Conference Notes

Notes from "Enterprise Search, I Know It Was Here Somewhere"

Left to right: Seth, Matt, Aaron, Lee, and Larry

Wednesday of the conference arrives, and I arrive late for breakfast, and thus for the first session moderated by the legendary Larry Cannell from Ford.

There were two speakers that I missed …
– IBM … presented by Aaron Brown, Program Director
– FAST … presented by Lee Phillips, Senior Director, Knowledge Discovery Solutions. Apparently talked about the integration of search into portals.

Matt Eichner, VP of Strategic Development

Key points:
– Users don’t search for the joy of it. They want to find things that help them get their work done.
– When presenting search results, we like to show some additional summary information.
– This is difficult on two-fronts … (a) you don’t know what the user is going to do with the data, and (b) you don’t know what data you will have at the moment the user does the search to help them answer.
– The answer … as per David Weinberger, everything is miscellaneous
– Endeca calls this “guided navigation” … eg, automatically grouping results into “A-E”, “F-J”, etc, or “Under $10”, “$10-$20”.

Content Here
Seth Gottlieb, Principal

Come to the search market from a content management perspective; has been a customer of content management, has been a content management ISV, has worked for a content management vendor. Is now an independent analyst / consultant helping companies get the right content management platform for their needs. See Content Here for more.

Key points:
– Disagrees that companies should have one and only one content management platform for all needs.
– Advocates specialized needs.

1. Is the portal going to be the main aggregator of content, or search?
Aaron (IBM) … Portals promised seamless aggregation, but they became very brittle … it was in a pre-determined layout, there was insufficient content updating, etc. The advantage of driving a screen with multiple nested queries (eg, search constructs), you do get a more dynamic experience.

Seth (Content Here) … The search interface is more compelling for users; it’s like the return to the command line. People know what they want, and they can do so easily.

Matt (Endeca) … See a trend of consumerization of technology; people dealing with lots of information today, have lots of information experience with other tools. Work technology for information management stinks in comparison. It drives vendors to improve their products.

Lee (FAST) … See pull from users with their Google / Yahoo experience on the Internet, and demand a similar level of capability within the enterprise. Their public searches on the Internet are powerfully addressed, but within the enterprise it’s bad.

2. (Alan, large financial services company) Have done a lot with multi-faceted search; but it amazes me that people don’t go beyond the first two pages. When you tend to think of a search, there are various ways of grouping the information … eg, (1) guided navigation, (2) matching with taxonomy, (3) no structure to the navigation at all. How do these three different metaphors work together?

Lee (FAST) … The three aren’t different, they are on a continuum. Depending on the knowledge users role, they will choose one approach and escalate to others. Flexible set of interfaces to go between the three ideas.

Matt (Endeca) … Why should users have to choose? The first two are highly complementary. There doesn’t need to be a distinction. It’s simply a matter of summarizing the information in appropriate ways.

3. What’s it going to cost me to do this? Is there value to my organization?
Aaron (IBM) … What’s the value of the decisions that users are wanting to make? What are the business requirements, and how far do you want to get into it?

Lee (FAST) … Have to look at the business requirements. Some use cases are very simple. Some use cases are very high value.

Seth (Content Here) … There are a lot of ROI studies, and most are based on how long it takes for people to find things. None of the results have been particularly compelling … huge overstatement. Ask users to keep notes about what they’re searching for and not finding.

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