Archive for the ‘tagging’ Category

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.

The Boston KM Forum convened at Bentley College this past week with a blend of academics, practitioners, vendors, and evangelists appending the big 2.0 to their own take on the topicalities of what David Brooks is calling the Bad Memory Century. In The Great Forgetting Brooks pits the memory-haves against the memory-have-nots for control of total … well incomplete recall. Faulty wiring challenges our recollections of whether we’ve: (1) intentionally deleted KM 1.0 or (2) reigned in an excessive 2.0 that discards all remembrances of where 1.0 was heading when 2.0 took over.

Bentley CS Professor Mark Frydenberg asked us the main difference between the two releases. I don’t know whether it was more telling that no one answered his question because it was too obvious — or really that hard to answer? He said the 1.0 was about getting to content and 2.0 was about getting to people. Hard to refute? I guess.

But to me the greater divide harkens back to The Machine is Us(ing) replay that began his discussion. Is it really about how we use technology? If we reverse roles with our social 2.0 toys could we really prove they were helping us get where we wanted 2.0 to take us? Did we even have a destination in mind?

Don’t get me wrong. I can see how a LinkedIn profile or even a Facebook page could make the difference between landing a contract and receding into the dead contractor pile. But is eavesdropping on the recent bookmarkings of a tagger a course of action? Is observing a bunch of Beltway commentators yammering on and then blogging about it a call to action? More to the point: has our technology convinced us that the gossiping of speculations and observances are substitutions for taking a risk or bringing an idea to life?

If I vote for a news story on Digg about George Soros and reflexivity do I expect an uptick of interest across the blogosphere in perception measurement? There’s a difference between an action item and a thought bubble. And when I last cracked the window most realities looked at the experiential world through the lens of direct engagement, not high def screens, taking leave of one’s chair, not our other senses.

If I choose not to answer Frydenberg’s 2.0 quiz out loud but look for unverbalized responses on Twitter does that enrich those fleeting moments before the Great Forgetting reasserts itself? If you’re performing on stage living in the moment can be a redemptive, even sacred part of a luscious experience. But in a 2.0 state, life is no longer the contact sport we were raised to play. It is a fantasy league.

Maybe that’s the 2.0 world that our children will look back on when the dawning of their 21st Century begins to fade? Living in our heads. An entire to-do list mapped out in a series of keystrokes. For digital immigrants like me short-term memory is trapped in the immediacy — dare I say the tyranny — of now. To indulge this temptation any further would be to grade the notes passed in class with the same deliberation we once reserved for term papers.

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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