Archive for the ‘folksonomy’ Category

The choice of text versus numbers is starting to ring false. The trade-off between relational tables and keywords is no longer a stretch or a compromise. The missing ingredient isn’t the optimal content database or the more responsive search tool but the outcomes that live in the cross-hairs between traditional BI and conventional keyword matches, and what began many formatting standards ago as decision support.

The purpose of SearchBoards is to classify content on a granular level. The goal is not panning for knowledge gold but to scratch the itch that prompts the question. Searchboarding doesn’t retrieve articles and files, Search Targeting informs what happens next. As Judith Jaffe, Knowledge Manager from the Risk Management Foundation put it in yesterday’s Boston KM Forum it’s to embed interventions into workflows. It’s us knowledge workers reconfiguring the juggernaut of documentable consequences. In English that means indexing spreadsheets so that the nuggets are discoverable, process-specific, action-based, and quantifiable as assets.

The counting goes beyond raw first and secondary wordcounts inherent in typical SEO analytics and goes to a tender info fantasy older than any taxonomic model. That’s flipping on a switch and having the proposal auto-generate or the diagnosis nestle in a warm bed of evidence. There’s a problem, a set of case tables, and a battery of check boxes. No one is left holding the word bag.

This is a good thing because it takes the conversation away from hit counts and page ranks and into the more tangible matters of solving problems and completing tasks. It’s not about capturing insights — yawn. It’s about the rich conversation between what we’re working with (data sources) and what we’re working on and against (projects and deadlines).

Another promising development is that when our data sources are bullets and talking points, we remove the ambiguities that are full-time occupants of Planet Google. And those doubtful citizens answer to a toppled leader called “intention.” And the lingua franca of intentionality are particles of speech. They disappear with SearchBoards. That’s because SearchBoards eliminates the source of the ambiguity — that troublesome middle man between all causes and effects called the predicate. It’s problematic because predicates are the nerve endings of human logic and they fall apart completely at the mercy of search technology.

And those search engines are as good as teaching how futile this is as they are abysmal at overcoming their own limitations. We’ve been trained well to keep our expectations low. Witness a Stanford University study cited by yesterday’s forum speaker Mark Sprague that suggests 2.4% of all search terms include verbs. No small wonder we have no idea what to do with our global information surplus.

Another tedious argument that goes away here is the Coke vs. Pepsi piss-off that parallels taxonomies and folksonomies. The liberation here is that common meeting grounds like “results” or “teams” or “industries” lend themselves to pattern-friendly sets of finite values (classification schemes). Other more fluid fields like “results” or “objectives” remain open-ended. But the rich variety of how those stories play out become the bucketed narratives on the SearchBoard results queue.

Finally the biggest payback is that we get to keep serendipitous top-of-mind association. Was there ever any doubt? And we can still bask in our most enduring content structures. What’s there not to like when the only thing we have to Google is Google itself?

One of the accepted norms of social media behavior is that the ratio of producers to consumers is roughly in that same ratio as inspiration to sweat (something like 10:1). That means there are lots of folks who read our stuff but don’t write back. Perhaps me and my logrolling doesn’t earn a place on your own blogroll. But while you’re not inspired to engage directly you may well respond in a more passive mode.

A new way to uncover the untold legions of closet taggers is a new gadget called Deliciousify. It activates in the results window by flagging own the number of instances where your blog is worthy of placeholder status. It doesn’t give you the actual taggers and you need to drill down in native Delicious to meet your fan base.

Here are a few other means to find folks who connect with your opinions by tagging your posts:

I suppose that the shortest possible answer is Technorati. I’ve got to say that I’m consistently underwhelmed by its search capabilities and the slop that passes for its index. If you’re not vigilant about your ranking your will be yesterday’s news regardless of how timeless your views may be.

Actually the inanchor: syntax in Google is pretty exhaustive (unlike Google’s reluctance to be a good social media citizen when it comes to supporting any meaningful form of link analysis research). If you enter your handle it looks like this:


The problem is that if your blog is your twitter is your music site is your travel planner is your local business forum handle then you’re no further along than a new point of maintenance for managing all your online identities vis-a-vis friendfeed. While its a capable platform for aggregating multiple streams it is also self-referential. You get your facial ‘friendeds.’ You get your network. But you miss the periphery. Those touch points that are united by the power of an idea, not a location, habit, or common affiliation.

On the aggregate level there many analytic tools that can decipher traffic patterns and run free diagnostics. One useful tool here is XINU Returns which performs a fairly thorough link analysis but nothindoin‘ on the passive machine-to-human social media path.

One parting question here: do we engage directly the people our ideas connect to first? I think not. But depending on what else they’re linking to you can always add them to your network on Delicious.

One of the prime points I’ll raise tomorrow at the Boston Gilbane Conference: Where Content Management Meets Social Media is the garbage-in, garbage-out notion that post-Google content production is really all users about picking through the information scraps for that one unsuspecting gift of credible, airtight, leverage-worthy understanding.
It’s about the yard sale of search results where my precious time is suddenly not billable because I’m no longer on the clock — I’m on Google and anything that turns up is free and clear or I turn it down.

The idea that a corporate intranet could become the pleasure center of a redemptive search ain’t gonna happen because of one vendor over the next or because our corporate intranets are rebranded as incubators for the soon-to-be monetized grand designs of our wannabe thought leadership elites. No one slaves over their best strategic thinking on a corporate intranet. No one honestly believes that the answer to better content is to pay a premium for it (or any fee at all).

The ultimate triumph over unlimited content in a time-sensitive world is to hook-up the content pipes to the quantifiable demand for knowledge (information worth putting to use). Do that and that surplus of supply can be a blessing. Of course that means understanding what your customer need to inform their decision-making. Does that mean invasive surveys? Does that mean reading the long tail of your search logs in dubious hope that a pattern emerges? Does that even mean that your users know what they want (in advance of seeing it)?
Here are a few pragmatic pointers:

1. Do that hookup maneuver in your metadata structure. Connect your taxonomy to how people complete their work (actions) — not some unwinnable debate about what to call things (nouns).

2. Make your search tool do the heavy user lifting. They should not have to guess about where their next productive experience is coming from. Conversely you must be vigilant with your providers to make sure they are sensitive about where they locate their content — otherwise your users have to care too (they’re probably more interested in telling their life stories to Survey Monkey).

3. Create one dignified and significant workflow where an important milestone triggers the telling of those teachable moments that keep people like me employed as KM professionals. Maybe it’s dissecting a win-loss. Perhaps it’s an illustrious use case. Either way it’s an instructive lesson about how to model success and draw important distinctions that were not obvious prior to when the story takes place.

4. Include in the storytelling the other relevant links and deliverables that document the life of the project in question. That’s how to grow the content base in step with the knowledge deficits you’re trying to balance.

Last week I attended the ESS show at the New York Hilton. I think the most salient smoke screen to hit my radar was the game-changing notion that a successful search deployment (and there are more than a few to be found) shifts the stakes from a user to provider-centric view of enterprise content. But the first few steps are tentative. This is not so much a groundswell as a groundbreaker — and once it catches fire, a deal-breaker too: Want to improve user experience? Increase provider participation.

The distinctions that once colored content producers and contributions continue to bleed together. If I offer an opinion about how well an instruction helps me do my job am I a passive consumer or an engaged community member? If I download a bunch of presentations and preview several others am I identified as a content collector? Does my mounting collection signify a degree of influence that the author has over my efforts to absorb, master, and ultimately leverage this material? No matter what the motivation, no matter what the conclusion … what we do with content will one day eclipse the content itself.

My favorite new feature on display at the show was a passive approach to meta content, a.k.a. content about content. A vendor named BA-Insight has devised an ingenius way to capture the secret life of documents. These secrets reveal what sway the ideas conveyed by our peers have over us. In the publishing world this is a simple units sold formula. Behind the corporate firewall this is called a Wiki that gets updated almost as often as a freshly proposed solution is minted as a new product innovation, business model, or marketing approach. No matter what the end game it’s a provider’s market and the easier it is to reach it, shape it, and build on it, arguably the better the outcome.

So how did this play out at the vendor booth? BA-Insight’s Longitude product collects all kinds of passive feedback — downloads, previews, tagging, and other recordable sessions events take the opt-in approach to a whole new level of discretion. Essentially the record button is pegged to the user ID, rendering the idea of an active observer to that of the actions taken by that same user. This approach to meta-content is completely passive, preserving an untampered search session. That means no gaming, back-scratching, user surveys, or votes to cast (the equivalent of internal pop-ups). This is user feedback of the purest, organic degree. Perhaps the purity is why the team from Accenture that provided the case study has so far shied away from this feature?

The other nice-to-haves are alluring to any professional services shop that belches, respirates, and wheezes in PowerPoint. For instance Longitude’s preview pane decouples bloated ZIP folders (the last refuge of a knowledge provider with no time or incentive to upload their stuff. Not only can you cut and paste right out of preview but you also see the pockets of relevance by page number, adhering to your keywords.

All the whizbangetry was blown away however by Kevin Dana’s elegant and sparing AJAX customization that registers a keyword lookup on Accenture’s back-end index. This search suggestion feature would come in handy for any enterprise where the user base is not graded on keyword creativity but their ability to reshape existing outputs in the form they’ve been tasked to regenerate. Creative? Well maybe on someone else’s clock and with someone else’s IP!

The search sugestion feature comes to mind when considering Tuesday morning’s panel led by Jean Graef on social search where a discussion about user inputs into enterprise search quickly led to a familiar tradition-bound versus web 2.0 fight on who was better equipped to carry the findability mantle into the next round of version-dot-placeholder. MITRE’s Laurie Damianos says that much of the collective intelligence (and foundational content) added in her enterprise comes from employees’ pre-existing tags. MITRE has built and fielded a social bookmarking prototype, creating public profiles from RSS feeds for internal indexing. Damianos says the effort has led to a referral system, promoting common tags and using recommendations for similar labels. She also raised the often overlooked question of content lifecycle management and the link root brought on by broken links and outdated page references. The team currently enforces freshness by purging all tags that go inactive after 90 days.

I thought the real panel-stumper was put to the next roundtable on BI Tools hosted by Steve Arnold. Graf Mouen of ABC News asked what Arnold, Northern Light’s David Seuss, ISYS’s Derek Murphy and SAP’s Alexander Maedche saw in terms of their accounts investing the needed resources in something more critical than tagging feeds, search tools, preview panes, and text analytics — that resource is on the firm’s own domain experts. All deployments regardless of technology, vendor, cost, and implementation smarts can only go so far without their participation. The sober answer of “not much” belied the unnatural state of seeing Seuss and Arnold in actual agreement.

Tagging is based on two units — the link, which points to any page within the range of your security settings, and the tag, which names or labels the link. Taxonomies on the other hand answer to absolute values. Tags are self-evident and self-organizing. Taxonomies come with instructions, mainly broader, narrower and related terms.

The big draw for tags is that they’re easy to create and even easier to follow: “As the Web has shown us, you can extract a surprising amount of value from big messy data sets,” observes blogger and classification heretic Clay Shirky.

Formal taxonomies are generally better fits for well-entrenched fields of knowledge where a shared vocabulary denotes a set of precise, static meanings. Science, medicine, and law are three examples of disciplines where common tasks, procedures, and topics have a well-defined boundary of unique values and fixed connotations.

The language of the marketplace is a foreign one – even to many business classification systems. Perception-shapers like ad firms, media titans, and management consults aren’t rewarded for following precedents. They are expected to stretch and bend them. The argument runs, here’s where informal or Folksonomies take over. The knowledge economy runs on the fashioning of ideas – not the production of tangible products. A taxonomy doesn’t handle interpretations or what we do with the things it classifies. Show a taxonomist a verb and you may get a cross-reference – or be referred to a different taxonomy.

Folksonomies are in a state of constant re-invention by many would-be inventors. Taxonomies run on exclusive relationships between definitive terms owning consistent properties. Those properties diverge into a set of clear and repeatable patterns. Now visit the website of any ad agency or consulting firm and click on the services or solutions tab. You will be overwhelmed with overlapping associations, the latest market jargon, and speculation about what will replace it. No one controls or maintains a Folksonomy as it lacks the insularity of a standard terminology or classification structure.

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