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3 posts from January 2010

January 27, 2010

A new acquisition?

I don't like talking about rumors: they are often wrong to start with, and the deals are as delicate as eggshells until the deal is complete. And when you predict one, you look silly when you are wrong.

Given all that let me be as vague as I can...:)

Key folks at two different companies we work with have told me in the last few days that a well known search company is going to be acquiring a smaller consulting firm with deep connections in the US federal government market. The holdup seems to be with the legal team at another search company which the  consulting firm represents: apparently the second search company isn't wild about a major competitor being part of its partner program.

The funny part is that the company rumored to be the acquiring company may be more interested in the sales channel the consulting firm has, rather than its broad expert consulting group or its interesting new product line.

Stay tuned. When (if?) it breaks, all will become clear. And if it drops through, you'll hear it here. I promise.

s/Miles

(Just in case you're wondering, none of these parties is New Idea Engineering...)

January 22, 2010

To Search

There is no time like the New Year to rethink everything and take a step back in an attempt to see the proverbial forest from the trees. Often this comes to me in the form of wondering where the words we use come from.

The verb "search" comes through the Old French circare, meaning to "go about, wander, traverse," from the Latin circus or circle - A very fitting description indeed. The term comes to be known in the early fourteenth century and would exactly describe the process of looking for something or someone. An individual actually had to go about and wander around looking for what they sought.

Contrast this with the expectations placed on search engines today. Users expect the engine to know immediately upon asking, often using a query of less than two words, where the exact piece of content is they are looking for.  If it does require a bit of wandering or traversing it seems to immediately frustrate the user. The desire is that the document most relevant to them is returned in the top results every time. Very little wandering or going about is expected by the user.

In reality the user is not performing a search but instructing the search engine to do so - yet we say "I am going to search for X." We query but the engine does all the "going about, wandering and traversing." This usage is very telling - the engine and the process of its searching has become an extension of the user. The expectation is that the engine, being a natural extension of themselves, knows their every desire and what they consider important.

In light of this should we should not be surprised at user's constant complaints regarding their search experience. Yet the industry seems to keep churning out more and more algorithms that focus on natural language processing, semantic search and other content focused approaches. Vendors seem to neglect and purchasers of enterprise engines keep pushing back deploying any sort of relevance methods that actually focus on understanding the user and fall for the newest vendor jargon year after year.

In this coming year I do not doubt we will see some very interesting technologies brought to market. They will undoubtedly allow us to find experts, tag results, star them and move them around, share them and socialize them - but will they seek to understand what is relevant to an individual searcher? Search profiles on a individual level do exist in some engines but usually remain fixed and static - ignoring context and behavior altogether.

I am putting in an early request - all I want for Christmas is my enterprise search engine to pay attention to me this year.

January 20, 2010

Google I/I Open for registration!

Google has announced its Google I/O 2010 to be held in San Francisco May 19-20 at the Moscone Center.

I think this is their third such annual event, and it's always been a full two days of information. The good news is the price is $400 per person (until April 15), a bargain really. The bad news? You'll need to bring four or five people from your company to hit all of the sessions in each track!

This conference is VERY technical, VERY good. You get the most from it if you are a developer, you know Java, Ajax, Python, or the other technologies Google uses in its various products. You won't find much in the way of marketing fluff here: in our experience, most presenters are Google developers.

The conference is being held the same week that Gilbane content management conference comes back to San Francisco. Bad timing for them, but good for you: you can probably walk to the nearby Westin at lunch and maybe catch the exhibits.

Last year, attendees received a free phone for development purposes on the Android OpSys; who knows what they might give away this year - besides the expected cool T-shirt!

Register at https://code.google.com/events/io/2010/.