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November 25, 2014

The Search Whisperer

A few years ago, Toyota ran an ad in the San Francisco Bay Area featuring the then recently retired Steve Young of 49ers fame. In the advert, he is chatting with a woman at a party and the woman asks, "What do you do for a living Steve?" Rather than answer directly, Young replies with a question: "Do you follow sports? Football?” When the woman answers that she doesn't, Young's (truthful) reply? "I'm a lawyer."

I'm not a lawyer, so when people ask me what I do, I have trouble answering in a precise way. Usually I’ll say “I help companies get the right search platform for their requirements” or "I help companies tune their search platform”. Both are true, but people outside of the narrow field either have no idea what I do, or they think I do SEO for pubic web sites. I also add "I fly small airplanes" and that's usually where the conversation goes. 

It's tough being a "search whisperer", because even people with an enterprise search problem often don't realize that anyone but the vendor can help fix it. Even worse, they don't know that you can avoid problems in the first place by picking a platform that meets the need, then managing it relentlessly. 

Now that the commercial market is down to a handful of players, it may get easier because most of the newer platforms don’t have the rich feature sets that seemed so promising in the old expensive brands. It’s easier to justify a bare bones platform and hope then to buy yet another expensive platform that may or may not work as expected.

Do you have an obsolete platform (FAST ESP, Verity, Vivisimo, Endeca,...) and want to make it work better? Are you going to go with a powerful search API with no real management capabilities? Do you want to future-proof your search? That’s what I do. 

 

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