the platform and provides insight into how the project is organized and the community behind it. There is enough technical detail to provide a foundation for ruling out incompatible technologies and prototyping the likely candidates. There is also useful information for content contributors and site managers to help them understand how the tool would support their responsibilities of today and their vision for tomorrow.
Products Evaluated:

  • Alfresco Enterprise
  • Apache Lenya
  • Daisy CMS
  • Hippo CMS
  • Jahia Enterprise
  • Magnolia Enterprise
  • OpenCms

Buy Open Source Web Content Management in Java, by Seth Gottlieb.
NOTE: This is a downloadable PDF file. Acrobat version 6 or higher required.

New Contributing Analyst – Fal Sarkar

I am happy to announce that Fal Sarkar has joined us as a Contributing Analyst. Some of you may have met Fal when he was the Market Segment Manager for ECM at Sun as we did, or when he was at Xinet before that. Fal is currently based in India with his family where he has been involved in some very interesting work. See Fal’s post from yesterday, and his bio for more details. Fal will be writing and helping us with research on content management (both ECM & WCM) and social media, as well as what is happening in India.
Fal can be reached at:, or at extension 219, which transparently rings through to Fal in Chennai, India or to his voicemail, but please remember the time difference.
Welcome Fal!

From the Department of Inscrutable Data Points

Time magazines’s Josh Quittner offers some insight into Kindle sales:

According to a source at Amazon, “on a title-by-title basis, of the 130,000 titles available on Kindle and in physical form, Kindle sales now make up over 12% of sales for those titles.”

Amazon’s quarterly results didn’t spell things out more, though the inventory of eBook titles continues to grow:

The number of titles available for the Kindle are now up to 140,000 compared to 90,000 at launch, and the company did not break out any other Kindle figures except to say sales of e-books represent a low double digit percentage of the 140,000 titles available in both e-books and print formats.

Taking Measure of Search on Vendor Sites

As I was developing concepts put forth in the report Enterprise Search Markets and Applications – Capitalizing on Emerging Demand I bounced around the Internet a lot to verify information I had previously noted about products listed in the vendor directory. As I did so, evidence began to emerge about the ease with which I could resurrect an earlier retrieved bit of content. It mystified me that vendors of products to aid retrieval of content would make it so difficult to find information on their own web site. One assumption of mine has been completely debunked, that vendors would use their own search product to help site visitors discover more about their products and services. It made me wonder why they would not be showcasing the full flavor of their offerings.

The report was not written to evaluate specific products but rather to give a more holistic view of how the markets for products break down and how products themselves can be categorized. In order to do the latter, it required reading about many products with which I had no hands on experience. I wanted to understand how vendors were positioning their products, what markets they felt their products are most suited to satisfy, and what search problems were best solved with their technologies. Coming up with generalizations, trends, and differentiators was one purpose for my research. When I realized how difficult it was to dig out specifics from many vendor Web sites, I moved on, probably leaving stones unturned but time was not on my side.

Now I am going back to learn more about the problem with researching search, something complained about by a number of buyers I interviewed. Vendors are not making it easy for buyers to narrow their search for search, and shame on them. This should be a “no brainer.” If you are a vendor pushing a product that is easy to install, implement and deploy, there is no better way than to put it to work on your own site. On the other hand, if you have products that are more sophisticated in terms of offering complex retrieval by leveraging refined ontologies or rules, you had better take the time to make it work well for finding nuggets on a few hundred pages of your Web site.

I am going to be writing more about this because the deeper I dig, the more interesting the results. For starters, of the first 28 vendor on my list, twelve have no site search. Of those that do, several use a third-party search engine, not their own. One major vendor’s search result count displayed nearly a hundred records that matched the search while also displaying the breakdown of records by category. The trouble was the category numbers totaled less than 20. Hmmm!

Perhaps the trouble in “searchland” is that no one wants to take the time to implement, deploy and maintain search to satisfy the user. I keep saying, “it’s not the technology; it’s the thought and skill that goes into the back room implementation.” Or is it? Stay tuned.

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