Temis, Spammy PR, and Quite Silly Assertions

January 11, 2012

I am working on a project related to semantics. The idea is, according to that almost always reliable Wikipedia resource is:

the study of meaning. It focuses on the relation between signifiers, such as words, phrases, signs and symbols, and what they stand for, their denotata.

Years ago I studied at Duquesne University, a fascinating blend of Jesuit obsession, basketball, and phenomenological existentialism. If you are not familiar with this darned exciting branch of philosophy, you can dig into Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint by Franz Brentano or grind through Carl Stumpf’s The Psychological Origins of Space Perception, or just grab the Classic Comic Book from your local baseball card dealer. (My hunch is that many public relations professionals feel more comfortable with the Classic approach, not the primary texts of philosophers who focus on how ephemera and baloney affect one’s perception of reality one’s actions create.)

But my personal touchstone is Edmund Husserl’s body of work. To get the scoop on Lebenswelt (a universe of what is self-evident), you will want to skip the early work and go directly to The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology. For sure, PR spam is what I would call self evident because it exists, was created by a human (possibly unaware that actions define reality), to achieve an outcome which is hooked to the individual’s identify.

Why mention the crisis of European  thought? Well, I received “American Society for Microbiology Teams Up With TEMIS to Strengthen Access to Content” in this morning’s email (January 10, 2012). I noted that the document was attributed to an individual identified as Martine Fallon. I asked to be removed from the spam email list that dumps silly news releases about Temis into my system. I considered that Martine Fallon may be a ruse like Betty Crocker. Real or fictional, I am certain she or one of her colleagues, probably schooled in an esoteric discipline such as modern dance, agronomy, and public relations are familiar with the philosophical musings of Jean Genet.

You can get a copy of Born to Lose at this link.

I recall M. Genet’s observation:

I recognize in thieves, traitors and murderers, in the ruthless and the cunning, a deep beauty – a sunken beauty.

Temis, a European company in the dicey semantic game, surely appreciates the delicious irony of explaining a license deal as a “team”. The notion of strengthening access to content is another semantic bon mot. The problem is that the argument does not satisfy my existential quest for factual information; for example, look at the words and bound phrases in bold:

Temis, the leading provider of Semantic Content Enrichment solutions for the Enterprise, today announced it has signed a license and services agreement with the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), the oldest and largest life science membership organization in the world.

Do tell. Leading? Semantic content enrichment. What’s that?

The “leading” word is interesting but it lacks the substance of verifiable fact. Well, there’s more to the news story and the Temis pitch. Temis speaks for its client, asserting:

To serve its 40,000 members better, ASM is completely revamping its online content offering, and aggregating at a new site all of its authoritative content, including ASM’s journal titles dating back to 1916, a rapidly expanding image library, 240 book titles, its news magazine Microbe, and eventually abstracts of meetings and educational publications.

I navigated to the ASM Web site, did some poking around, and learned that ASM is rolling in dough. You can verify the outfit’s financial status at this page. But the numbers and charts allowed me to see that ASM has increasing assets, which is good. However, this chart suggests that since 2008, revenue has been heading south.


Source: http://www.faqs.org/tax-exempt/DC/American-Society-For-Microbiology.html

In my limited experience in rural Kentucky, not-for-profits embrace technology for one of three reasons. Let me list them and see if we can figure out what causes the estimable American Society for Microbiology.

  1. Cost reduction. Professional associations are not usually in growth mode. Health is a hot area, but it is looking at green eyeshades covering accounting programs that have to chop jobs. Automated indexing is one of those teen fantasies about silver bullet solutions that sound good in a meeting but can prove a bit of a challenge in the real world. Not even the medical vocabularies are immune to the disease of language drift and neologisms, issues that marketers and PR professionals often ignore.
  2. Declining traffic. There are folks inspired by taxonomy fire drills, boot camps, and triage sessions who assert, “Better indexing will boost traffic.” Sorry. Life does not work that way. Annoyed users may become less annoyed if the indexing changes deliver on point content. In my experience more than a single system’s indexing is needed to remediate the often lousy usage of an increasingly expensive enterprise or Web site indexing system. Once again, it is often easier to focus on a component of a far larger problem than tackling the cause of poor usage. Perhaps management, resources, and technical expertise are the issue? Again, most sales oriented organizations ignore the facts documented in Successful Enterprise Search Management.
  3. Remediation of a lack of planning and management actions. I am 67, worked at a couple of reasonably respectable management consulting firms, and have had to investigate vendor compliance with statements of work in search and content processing. What I have learned is that short cuts are preferable to hard work, truism more important than facts, and hope valid than the blunt edge of reality. Without effective management, do we end up with search disasters? Perhaps.

Why focus on Temis? I previously asked the firm’s public relations expert, who seems to be more inclined to spam than research, to cease sending me meaningless spammy news releases. My request was ignored. Nifty. What fascinated me is that Temis asked me to facilitate an introduction for them to a $1.2 billion company’s president. I did this and moved on. I assumed in the manner of French cultural norms that I would be rewarded with entrecote. Wrong. My reward has been spam.

Does this illustrate how Temis perceives equity? Does the spirit of M. Genet apply? My recommendation? Check out the semantic products from the Temis competitors. I quite like Expert System SA in Bologna, Italy, and Bitext in Madrid, Spain. Great food, interesting culture, and–nota bene— no spam. One has to get the semantics correct. No spam from Italy. No spam from Spain. Hmmm. There’s a cultural message perhaps?

What PR spam connotes is what in my opinion could be characterized as desperation marketing. The phenomenon itself defines the act and its progenitor, does it not? And what about those semantics? As M. Genet allegedly said:

To achieve harmony in bad taste is the height of elegance.

Stephen E Arnold, January 11, 2012

Sponsored by Pandia.com, publisher of the New Landscape of Enterprise Search which does not include an analysis of Temis and the firm’s technologies which are asserted to be from “the leading provider of semantic content enrichment solutions for the enterprise.” I just don’t believe this, but the outfit is good at spam.


2 Responses to “Temis, Spammy PR, and Quite Silly Assertions”

  1. Stephen Arnold Blows a Gasket « Breakthrough Analysis on January 12th, 2012 9:58 am

    […] Stephen Arnold, a provider of “news and information… about search and content processing,” has his hatchet out in Temis, Spammy PR, and Quite Silly Assertions. […]

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