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6 posts from May 2011

May 31, 2011

It's not Google unless it says it's Google

A few years back, one of our customers told us that, if he could just license the 'Powered by Google' icon, he was sure most of the users would stop complaining. Not long after that, we heard that our friend Andy Feit, who was VP of search at Verity, hired a marketing research team to compare the quality of search engines when one was "Powered by Verity" and the other was 'Powered by Google'. Andy found that people thought the Google results were significantly better - even though both test cases were, in fact, powered by Verity. The mere presence of the Google icon seemed to make people think the results were better.

At the recent ESS, a woman from Booz & Company talked about their previous enterprise search experience involving Google. A few years back, Booz used FAST ESP on SharePoint 2003 and it simply sucked. Users asked for Google by name. When they upgraded to SharePoint 2007, Booz gave the users what they wanted: they went with a Google Search Appliance. The trouble was that they built a custom interface with a generic search button. Users' responses? "Search still sucks - why don't we just use Google?" even as they were using Google!

This can teach us a number of lessons:

1. Analyze what you need search to do for you before you buy it.

2. Understand how your content and search platform play together.

3, It ain't Google unless you tell your users it's Google.

By the way: in 2010 Booz rolled out FAST Search for SharePoint, and it seems that the results are a bit better now that they understand their search requirements and the nature of their content and metadata.

 

 

May 27, 2011

An example of poor 'related' results

Kudos to LinkedIn for their successful IPO a little more than a week ago. They stroke me as a social media site that has a model that Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard could get behind: charge your customers for a quality product or service. They've enhanced their revenue stream with advertisements; but people do pay to subscribe to premium services. It will be interesting to see how that part of the stream grows over time.

LinkedIN_NIE_Related Today i was reviewing our company profile, and I was surprised to hear that we were mentioned in Bloomberg, Fox Business, and redOrbit. I decided I better see what they said about us, although i really didn't we were going to be mentioned as a takeover target. Much to my disappointment, we were not mentioned in any of the articles. As far as i can tell, the only thing these three sites had in common with our name was - the word 'new'.

I've not had a chance to dig in to verify this is the criteria they use: but it seems silly to decide that a match on a single term in a company name showing up on Bloomberg means that the result is relevant. If so, we should have called our company "The New Idea Engineering".

I'd really hope that a company with such reach and so many smart people (and search gods!) could figure out how to make search work. What do you think?

/s/Miles

 

 

May 21, 2011

Google and the official search blog

A couple of days ago, Google started Inside Search, the 'official Google search blog'. It's not really enterprise search news, but because so many knowledge workers compare the behavior of their internal search platform with the Google public search experience, it may be worth monitoring for those whose job it is to keep enterprise search going.

 

May 19, 2011

Content owners don't care about metadata

Or do they?

Our recent post about Booz & Company's 'men named Sarah' highlights just how important good metadata can be in order to provide a great search experience for employees and customers.

One of our customers who spoke at the recent ESS 2011 in New York provided some great insights into the problems organizations have getting employee content creators to include good metadata with their documents.

During the ESS talk, they report that content owners don't really seem motivated when asked to help improve the overall intranet site by improving document metadata. However - and this is a big one - when a sub-site owner sees poor results on their own site, they are willing to invest the time to provide really good metadata.

[A bit of background: This customer provides a way to individual site owners within the organization to add search to their 'sub site' pretty much automatically - sort of a 'search as a service' within the enterprise.]

So if you've been thinking of adding the ability to search-enable sub-sites within your organization, but solving the relevance problem is your first task, you might reconsider your priorities!

/s/Miles

May 16, 2011

Sixty guys named Sarah

We're always on the lookout for anecdotes to use at trade shows, with our customers and prospects, and of course here in the blog, so I have to report that we heard a great one last week at Enterprise Search Summit in New York.

The folks from Booz & Company, a spinoff from Booz Allen Hamilton, did a presentation on their experience comparing two well respected mainstream search products. They report that, at one point, one of the presenters was looking for a woman she knew named Sarah - but she was having trouble remembering Sarah's last name. The presenter told of searching one of the engines under evaluation and finding that most of the top 60 people returned from the search were... men. None were named 'Sue'; and apparently none were named Sarah either. The other engine returned records for a number of women named Sarah; and, as it turns out, for a few men as well.

After some frustration, they finally got to the root of the problem. It turns out that all of the Booz & Company employees have their resumes indexed as part of their profiles. Would you like to guess the name of the person who authored the original resume template? Yep - Sarah.

One of the search platforms ranks document metadata very high, without much ability to tune the weighting algorithms. The other provides a way to tune the relevance; but it also tends to rank people relevance a bit differently - probably stressing documents about people less than the individual people profiles. The presentation was a bit vague about whether any actual tuning that might impact these differences on either platform.

The fact that one of the engines did well, and one did not, is not the big story here - although it is something for you to consider if you're evaluating enterprise search platforms. The real lesson here is that poor metadata makes even the best of search platforms perform poorly in some - if not most - cases.

 

May 05, 2011

FAST for SharePoint Seminar in NY During ESS

Our friends over at Arcovis are hosting a talk "Automating the Top 5 FAST Search for SharePoint Customizations" Wednesday evening, May 11.. Brent Groom, a Senior Engineer at Microsoft with deep experience in enterprise search, is doing the presentation.

The registration site seems to be down right now, but the link to register is http://events.linkedin.com/events/521196/clickthru. You can find information on the seminar/webinar on LinkedIn as well.

You can also attend in person. The session will be held at the Microsoft offices:

Microsoft Corporation
1290 Avenue Of The Americas
New York, NY 10104 US

if you're in New York for the Enterprise Search Summit, and you are in town Wednesday evening, this is only a few blocks form the hotel; show up in person!