My blog has been silent for several weeks as I wrapped up a study of the enterprise search marketplace. More information about the report will be forthcoming in the next week or so. In the meantime, the conference season is upon us with the Gilbane San Francisco Conference being held June 18 – 20th. It is a feast for those in the market to buy or just become more familiar with the huge number of options. In my recent research on the marketplace I interviewed a number of people who had recently made a procurement of a search product. To a person there was significant pain expressed about how much time had been spent examining and rejecting options. With well over 100 search and “beyond search” products that are now commercially viable on the market, you need to find ways to winnow your choices efficiently. There is no better way to do this than to acquire publications that give you comprehensive information concentrated in one place PLUS going to conferences to:
a) To meet vendors and assess the type of business relationship you are likely to experience with them
b) Meet other users or potential users of the various technologies to learn, first hand, what their experiences have been buying and using search software
Attending conference sessions where case studies are being given by those deploying or using software is important, but discussions on the side can also be valuable. People who show up at our Gilbane Conferences are a sharing crowd and are easy to network with. As the track chairman for all the enterprise search sessions in San Francisco, I plan to hold at least one and maybe two roundtable discussions, open to anyone who wants to participate in a free flow of ideas about enterprise search. This will likely be in the location of the lunch venue – so we can pick at our food and each others’ brains, simultaneously.
Over the next couple of weeks, I plan to showcase the themes for our search sessions in San Francisco, beginning with the Search Keynote. Last year in Boston we had a panel discussion of search executives and analysts; that was a great discussion. This June I am going to thrust Steve Arnold, author of our new publication Beyond Search, into our spotlight with a series of questions about the marketplace to discover things that he thinks buyers should be focused on over the next six months plus soliciting some thoughts on selecting appropriate technologies. He will surely add commentary on the changing vendor landscape and what it means. Once I have had a go at questioning him, the audience will have a chance to seek his guidance. This is a “not to be missed” session so please put it on your calendar – it will not be recorded.
To warm you up to Mr. Arnold’s style and range of thoughts on the subject, check out this recent interview he gave to Jess Bratcher of Bratcher & Associates.
We are getting ready for the third in which “search” has been a significant part of the presentation landscape in San Francisco, June 17 – 20th.Six sessions will be filled with case studies and enlightening “how-to-do-it-better” guidance from search experts with significant “hands-on” experience in the field. I will be conducting a workshop, immediately after the conference, . Presentations by speakers and the workshop will focus on users’ experiences and guidance for evaluating, buying and implementing search. Viewing search from a usage perspective begs a different set of classification criteria for divvying up the products.
In February, Business Trends published an interview I gave them in December, Revving up Search Engines in the Enterprise. There probably isn’t much new in it for those who routinely follow this topic but if you are trying to find ways to explain what it is, why and how to get started, you might find some ideas for opening the discussion with others in your business setting. The intended audience is those who don’t normally wallow in search jargon. This interview pretty much covers the what, why, who, and when to jump into procuring search tools for the enterprise.
For my report, I have been very pleased with discussions I’ve had with a couple dozen people immersed in evaluating and implementing search for their organizations. Hearing them describe their experiences guides other ways to organize a potpourri of search products and how buyers should approach their selection. With over eighty products we have a challenge in how to parse the domain. I am segmenting the market space into multiple dimensions from the content type being targeted by “search” to the packaging models the vendors offer. When laying out a simple “ontology” of concepts surrounding the search product domain, I hope to clarify why there are so many ways of grouping the tools and products being offered. If vendors read the report to decide which buckets they belong in for marketing and buyers are able to sort out the type of product they need, the report will have achieved one positive outcome. In the meantime, read on the whole topic of enterprise tacked onto any group of products.
As serendipity would have it, a colleague from Boston KM Forum, Marc Solomon, just wrote a blog on a new way of thinking of the business of classifying anything, “Word Algebra.” And guess who gave him the inspiration, Mr. Search himself, Steve Arnold. As a former indexer and taxonomist I appreciate this positioning of applied classification. Thinking about why we search gives us a good idea for how to parse content for consumption. Our parameters for search selection must be driven by that WHY?
Recent studies describe the negative effect of media including video, television and on-line content on attention spans and even comprehension.suggests that the piling on of content accrued from multiple sources throughout our work and leisure hours has saturated us to the point of making us information filterers more than information “comprehenders”. Hold that thought while I present a second one.
Last week’s blog entry reflected on intellectual property (IP) and knowledge assets and the value of taxonomies as aids to organizing and finding these valued resources. The idea of making search engines better or more precise in finding relevant content is edging into our enterprises through semantic technologies. These are search tools that are better at finding concepts, synonymous terms, and similar or related topics when we execute a search. You’ll find an in depth discussion of some of these in the forthcoming publication, by Steve Arnold. However, semantic search requires more sophisticated concept maps than taxonomy. It requires ontology, rich representations of a web of concepts complete with all types of term relationships.
My first comment about a trend toward just browsing and filtering content for relevance to our work, and the second one about the idea of assembling semantically relevant content for better search precision are two sides of a business problem that hundreds of entrepreneurs are grappling with, semantic technologies.
Two weeks ago, I helped to moderate a meeting on the subject, entitledWhile the assumed audience was to be a broad business group of VCs, financiers, legal and business management professionals, it turned out to have a lot of technology types. They had some pretty heavy questions and comments about how search engines handle inference and its methods for extracting meaning from content. Semantic search engines need to understand both the query and the target content to retrieve contextually relevant content.
Keynote speakers and some of the panelists introduced the concept of ontologies as being an essential backbone to semantic search. From that came a lot of discussion about how and where these ontologies originate, how and who vets them for authoritativeness, and how their development in under-funded subject areas will occur. There were no clear answers.
Here I want to give a quick definition for ontology. It is a concept map of terminology which, when richly populated, reflects all the possible semantic relationships that might be inferred from different ways that terms are assembled in human language. A subject specific ontology is more easily understood in a graphical representation. Ontologies also help to inform semantic search engines by contributing to an automated deconstruction of a query (making sense out of what the searcher wants to know) and automated deconstruction of the content to be indexed and searched. Good semantic search, therefore, depends on excellent ontologies.
To see a very simple example of an ontology related to “roadway”, check out this image. Keep in mind that before you aspire to implementing a semantic search engine in your enterprise, you want to be sure that there is a trusted ontology somewhere in the mix of tools to help the search engine retrieve results relevant to your unique audience.