The Knowledge Quotient Saucisson Link: Back to Sociology in the 1970s

August 5, 2014

I have mentioned recent “expert analyses” of the enterprise search and content marketing sector. In my view, these reports are little more than gussied up search engine optimization (SEO), content marketing plays. See, for example, this description of the IDC report about “knowledge quotient”. Sounds good, right. So does most content marketing and PR generated by enterprise search vendors trying to create sustainable revenue and sufficient profits to keep the investors on their boats, in their helicopters, and on the golf course. Disappointing revenues are not acceptable to those with money who worry about risk and return, not their mortgage payment.

Some content processing vendors are in need of sales leads. Others are just desperate for revenue. The companies with venture money in their bank account have to deliver a return. Annoyed funding sources may replace company presidents. This type of financial blitzkrieg has struck BA Insight and LucidWorks. Other search vendors are in legal hot water; for example, one Fast Search & Transfer executive and two high profile Autonomy Corp. professionals. Other companies tap dance from buzzword to catchphrase in the hopes of avoiding the fate of Convera, Delphes, or Entopia. The marketing beat goes on, but the revenues for search solutions remains a challenge. How will IBM hit $10 billion in Watson revenues in five or six years? Good question, but I know the answer. Perhaps accounting procedures might deliver what looks like a home run for Watson. Perhaps the Jeopardy winner will have to undergo Beverly Hills-style plastic surgery? Will the new Watson look like today’s Watson? I would suggest that some artificiality could be discerned.

Last week, one of my two or three readers wrote to inform me that the phrase “knowledge quotient” is a registered trademark. One of my researchers told me that when one uses the phrase “knowledge quotient,” one should include the appropriate symbol. Omission can mean many bad things, mostly involving attorneys:


Another one of the goslings picked up the vaporous “knowledge quotient” and poked around for other uses of the word. Remember. I encountered this nearly meaningless quasi academic jargon in the title of an IDC report about content processing, authored by the intrepid expert Dave Schubmehl.

According to one of my semi reliable goslings, the phrase turned up in a Portland State University thesis. The authors were David Clitheroe and Garrett Long.


The trademark was registered in 2004 by Penn State University. Yep, that’s the university which I associate with an unfortunate management “issue.” According to Justia, the person registering the phrase “knowledge quotient” was a Penn State employee named Gene V J Maciol.

So we are considering a chunk of academic jargon cooked up to fulfill a requirement to get an advanced degree in sociology in 1972. That was about 40 years ago. I am not familiar with sociology or the concept knowledge quotient.

I printed out the 111 page document and read it. I do have some observations about the concept and its relationship to search and content processing. Spoiler alert: Zero, none, zip, nada, zilch.

The topic of the sociology paper is helping kids in trouble. I bristled at the assumptions implicit in the write up. Some cities had sufficient resources to help children. Certain types of faculties are just super. I assume neither of the study’s authors were in a reformatory, orphanage, or insane asylum.

Anyway the phrase “knowledge quotient” is toothless. It means, according to page 31:

the group’s awareness and knowledge of the [troubled youth or orphan] home.

And the “quotient” part? Here it is in all its glory:

A knowledge quotient reflects the group’s awareness and knowledge of the home.

Okay. If one of the survey respondents knew about the home, that person had a KQ of one. If one of the people in the sample did not know about the home, that person had a KQ of zero. So the KQ is essentially a PR type calculation.

Curious about this silly jargon, I asked one of the researchers to see if Messrs. Clitheroe and Long were the first to use this made up jargon. I was surprised to learn from one of my semi reliable researchers that the phrase was in use as part of a financial management firm’s quiver of commission seeking methods. See, for example, this document:


Here’s the baloney phrase:


You may be able to track this stuff down. Here’s the link to get you rolling:

Several observations.

First, the notion that a mid tier consulting firm would use a registered trademark without the appropriate mark troubles me. I know that many big outfits operate as if they are nation states, but it seems to me that an outfit selling information should point out that a phrase belongs to an academic institution. The phrase may be without much intellectual heft, but it does belong to the prestigious Penn State University. Despite its recent misstep on the football field, the expertise of “real” academics and their intellectual property should be recognized. I say this having had my name and research sold on Amazon, the Wal-Mart of digital commerce, without my permission by IDC.

Second, the use of the phrase “knowledge quotient” in the context of search and content processing seems like over active marketing, not serious labeling to make a complex subject like search and retrieval more understandable. The study in question appears to be a purely commercial exercise. If the use of “knowledge quotient” is an indicator of originality, I would expect the IDC “experts” to offer a tip of the hat to the Portland State MA in sociology candidates, the outstanding Penn State, or the forward looking Maharashtra Knowledge Corporation.

Third, the jargon used to make search and retrieval catnip for corporate executives is fodder for stand up comedians. A recent thread on LinkedIn prompted one “search expert” who works at HP Autonomy to suggest that a successful search system needs the right kind of executive. When I asked the person what he meant by the “right kind of executive,” I received no answer. A Deus ex machina cannot make either a sale or a successful deployment. Faux academic phrasing won’t deliver the goods either.

No theater machinery will save some enterprise search vendors. Image source:

Net net: If you are an investor in an enterprise search company, hoping for a big payday, you might want to reevaluate your investment. There are a number of companies with venture funding who are desperate for sales leads. Not surprisingly there are mid tier consultants who offer to crate a high value content marketing document to deliver prospects.

With the problems of the Autonomy acquisition back in the news, perhaps more critical thinking about information access is needed. When the search systems disappoint and analysis is like a retreaded tire, it appears the only recourse of the MBA is to embrace the murkiness of sociology.

Stephen E Arnold, August 5, 2014


10 Responses to “The Knowledge Quotient Saucisson Link: Back to Sociology in the 1970s”

  1. Fortune, Google, and the Seven Deadly Sins : Stephen E. Arnold @ Beyond Search on August 6th, 2014 6:53 am

    […] an example of faux intellectualism. Another recent example is an IDC report that uses the phrase “knowledge quotient” in its title. The reference to cardinal sins sounds good and seems  to make sense. “Knowledge […]

  2. Does Anything Matter Other Than the Interface? : Stephen E. Arnold @ Beyond Search on August 7th, 2014 10:43 am

    […] Mr. Earley, who sponsored an IDC study by an “expert” named Dave Schubmehl on what I call information saucisson, is an expert on the quasi academic “knowledge quotient” jargon. He, in this quote, seems to be […]

  3. IBM Buzz Equals Revenues: The Breakthrough Assumption : Stephen E. Arnold @ Beyond Search on August 8th, 2014 9:32 am

    […] I have focused on IBM Watson because I am interested in search and content processing. To eliminate confusion, I don’t work in this field. It is a hobby. This is a fact that perplexes the public relations professionals who want me to write about their client. Yep, that works really well. If you read my comments in this blog, you will know that I take a slightly more skeptical approach to the search and content processing saucisson that flows across my desk here in Harrod’s Creek, Kentucky. If you are a fan of ground up mystery meat, you can check out my most recent saucisson reveal here. […]

  4. Search Engine Optimization on August 8th, 2014 11:23 pm

    The methods were different between companies but they all answered three questions:
    . These tactics, known as “black hat practices,” do little or nothing
    for your website’s search engine ranking and can even cause your site to sink to the bottom of search engine listings.

    As with the title tag, some search engines will display
    the description on the search results pages, generally using it in whole or in part to
    provide the text that appears under the reference link.

    Here is my web site: Search Engine Optimization

  5. When a Search Vendor Says Fuzzy : Stephen E. Arnold @ Beyond Search on August 9th, 2014 8:58 am

    […] Works, What Doesn’t.” If you are not sure what “works” means, feel free to contact the saucisson at the IDC-type consulting firms. Illumination is only a payment away. If you choose another route, […]

  6. Gartner Magic Quadrant in the News: Netscout Matter : Stephen E. Arnold @ Beyond Search on August 11th, 2014 10:24 am

    […] “experts.” I am skeptical of the saucisson generated by any consulting firm, but some saucisson is judged by gourmands as better than […]

  7. Search Engine and Content Processing Vendors, Check Out the Failure Rate : Stephen E. Arnold @ Beyond Search on August 12th, 2014 7:22 am

    […] objective information about a search and content processing company may be tough due to the saucisson issue or the difficulty of explaining certain technical […]

  8. Silobreaker Highlighted in SC Magazine : Stephen E. Arnold @ Beyond Search on August 13th, 2014 9:49 am

    […] that when Silobreaker includes a consultant’s report, what I call mid tier content marketing or saucisson by experts from outfits that emulate IDC-like “reports”, the Silobreaker display provides a […]

  9. Venture Outcome: The Search and Content Processing Angle : Stephen E. Arnold @ Beyond Search on August 14th, 2014 9:17 am

    […] take those seeking answers to information retrieval problems to wake up to the fact that consultant saucisson, Star Trek fantasies, and marketing hyperbole are unlikely to deliver a Disneyland-like […]

  10. Who Wrote What? Will an Algorithm Catch Name Surfers? : Stephen E. Arnold @ Beyond Search on August 17th, 2014 11:24 am

    […] (what I call azure chip consultants) do not do. For reference see the Netscout legal document or my saucisson write […]

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