Is Enterprise Search Exempt from Intellectual Dishonesty?

January 20, 2015

I read “Techmeme’s Gabe Rivera on Tech Media: A Lot of Intellectual Dishonesty.” I figured out that “intellectual dishonesty” covers a large swath of baloney information. I have been involved in “technology” since I was hired by Halliburton Nuclear in 1972. In that period, I have watched engineers try to explain to non-engineers the objective functions of processes, algorithms, systems, and methods. I learned quickly that those who were not informed had a tough time figuring out what the engineers were saying or “meant.” Thus, the task became recasting details into something easily understood. Yep, nothing like simplified nuclear fission. It’s just like boiling water over a campfire. There you go. Nuclear energy made simple.

This article is a brief interview with a Silicon Valley luminary. The point seems to be that today much of the information about technology is off the mark. Well, let me make this simple: Almost useless. Today, thanks to innovation and re-imagineering, anyone able to click a mouse button can assert, “I am a technologist.” Many mouse clickers add a corollary: “I can learn anything.” No doubt failed middle school teachers, unemployed webmasters, and knowledge management experts have confidence in their abilities. Gold stars in middle school affirm one’s excellence, right?

In this interview, there were two observations that I related to my field of interest: Information Access.

I noted this comment about technology information:

Another problem: lying by omission, hyperbole and other forms of intellectual dishonesty are creeping into more tech reporting.

Ah, lying, hyperbole, and “other forms of intellectual dishonesty.” Good stuff.

I found this remark on point as well:

Most of the people who can offer key insights for understanding the industry are not incentivized to write, so a lot of crucial knowledge just never appears online. It’s just passed along to certain privileged people in the know.

I think this means that those with high value information may not produce listicles every few days. Too bad.

So what about enterprise search? Some thoughts:

  1. Consultants and experts who write what the prospects or the clients want to get money, consideration, or self aggrandizement. Dave Schubmehl, are you done recycling my research without permission?
  2. Vendors who say almost anything to close a deal. That’s why enterprise search vendors hop from SharePoint utility to customer support to business intelligence to analytics. The idea is that once the money is in hand, the vendor can code up a good enough solution
  3. Cheerleaders for failed concepts promise “value” or performance. The idea that knowledge management or innovation will be a direct consequence of finding information is only a partial truth.
  4. Open source cheerleaders. Open source is one source of information access technology. Open source requires glue code and scripting and often costs as much as a proprietary solution when direct and indirect expenses are tallied and summed. But free is “good”, right?
  5. Bloggers, experts, newly minted consultants, and unemployed English majors conclude that they are expert searchers and can learn anything.
  6. Job seekers. I find some of the information available on LinkedIn and Slideshare quite amazing, fascinating, and unfortunately disheartening.
  7. Unemployed search administrators. These folks want to use failure as a ladder to climb higher in their next job.

Net net: In enterprise search, the problems are significant because of the nature of human utterance. Those who are uninformed cater to the customers who may be uninformed. The result is the all-too-predictable rise and fall of companies like Delphes, Convera, Entopia, or Fast Search & Transfer, among many others. For example, Google tried to “fix” enterprise search with a locked down appliance. How is that working out?

The volume of misinformation, disinformation, and reformation makes accurate, objective analysis of search an almost impossible job. When everyone is an expert in search and content processing, most information about information access has almost zero knowledge value.

Stephen E Arnold, January 20, 2015


One Response to “Is Enterprise Search Exempt from Intellectual Dishonesty?”

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