Search as an Application

Challenges of Search

I just returned from a conference in Rome where I presented a session on search. The basic premise is this: Search is not a utility. Search is an application. Search needs to be thought through and integrated into the process that it is meant to support.This does not mean that there is no place for basic search – the plug and play utility model that tools like Google Search Appliance leverage. In that case, search provides a valuable function in helping people access large stores of unorganized content.As much Google bashing as I do, I am a frequent user of Google Desktop. Hypocritical? I don’t think so. GSA is appropriate for what I use it for – searching through email messages and my hard drive for certain types of information. Sometimes I find what I am looking for and sometimes I don’t. But this is because of the relative effort I place on organizing my content versus the time it takes to do so. It’s easier for me to search as I do and risk not finding something than it is for me to organize all of my email. On the other hand, I have a more structured method for the information that I place higher value on – proposals, SOW’s, client project documents and conference presentations.

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Technology before requirements

I have been presenting at several conferences in the past couple of weeks (10 sessions in two weeks) and I am still getting the same situation over and over again. I had an attendee in a workshop on a content management maturity model say: “I am not sure where to start. It feels like this is so overwhelming. Can’t we buy the tool first? That’s what my boss wants me to do.”

I can understand why this is a first reaction to the complexity of content management. There are so many issues and factors to consider. From business problems to content architecture, existing systems that require migration and integration, user needs and scenarios, meta-data standards, taxonomy development, work-flow processes, governance, change management and so on. The first time you are going through this, it is overwhelming.

But choosing a tool before understanding exactly what you need can create at least three major problems:

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The Myth of “Unified Information Systems”

I was just listening to a web cast of IDC’s called “Enterprise Search 360: A Company-Wide Case Study with National Instruments and IDC”. This was commercial for search vendor FAST Search and Transfer, but one of the best kinds of commercials – one by an enthusiastic customer. The web cast shoud be available here. Julie Schlembach, Search Program Manager, National Instruments did a terrific job of explaining what they have accomplished with search and content management. I really liked her style and the detail of her slides.

That said, I disagree with the basic premise that “Unified Information Systems” are the “Next Big Thing”. Or that search tools are the silver bullet that will allow for “a single point of access to multiple points of information”. “Unified information platforms could disrupt the business intelligence market by extending user access to far more information than previously achieved by search”, claims Sue Feldman, analyst for IDC. Continue reading

Term Hijacking – My ontology is better than your ontology…

I thought I’d point out this summary of a series of posts from the Taxonomy Community of Practice summarized by one our our consultants, Stephanie Lemieux, on the Taxonomy Wiki. In case you missed it, here is an excerpt:

“An interesting offshoot of the traditional terminology debate (what is a taxonomy/thesaurus/ontology – insert term here) occurred on the discussion board this week regarding vendors and how they use – or abuse – domain terminology in their product marketing. Many members had funny anecdotes of head-scratching moments with vendors:” In the discussion we hear from Bob Bater, Kelly Green, Christine Connors and Marcia Morante. Read the rest of the summary