92 posts categorized "Business"

December 12, 2011

New Phrase for determining Sentiment Analysis / Customer Interest

If you lookup:

fedex "Package not due for delivery"

which is one of the status messages you can get when tracking a package, you'll see a lot of postings asking about it.

FYI: It means your new toy has arrived in the city you live in, but will NOT be delivered today, because they didn't promise to get it to you until tomorrow.  Whether this is to force customers into paying for express service, or simply a logistics issue, or a mix of the two, depends on your view of companies and I won't get into that here.

However, you'll notice a lot of the postings asking about it are from folks waiting for delivery of things they're very excited to get, often some big-ticket peice of shiny electronics.  They're dying for Fedex to deliver it - they're so anxious and upset about the delay that they motivated enough to go online and search, and make ranting posts - all because their "toy" is delayed.

So we have particular emotional response, often about an upscale product, with a reasonably distinct search phrase - cool!

Yes, yes, of course you could say that the customers are mad about the percieved injustice of it, the Occupy Wall Street spin, or that sometimes the package could be really important for other reasons, which are certainly valid points.  I'm not taking sides or passing judgement - and I found discovered this today looking for a friend's overdue toy - that's not the point.  I'm just saying that I bet there's a good statistical correlation, and of course it wouldn't apply 100% of the time - which would actually be quite rare in such things.

July 12, 2011

Inopportune time for a page not found: Microsoft

There has been an active discussion on the LinkedIn Enterprise Search Professionals Group since the news last week that Microsoft has laid off a number of sales and system engineering folks, at least in North America. Many are wondering if this marks the end of the FAST products, or whether Microsoft is writing off their $1.2B investment to acquire FAST a few years back.

I think the answer to both of these is 'no way'. Much of the FAST technology found its way into FAST Search for SharePoint, a hybrid between Microsoft search and FAST ESP. Microsoft have released two exciting new capabilities in FSIS (CTS and IMS), and they continue to run the Microsoft Research Center in Norway, where many of the FAST engineers are active participants.

All of that said, this morning I was surfing the interweb for some Microsoft proficiency tests, so I went to Google and searched

microsoft enterprise search proficiency

The first organic result looked promising:

But when I click on the link, I got this on my browser:

Not_found Oops!

Now we've all had bad links on our web sites, and even occasional outages - but given the concern some people have about the layoffs of FAST sales reps, this is a bit of an inopportune time, yes?

All of my browsers produced the error, and using the old telnet trick to port 80 or the WGET utility showed the page really did exist with no obvious re-directs or errors. So I drafted our CTO Mark Bennett to help, and after some analysis, he found the problem - in the scripts on the page: bad scripting is the culprit.

Yep - with apologies to the Buggles, JavaScript killed the Microsoft page. Disabling scripts in the browser lets the link work just fine. It just shows you that, even with all the resources in the world, lack of attention to detail will get you!

I'll be in LA at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference tomorrow; it should be interesting!




June 07, 2011

Start-up fever?

If you've ever been curious about starting a business, our friend Sean Murphy over at SKMurphy is holding a free web event you may want to attend. Sean, who runs the popular Bootstrapper's Breakfast groups that meet at cities around the country, is hosting a call in discussion of the first chapter of Barry Moltz's book 'You Need to Be a Little Crazy" on Wednesday June 8 2011.

Participating in the call along with Sean are serial entrepreneurs Dorai Thodla of iMorph.com, Massimo Paolini of MPThree Consulting. I've been invited to participate as well, having co-founded both SearchButtin.com and New Idea Engineering; but it is Sean, Dorai, and Massimo you'll want to hear.

If you've ever wondered what it takes to start a company, this call is for you.


Time: 3PM EDT; Noon PST (2000GST)

Registration link is:


Use 'NewIdea' as your discount code to get in at no cost

Just remember, as Wally found out from Dilbert in 1991- 'the company stops paying you if you quit' to become an entrepreneur!





April 05, 2011

LinkedIn off the air?

The problem with growth is to keep up with peak demand without going off the air. LinkedIn, which has recently been making noises about an IPO, seems to have been 'off the air' this morning for five to ten minutes.


Since I help manage a few groups there, I was there to check requests, messages and such; so i guess I'll have to go back later.

Mark Bennett, who co-founded New Idea Engineering with me 15 or so years back, calls LinkedIn the 'grown-up' Facebook'; I had to smile when i consider the massive increase in universal angst if Facebook were to disappear for a few minutes. OMG! NO!

Now the question is this: do you have systems in place to monitor that status of your enterprise search platform, so you are sure it's up and running and returning accurate results?

Fear not: LinkedIn is back again. And with the right plan, your search would be too.


March 21, 2011

Time After Time - Zero Search Results for AD CAMPAIGNS and Model Numbers

Print Ads -> Website -> Zero Results

I see a print advertisement for something and go to the company's web site.  No sign of their advertised product.  Do a search, zero results.  Oh, and no suggestion about who I might email, both for pruduct info, nor for reporting site problems.

So, how much did that color print ad cost to run?  And how response rates you say?  I wonder how the next staff meeting goes.  "Clearly the problem is with the print ad's font", or hey "maybe we just need to rename the product!?"

I've also seen this when a product gets a short writeup in the "what's new" section of an industry magazine.  Granted, a new product might take a little while to thread into the website, but print publications have a lead time as well.

Product -> Model Number -> Website -> Zero Results

Same thing for products. I'm holding a physical product in my hand, with a model number silk-screened onto the plastic.  Go to that company's site, type it in, verbatim, zero results.  In this case I feel sorry for them, maybe an issue with punctuation, so I'll try without dashes, maybe no spaces, try leaving off the end of the model number and put an asterisk.  No results.

Causes and Solutions?

I've changed my mind on this over the years.

In both of these problems, when I used to dig deeper, or manage to engage a human, there'd be some "logical" explanation, "oh, that's the worldwide site, this was on the US site", or "consumer vs. corporate", or "oh yeah, we're having trouble with search".

Now I just get depressed and either give up or try Google's public search

Site after site has multiple problems, and search is just one of them.

I'm sure the IT departments and webmasters get yelled once in a while, or the search vendor, but there are bigger issues here....

Quality Starts at the Top

I've decided it's the CEO's fault at least to some extent, or in a larger company maybe the EVP of that division, for not noticing the patterns of annoying problems like this.

I no longer believe my experiences are isolated cases.  I'm possibly an atypical user, and more likely to actually mention the problem to the company, but trust me, there are usually many other problems on these sites.

Does the CEO or VP use the web site?  Do they talk to clients or prospects?

When a large print ad is proposed, does the VP go to their own website to see if they can find the damn thing, before signing off on a large campaign.

And maybe these are "details" in larger companies, but then, there will be failure after failure like this.  A pattern of mistakes should be noticed.  And if not, then the manager one level up should notice their direct report's failure to spot patterns of problems and address them.

You ever eat at a restaurant and get poor service, again and again, no matter the server or the day?  That's a MANAGEMENT problem, not a problem with the harried wait-staff.  Vs. a restaurant where you routinely see the owner or manager going around.

Some megastores have poor service at all of their branches, coast to coast, thousands of miles apart, this is a management problem.

Years ago an email was leaked from Bill Gates, blasting issues in Windows, and the reply from the VP was also leaked.  The issue was not "we don't seem to be spotting problems", no, the response was to obsess about individual issues, but no SYSTEMIC analysis.

Ultimately these system problems ought to be noticed by management.  If the CEO or EVP doesn't have a need to visit the website on a regular basis, maybe the site sells industrial parts, and the CEO doesn't buy those himself, then he/she should become super sensitive to any feedback they get.  Maybe make frends with a few individuals for some big accounts.  Maybe talk to the young interns who are not used to things sucking and talk to them frequently, maybe have some pizza brought in on a regular basis, and make sure to attend, and listen carefully.

So.... CEO's and VPs, if you spot problems and report them to your subordinates, do they just fix ONLY those specific items?  Do they notice the bigger patterns?  Try holding back 50% of your specific observations, see if they get cleared up too.  Actually, your VPs shoulld already be noticing these PATTERNS.

I propose that companies that have poor web sites year after year probably also have poor customer service, bad documentation, annoying sales people, and a host of other systemic problems.

The "Times 10" Factor in Complaints

If somebody actually manages to report a website or search problem to the right person, there's a tendency to think this is an isolated incident.  A very dangerous attitude!

I don't remember the exact number, or where I saw the statisitic, but my rule of thumb is that at least 10 times as many people have noticed a problem, or that at least 10 other similar incidents have occurred.  And it's difficult to report site problems, then it's likely higher.  And as customers or employees notice multiple problems and start to "give up", I actually think that ratio is much higher, possibly 100 or 1,000x.  That ratio skyrockets because most users simply abandon the system and go elsehwere.  Potential customers take their business to other sites, and employees abandon the "company portal" and just ask each other for info, or look it up on Google.

The nice thing about an abdoned website or portal?  Those complaints eventually go back down to zero, mission accomplished!  Seriously, this happens.  There are many rationales for only fixing things that peopple notice, or fixing only the top N problems, etc.  When complaints go back down, people who subscribe to these theories seldom ask themselves whether there's another possible explaination.  A very dangerous game.

February 13, 2011

Humans versus Watson on Jeopardy Feb 14-16 2010

This week is a big one in search technology. Well, sort of - if you liked seeing IBM's 'Deep Blue' beat Garry Kasparov back in 1996.

For several years, a team at IBM has been working on a computer system - dubbed 'Watson' - that will be one of the featured players this week on the game show Jeopardy.

The IBM team has been working on the project for years. According to NOVA, Watson has passed the screening interview required of all players; and this week - Monday the 14th through Wednesday the 16th - Watson will take on the two best human players in Jeopardy history, Ken Jennings and Brat Rutter, in a historic match. The Nova special, 'The Smartest Machine on Earth', tells the story in a captivating way without too much waving of the hands. It takes us through the low points and the ultimate high point, when, in a test round a few months ago, Watson soundly defeated two human players.

Main_event Watson is not connected to the Internet, so it's on its own at air time. The system is not voice-driven, so for input it receives the question in the form of a text stream when the director clicks the magic button to flip the question. Watson can buzz in like the human players, and it speaks the 'question' in a synthesized human voice. Because it cannot listen to the other players' wrong answers, the IBM support engineers 'notify' Watson when there was a wrong answer so it can use that information in its determination.

Watching the practice round linked above is interesting: they've overlaid Watson's answers even when it did not buzz in first; and it is uncanny how often Watson was right - just too late to buzz in.

This doesn't apply to search engines just yet; Watson is programmed for the nuances of the game show and isn't billed as an AI device. Still, it's interesting to see the work the iBM team put into getting Watson ready; and we'll se how it does this week.

Man versus machine: sounds like something right out of the Firesign Theater's 'I think we're all Bozos on this bus' when 'Ah Clem' takes on the President and wins. Except that this time it might be a chance for revenge if Watson can pull it off: check it out this week, Monday through Wednesday!



January 31, 2011

Great new tool for Pharmaceutical researchers

Topic_Explorer Our partners over at Raritan Technologies Inc. have recently released a great tool they developed using the  Lexalytics, Inc. Salence toolkit. The product, Topic Explorer, provides a way for users to dig through content and explore concepts from Raritan's extensive knowledgebase of medical terminology, augmented by the text analytics capabilities provided by Lexalytics. Many of you will remember Lexalytics as the company that provided great sentiment analysis in the original FAST ESP product prior to the acquisition by Microsoft.

Raritan co-founder Ted Sullivan gives a great video demo of the product you should see.

What's really great about Topic Explorer is that it isn't limited to just pharma. With the right taxonomy, it can be a great research tool for just about any vertical - risk management, eDiscovery, patent research, and more.

Topic Explorer is a search technology neutral product, so it will work with your current solution whether you're using Lucene/Solr or a popular commercial technolgy. Contact Raritan at 908-668-8181 Extentsion 110. Tell them you read it here! 

November 08, 2010

Enterprise Search Summit DC November 15-18

The new home for the Fall ESS show is the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Washington, DC... so much for ESS-West! The new locale should bring a large number of new attendees and visitors, and a new co-located conference: SharePoint Symposium. InfoToday knows a trend when they see one!

In addition to the usual sessions provided to show sponsors, there are some interesting sessions by Tom Reamy of KAPS Group; Martin White of Intranet Focus; and eDiscovery expert Oz Benamram, CKO of White and Case LLP. Tony Byrne of Real Story Group will also be there, moderating the session I'll be participating in: Stump the  Search Consultant on Wednesday afternoon November 17th.

I really expect the show to have a large number of government folks in attendance, given how hard it's been for these good folks to travel to previous ESS conferences in New York and San Jose. InfoToday reports higher pre-registration this year than in the past; and I'll be happy to find out I'm wrong about most of the attendees being government or government-related folks.

Come by the session Wesnesday afternoon at 3PM; or leave a comment here if you want to get together.



October 05, 2010

Google plans to make display ads as crucial as search advertisements

Google executives claimed that display ads will become as crucial to its business as search advertisements are during the keynote session of a international interactive advertising awards competition. They predicted that "smart and sexy" rich media ads will make the static ad banner become a thing of the past, and that in five years the online display market will grow from $20 billion to a $50 billion business, 75% of ads will be "social" (meaning that people can comment on them), and that people will be able to subscribe to them (receive notices when similar ads are available to watch).

Caroline McCarthy in Google: We're too sexy for your search talks about how Google is "unapologetically and enthusiastically optimistic about this space." Amiri Efrati in Google Wants to Make Online Display Ads ‘Sexy’ and Mike Shields in Google Sees 'Smart and Sexy' Future for Banner Ads describe a TrueView ad format for Youtube. Its designed to give viewers the option to skip an ad (after 5 seconds) that they don't want to watch, and to chose from multiple ads which one they want to watch (similar to Hulu). They will alter creative elements of an ad in real-time, depending on factors like the viewers location, the web sites content, and the time of day. Advertisers will only pay if a user decided to view their ad.

A YouTube executive stated that while television networks generally make more money by showing more ads, online video will reverse that trend. Google also predicted that 50% of all targeted ads will use a real time bidding system. In their case they will use technology from last years purchase of ad company Teracent .

August 30, 2010

Search Terms

NIE maintains a Glossary Enterprise Search Terms related to the Business and Technology of Search on our site, which you can browse at your convenience. This is an active list, and we welcome your suggestions and additions!

Now we're going to select and post one of these each day or so in the blog. Some may be familiar but we hope some will be new to you. Enjoy!