Month: May 2012

Documents are dead – or not

Last night I somehow stumbled on a link to the March 19, 1998 issue of David Weinberger’s JOHO (Journal of the Hyperlinked Organization), where David posits The Death of Documents and the End of Doneness – because of the Web of course – and I disagree that documents are dead. David and I are old friends and I am sure we each had more to say to each other on this topic, but I can’t remember if he ever accepted my corrections to his obviously misguided position, whether he just decided to spare me the embarrassment of pointing out gaping inconsistencies in my argument and gloat privately, or whether we figured out a weaselly way to agree. I have a vague memory of the latter – perhaps in an AIIM publication?

In any case, I was gratified to find that I still agree with my 1998-self, and will check with David to see whether he is the same self he was. You can reach your own conclusions and also have a fun read (if you don’t know him, David is very funny) at http://www.hyperorg.com/backissues/joho-march19-98.html.

Update:
See David’s response at http://www.hyperorg.com/blogger/2012/05/22/documents-dead-or-grizzled-survivors/

David:
Aha! We now agree and in a non-squirrely way. You didn’t have to say you were wrong, now I am going to have to admit the same when it’s my turn. :( …Besides, you were only a little wrong…

W3C Launches Linked Data Platform Working Group

W3C launched the new Linked Data Platform (LDP) Working Group to promote the use of linked data on the Web. Per its charter, the group will explain how to use a core set of services and technologies to build powerful applications capable of integrating public data, secured enterprise data, and personal data. The platform will be based on proven Web technologies including HTTP for transport, and RDF and other Semantic Web standards for data integration and reuse. The group will produce supporting materials, such as a description of uses cases, a list of requirements, and a test suite and/or validation tools to help ensure interoperability and correct implementation.

A rarity these days – an announcement that used ‘data’ instead of ‘big data’! And the co-chairs are even from IBM and EMC.

Search Engines; They’ve Been Around Longer Than You Think

It dates me, as well as search technology, to acknowledge that an article in Information Week by Ken North containing Medlars and Twitter in the title would be meaningful. Discussing search requires context, especially when trying to convince IT folks that special expertise is required to do search really well in the enterprise, and it is not something acquired in computer science courses.

Evolution of search systems from the print indexes of the early 1900s such as Index Medicus (National Library of Medicine’s index to medical literature) and Chemical Abstracts to the advent of the online Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System (Medlars) in the 1960s was slow. However, the phases of search technology evolution since the launch of Medlars has hardly been warp speed. This article is highly recommended because it gives historical context to automated search while defining application and technology changes over the past 50 years. The comparison between Medlars and Twitter, as search platforms is fascinating, something that would never have occurred to me to explore.

A key point of the article is the difference between a system of search designed for archival content with deeply hierarchical categorization for a specialized corpus versus a system of highly transient, terse and topically generalized content. Last month I commented on the need to have search present in your normal work applications and this article underscores an enormous range of purpose for search. Information of a short temporal nature and scholarly research each have a place in the enterprise but it would be a stretch to think of searching for both types via a single search interface. Wanting to know what a colleague is observing or learning at a conference is very different than researching the effects of a uranium exposure on the human anatomy.

What have not changed much in the world of applied search technology are the reasons we need to find information and how it becomes accessible. The type of search done in Twitter or on LinkedIn today is for information that we used to pick up from a colleague (in person or on the phone) or in industry daily or weekly news publications. That’s how we found the name of an expert, learned the latest technologies being rolled out at a conference or got breaking news on a new space material being tested. What has changed is the method of retrieval but not by a lot, and the relative efficiency may not be that great. Today, we depend on a lot of pre-processing of information by our friends and professional colleagues to park information where we can pick it up on the spur of the moment – easy for us but someone still spends the time to put it out there where we can grab it.

On the other end of the spectrum is that rich research content that still needs to be codified and revealed to search engines with appropriate terminology so we can pursue in-depth searching to get precisely relevant and comprehensive results. Technology tools are much better at assisting us with content enhancement to get us the right and complete results, but humans still write the rules of indexing and curate the vocabularies needed for classification.

Fifty years is a long time and we are still trying to improve enterprise search. It only takes more human work to make it work better.

First group of Gilbane sponsors posted for Boston conference

Conference planning is starting to ramp up. See our first group of Gilbane sponsors, and don’t forget the call for papers!

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