Exclusive Interview: Mats Bjore, Silobreaker

September 23, 2010

In some follow up work for the Lucene Revolution Conference, I spoke with Mats Bjore, the former blue chip consultant at the blue chip McKinsey on Tuesday, September 21, 2010. After we discussed our respective talks at the upcoming open source conference sponsored by Lucid Imagination, I asked about the Silobreaker technology. Mats explained that there were some new developments that would be discussed at the upcoming Boston conference.


Source: ArnoldIT.com

If you have not used Silobreaker.com, you will want to point your browser at www.silobreaker.com. When you click on the interface, you get an instant report. You can run a more traditional query, but Silobreaker uses proprietary methods to highlight the most important stories, provide visualizations related to the story and entities mentioned, and links to related content. The public Silobreaker is a demonstration of the more robust enterprise solution available from the firm. Silobreaker is in use at a number of interesting client facilities in the US and elsewhere.

I captured our conversation using the handy Skype recorder add in. The full text of our conversation appears below.

Mi, Mats, it’s good to talk with you again. I keep hearing about Silobreaker, so you are getting quite a bit of attention in the business intelligence space. What’s new with Silobreaker in the last few months?

Yes, we are getting quite a bit of media attention. As you know, the primary objective of launching the free news search engine was to showcase our technology to enterprise users and to make them see how easily a Silobreaker solution could be tweaked to fit their domain and requirements.  The Silobreaker Enterprise Software Suite (“SESS”) was successfully installed last year as the core engine for the Swedish Armed Forces new news intelligence system and we are just about to release a SaaS product online called Silobreaker Premium that is specifically aimed at business and government agency users who don’t need or want a standalone installation.  We already have some US clients as pilot clients.


Silobreaker’s splash screen at www.silobreaker.com

How do you describe Silobreaker at this stage in its development?

We’ve come a long way, yet have an exciting product roadmap ahead of us. But most importantly, we have finally reached some milestones in terms of commercial robustness and viability with the platform.  Silobreaker Premium will be an exciting new product in the marketplace.   Also since our technology and team is highly customizable – our clients and users demands is the most important guide for our development,

What new services have you introduced that you can talk about?

As I said,  Silobreaker Premium is the new product for us this year, but we also develop a lot of integrated entity and content management functions for clients that want to have integrated Intelligence analytical tools.

What new functions are available to commercial licensees?

We think Silobreaker Premium is a powerful enterprise product for professional media-monitoring, early warning, risk management, intelligence and decision support.

Available as SaaS (Software as a Service) in a single intuitive and secure user interface, you are able to define monitoring targets, trigger content aggregation, perform analyses, and display results in customized dashboards, e-mail alerts and by auto-generated reports.

What else can the system do?

Let me list a few of the functions. You can set up watch lists and collaborate with colleagues. Also, it is easy to monitor news, reports, multimedia and social media. Clients can track big movers in the news by heat tools and other analytics.  A user can easily save and export findings straight into third party applications. We make it very easy to mix and match free and premium content.

What’s the pricing?

Good question for sure. Silobreaker Premium will be priced with a single monthly flat fee per enterprise to allow and encourage large user groups within an organization to use the service regardless of the number of queries, monitoring agents, dashboards, watch lists, alerts, or reports.

There has been quite a bit of “noise” about Palantir and Recorded Future? I thought Silobreaker provided similar functions. Is that correct?

That is correct. I think conceptually we are very similar in what we are trying to deliver to our customers, but there are also some noticeable differences.  We crawl different databases, we use different search methodologies, and as companies we are different in size and our pricing differs.  Also I believe that from an analyst perspective the Silobreaker , in its customized versions, can provide tools that encompasses the whole intelligence process to a price that enables even large organizations to deploy our systems to everyone.  We believe in Silobreaking also when it comes to collaboration.

And silobreaking means what?

Most organizations have “walls” between units. Information in one silo may not be easily accessible to authorized users in other silos. So, our product is a “silobreaker.”

I like the name. My view is that pr, venture capitalists, and the name “Google” blow some technologies up like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloon. What anchors the Silobreaker approach? Don’t give me PR talk, okay?

No problem. Our independence and our beliefs makes Silobreaker unique. We are not VC-financed and have managed to build the business through our own money and customer revenues.  That may mean that things have taken a bit longer, but it shows that what we do is for real, which is far away from the many “hype today gone tomorrow” companies that we’ve seen in passing over the last few years.  We also anchor all we do in a strong belief in that information overload is not evil but a reassuring consequence of freedom and innovation, but that it is the ability to refine this overload and extract benefits from it that truly create the “killer app” that everybody needs.

Let’s assume I am a busy person. I have to make decisions and I don’t have much time. What do I have to do to get a custom output from Silobreaker?

Not much. Our Premium users typically do two things to generate custom output.  Firstly, they create one or several watch lists.  This could be people, products, companies or anything else they are interested in – or a list of favorite publications.  Such lists can then be used to make queries across all our tools and features or to customize dashboards, email alerts and reports.

What happens if a new content stream becomes available. Say, for example, the Tumblr micro-blogging service. What is required to intake that content and include its content in my results? Is there an open source component or API for Silobreaker?

We support many different types of content. At the moment we will add open sources on request which are added easily through RSS/Atom feeds or through crawling the site.  As a general rule, we do not allow users to add sources themselves.  Having said that, though, Premium users can add “internal content” through an upload facility, enabling them to mix internal reports and posts with external content.

I find some visualizations pretty but either confusion, meaningless, or downright misleading. What has Silobreaker done to make information for quickly apprehendable? I guess this is called the UX or user experience?

We actually believe that graphics and visualizations should play as big a role for text-mining as it does for numerical analysis.  However, I agree with you that usability becomes a big issue in order to make users understand what the visualizations are showing and how they can be used for more in-depth analysis. That is something we are working on all the time, but users must also realize that keyword-based queries generating just lists of search hits can never be the way forward for search, so we hope they are open-minded and about these new ways of presenting results.

As you look ahead, what are the two or three big changes you anticipate in next generation information access?

The focus on “how many hits at what speed” feels very much like first generation features and haven’t really helped with information overload.  Context, analysis, and query customizations will be the challenges for next generation algorithms and services.

How can a reader explore Silobreaker.

Silobreaker.com is free and anyone is welcome to a free trial of Silobreaker Premium.  Just get in touch.

If a person wants more information, what’s the best way to get that information or contact you?

Contact us directly at sales@silobreaker.com or call or sales director Anders Kasberg at +46 (0) 8 662 3230.

See you in Boston and then in Bethesda the following week, okay.


Stephen E Arnold, September 23, 2010

Freebie. The last time I was in Sweden I got herring. I want a taco.


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