June 30, 2015
I noticed a flurry of tweets pointing to a diagram which maps out the Future of Search. You can view the diagram at http://bit.ly/1LznR1U or http://bit.ly/1dugOcR. Direct your attention to this assertion:
As amount of data grows, keyword search is becoming less productive.
Now look at what will replace keyword search:
- Social tagging
- Automatic semantic tagging
- Natural language search
- Intelligent agents
- Web scale reasoning.
The idea is that we will experience a progression through these “operations” or “functions.” The end point is “The Intelligent Web” and the Web scale reasoning approach to information access.
Interesting. But I am not completely comfortable with this analysis.
Let me highlight four observations and then leave you to your own sense of what the Web will become as the amount of data increases.
First, keyword search is a utility function, and it will become ubiquitous. It will not go away or be forgotten. Keyword search will just appear in more and more human machine interactions. Telling your automobile to call John is keyword search. Finding an email is often a matter of plugging a couple of words into the Gmail search box.
Second, more data does translate to programmers lacing together algorithms to deliver information to users. The idea is that a mobile device user will just “get” information. This is a practical response to the form factor, methods to reduce computational loads imposed by routine query processing, and the human desire for good enough information. The information just needs to be good enough which will work for most people. Do you want your child’s doctor to take automatic outputs if your child has cancer?
Third, for certain types of information access, the focus is shifting, as it should, from huge flows of data to chopping flows down into useful chunks. Governments archive intercepts because the computational demands of processing information in real time for large numbers of users who need real time access are an issue. As data volume grows, computing horsepower is laboring to keep pace. Short cuts are, therefore, important. But most of the short cuts require on having a question to answer. Guess what? Those short cuts are often keyword queries. The human may not be doing keyword searching, but the algorithms are.
Fourth, some types of information require both old fashioned Boolean keyword search and retrieval AND the manual, time consuming work of human specialists. In my experience, algorithms are useful, but there are subjects which require the old fashioned methods of querying, reading, researching, analyzing, and discussing. Most of these functions are keyword centric.
In short, keyword queries can be dismissed or dressed up in fancy jargon. I don’t think the method is going away too quickly. Charts and subjective curves are one thing. Real world information interaction is another.
Stephen E Arnold, June 30, 2015
June 28, 2015
Err, I am not a revolutionary. The term evokes memories and thoughts which I find uncomfortable. Revolution, Forrester, IS/ISIL/Daesh. Shiver.
The intent of ““Big Data” Has Lost Its Zing – Businesses Want Insight And Action” is one of those marketing, mid tier consulting pronouncements. Most of these are designed to stimulate existing customers to buy more expertise or lure those with problems which the management team cannot solve to the door of an expert who purports to have the answer.
I highlighted this passage in pale yellow with my trusty Office Depot highlighter:
I saw it coming last year. Big data isn’t what it used to be. Not because firms are disillusioned with the technology, but rather because the term is no longer helpful. With nearly two-thirds of firms having implemented or planning to implement some big data capability by the end of 2015, the wave has definitely hit. People have bought in. But that doesn’t mean we find many firms extolling the benefits they should be seeing by now; even early adopters still have problems across the customer lifecycle.
Big Data faces challenges because users want accurate, reliable outputs. News?
Stephen E Arnold, June 28, 2015
June 14, 2015
Well, advice from the gray lady about what a digital company should do is fascinating. Frankly, I would be more inclined to go with Snoop Dogg than a newspaper which seems to have made floundering and gesticulating its principal business strategy since Jeff Pemberton walked out the door 40 years ago.
Navigate to “for Twitter, Future Means Here and Now.” Keep in mind that this link may require you to pay money or go on an Easter Egg Hunt for locate a hard copy of the newspaper. Not my problemo, gentle reader. It is the dead tree New York Times’ approach to information.
Here’s one of the passages I circle in yellow and then put a black Sharpie exclamation point next to the sentences:
Twitter, as a service, is many things to many people at different times. It is one of the world’s best sources for news and for jokes about news, a playground for professional networking, and a haven for that most human of pastimes, idle gossip. But because the service offers so many uses, Twitter, as a company, has had trouble focusing on one purpose for which it should aim to excel. The lack of concentration has damaged its prospects with users, investors and advertisers. Choosing a single intent for Twitter — and working to make that a reality — ought to be the next chief’s main task. Among the many uses that Twitter fulfills as a social network, there is one it is uniquely suited for: as a global gathering space for live events. When something goes down in the real world — when a plane crashes, an earthquake strikes, a basketball game gets crazy, or Kanye West hijacks an awards show — Twitter should aim to become the first and only app that people load up to comment on the news.
There you go. Make Twitter into a human intermediated version of the New York Times, lite edition. More data, less filling, and you trim your IQ as well.
I find that journalistic enterprises in the midst of revenue, profit, and innovation swamps have advice to give to digital companies fascinating. I wonder if the gray lady assumes that the stakeholders, Twitter management, and the advisers to the firm have failed to craft options, ideas, tactics, and strategies.
My hunch is that like many Internet centric communication services one rides a curve up due to novelty and apparent utility. Then a new thing comes along like WhatsApp or Jott, and the potential users of the older service just surf newness. Once the cachet fades, a phenomenon with which the New York Times may be familiar, the options just don’t deliver.
Amusing to me, however.
Stephen E Arnold, June 14, 2015
June 2, 2015
IDC tried to sell some of my work on Amazon without my permission. Much lawyering ensued, and IDC removed the $3,500 eight page heavily edited report about Attivio. I suppose that is a form of my knowledge management expertise: But $3,500 for eight pages without my caveats about Attivio? Goodness gracious. $3,500 for eight pages on Amazon, a company I describe as a digital WalMart..
I then wrote a humorous (to me) analysis of an IDC report about something called a knowledge quotient. You can read that Swiftian write up at this link: http://arnoldit.com/wordpress/honk/ . I write a column about knowledge management, and I found the notion of the KQ intellectually one of the lighter, almost diaphonous, IDC information molecules.
An I too harsh? No because now there is more evidence for my tough love approach to IDC and its KQ content marketing jingoism.
Navigate to “Where to for Knowledge Management in 2015: IDM Reader Survey.” The survey may or may not be spot on. Some of the data undermine the IDC KQ argument and raise important questions about those who would “manage knowledge.” Also, I had to read the title a couple of times to figure out what IDC’s expert was trying to communicate. The where to for is particularly clumsy to me.
I noted this passage:
“The challenge is for staff being able to find the time to contribute and leverage the knowledge/information repositories and having technology systems that are intuitive putting the right information that their fingertips, instead of having to wade through the sea of information spam.”
Ah, ha. KM is about search.
Wait. Not so fast. I highlighted this statement:
Technology is making it easier to integrate systems and connect across traditional boundaries, and social media has boosted people’s expectations for interaction and feedback. The result is that collaboration across the extended value chain is becoming the new normal.
Yikes. A revelation. KM is about social collaboration.
No, no. Another speed bump. I marked this insight too:
“There is also a fair gap between knowledge of the theoretical and knowledge of how things actually work. It is easy to say we should assign metadata to information to increase its discovery but if that metadata should really be more of a folksonomy, some systems and approaches are far too restrictive to enable this. Semantics is also a big issue.”
Finally. KM is about indexing and semantics. Yes, the info I needed.
Wrong again. I circled this brilliant gem:
“Knowledge management has probably lost it momentum as the so-called measurement tools are really measuring best practice which in turn is an average. Perhaps the approach should be along the lines of “Communities of Process” where there is a common objective but various degrees and level of participation but collectively provide a knowledge pool,” he [survey participant]observed.
The write continues along this rocky road of generalizations and buzzwords.
The survey data make three things clear to me:
- The knowledge quotient jargon is essentially a scoop of sales Jello, Jack Benny’s long suffering sponsor
- Knowledge is so broad IDC’s attempt to clarify gave me the giggles
- Workers know that knowledge has value, so workers protect it with silos.
I assume that experts cooked up the knowledge quotient notion. The pros running the survey reported data which suggests that knowledge management is a bit of a challenge.
Perhaps IDC experts will coordinate their messaging in the future? In my opinion, two slabs of spam do not transmogrify into prime rib.
Little wonder IDC contracts is unable to function, one of its officers (Dave Schubmehl) resells my research on Amazon without my permission at $3,500 per eight pages edited to remove the considerations Attivio warranted from my team. Then an IDC research unit provides data which strike me as turning the silly KQ thing into search engine optimization corn husks.
Is IDC able to manage its own knowledge processes using its own theories and data? Perhaps IDC should drop down a level and focus on basic business processes? Yet IDC’s silos appear before me, gentle reader. and the silos are built from hefty portions of a mystery substance. Could it be consulting spam, to use IDC’s own terminology?
Stephen E Arnold, June 2, 2015
May 13, 2015
I find Harvard fascinating. As a poor student in a small, ignored also ran university, I bumped into the fancy university folks at debate tournaments. Our record against many fine institutions, such as Dartmouth and the other Big Dogs was okay.
We won. Lots.
Then there were the Big Dog MBAs at Booz, Allen & Hamilton. Sigh. Wall Street forced more of these “special ones” into my radar screen. Delightful. There was an MBAism for every issue. Maybe not a correction or appropriate solution, but there was jargon, generalizations, and entitlement thinking. In meeting after meeting, I reviewed nifty, but often meaningless or incoherent, graphs or diagrams. I did not count this work as “quality time.” Today, as the beloved and now departed Yogi Berra said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”
I read “Where the Digital Economy Is Moving the Fastest” and circled a remarkable diagram. True, the write up is not about search, but the spirit of search and content processing system vendors tinted my perception, using only pleasing and compatible calming colors.
The authors developed criteria for countries which are moving fast. Not product sales or market share, countries. The world but for nation states like Yemen and its ilk. Then, like good MBAs, crafted a matrix and plotted the fast movers, the losers, the ones to watch, and the maybes. Here’s the graphic:
There are “Watch Out” countries. I admit I interpreted this label in a manner different from the article’s sense of the phrase. I checked out the countries between Stall Out (dogs) and Stand Out (invest for sure maybe?). Poor Sweden, Britain, and Germany. Look at the countries on the move. Check out the tweeners: Brazil, Turkey, and the Russian Federation.
Now this map, the graphic, and the meaning of the “data” strikes me as less than useful
The diagram reminded me of other consulting firms’ matrices. I snagged this at random from Google.
What about this version from
Which makes more sense? The diagram from the Harvard Business Review, the diagram with lots of dots, or the dead simple diagram from Boston Consulting Group?
From my point of view, the BCG approach makes the most sense. BCG analyzed market share data, actual numbers. The diagram presents visual cues which related directly to the numerical data., The viewer of the diagram does not have to wonder why a specific company is in one box or why a specific country is a “break out.”
Whether analyzing countries or companies on essentially methods which do not tie directly to numbers, the diagrams raise more questions than they answer. The BCG matrix, which consultants at McKinsey and Booz, Allen & Hamilton envied when the BCG matrix became available in the 1970s was, “Wow, what a great diagram?”
What I believe has happened is that the value of the envy-generating BCG matrix is based in the data to which the quadrants tied because the focus was a specific product and its market share. If the share was increasing and lights were flashing green, then the product was a star.
The more recent versions of the matrix do the diagram, add complexity, and lack the quite specific analysis of numerical data which another person could analyze and, presumably, reach similar data-anchored observations. Math and data are helpful when properly combined.
In short, data and the BCG analysis make the BCG matrix an effective communication tool. Matrices without similar data rigor are artifacts of “experts” who want something that makes a sale possible.
BCG wanted to help its clients, not confuse them. MBAs, please, do not write me and tell me I don’t understand the sophistication of the methods underpinning these presentation ready diagrams. For me there is a gap between data-anchored graphics and subjective or opinion-based graphics.
Poetry and fiction are noble pursuits. Data may not exciting. But for me, an old school BCG matrix more satisfying as long as there are verifiable data unpinning the items mapped to the matrix.
Stephen E Arnold, May 23, 2015
May 7, 2015
SharePoint Online gets good reviews, but only from critics and those who are utilizing SharePoint for the first time. Those who are sitting on huge on-premises installations are dreading the move and biding their time. It is definitely an issue stemming from trying to be all things to all people. Search Content Management covers the issue in their article, “Migrating to SharePoint Online is a Tale of Two Realities.”
The article begins:
“Microsoft is paving the way for a future that is all about cloud computing and mobility, but it may have to drag some SharePoint users there kicking and screaming. SharePoint enables document sharing, editing, version control and other collaboration features by creating a central location in which to share and save files. But SharePoint users aren’t ready — or enthused about — migrating to . . . SharePoint Online. According to a Radicati Group survey, only 23% of respondents have deployed SharePoint Online, compared with 77% that have on-premises SharePoint 2013.”
If you need to keep up with how SharePoint Online may affect your organization’s installation, or the best ways to adapt, keep an eye on ArnoldIT.com. Stephen E. Arnold is a longtime leader in search and distills the latest tips, tricks, and news on his dedicated SharePoint feed. SharePoint Online is definitely the future of SharePoint, but it cannot afford to get there at the cost of its past users.
Emily Rae Aldridge, May 7, 2015
April 27, 2015
I enjoy reading the “analyses” of Blue Chip consulting firms. I have had a brush or two with the folks at these outfits over the years. I seem to recall working for one of them and doing consulting for a couple of others. At age 70, who knows?
I read “To Benefit from Big Data, Resist the Three False Promises.” Just three, I thought. To learn the truth, I sucked in the bits and learned:
Gartner recently predicted that “through 2017, 60% of big data projects will fail to go beyond piloting and experimentation and will be abandoned.” This reflects the difficulty of generating value from existing customer, operational and service data, let alone the reams of unstructured internal and external data generated from social media, mobile devices and online activity.
Zounds. A Blue Chip firm citing an Azure Chip firm. That, to me, is like the Cleveland Cavaliers tapping into a talent from a middle school basketball team. I assumed there was an intellectual gap between the Blue Chip consultants and the second tier outfits. Guess I was wrong. Another possibility is that the folks behind the article were plucking low hanging research fruit in order to make their case.
I learned that the three “false promises” were ones that just never, ever crossed my mind. The article states that there are three, count ‘em, three items of information about Big Data which are not true. Not true equals a lie, does it not?
- The “technology” singular of Big Data will automatically discover and present business opportunities. Shucks, I though magic happened, particularly when dissimilation was involved.
- “Harvesting more data” automatically generates “more value.” There’s that magic again. I was stunned to learn that collecting information does not automatically equal much of anything. If there is one thing easy to collect, it is digital information.
- “Good” data scientists similar those who work at Blue Chip and Azure Chip consulting firms? No matter. The “good data scientists” cannot “find value” for a paying customer. Is this a hedge to prevent consulting firm clients from alleging that the Big Data services did not yield a pot of gold?
Big Data, like most of the technology buzzwords, short circuit harried executives’ prudence. The silver tongued are able to invoke MBAisms and close deals. The benefits of those deals are often very difficult to pinpoint, quantify, or understand.
Write ups that are blunt tips on probing questions are amusing. I wonder if there is Big Data to make clear how many Big Data projects end up like other digital information silver bullets; that is, shooting blanks. Bang. Bang. Bang. That’s value.
Stephen E Arnold, April 27, 2015
April 23, 2015
I read “Study: Googling Gives You an Inflated Sense of Your Own Intelligence.” Let’s assume that the data are statistically significant and good enough to earn the researchers a high mark in Psych 200.
The article reports that Yale University researchers learned that:
The people who had used search engines to look up the answers in the first part of the experiment rated their abilities higher than the people who were given text. In other words, the act of searching the internet made people believe they knew more about everything.
The write up points out:
“If you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s very apparent to you that you don’t know, and it takes time and effort to find the answer,” Matthew Fischer, one of the researchers, told the American Psychological Association. “With the internet, the lines become blurry between what you know and what you think you know.”
I mentioned to a former Gartner consultant that the issue of “you don’t know what you don’t know” is one that leads to some interesting decisions. These range from licensing an enterprise search system and then discovering that users cannot find their documents to investing tens of thousands in a Web site redesign only to discover that Google’s crawler down checks the site because it is not mobile friendly.
You may have your own “you don’t know what you don’t know moment.” I suppose one could search Google and just accept what the ad oracle delivers. On the other hand, one can just guess. I am not sure how many knowledge workers want to do the old fashioned, “learn the hard way” type work. Maybe it is better to ask a Windows Phone? That works really well.
Stephen E Arnold, April 23, 2015
April 15, 2015
I read “Cynicism and Experience.” I am retired, and I spend my days FURminating my ageing white boxer.
As I brushed, I recalled a statement in Gulliver’s Travels. You know, Swift, Jonny Boy, who wrote:
This made me reflect, how vain an attempt it is for a man to endeavor to do himself honor among those who are out of all degree of equality or comparison with him.
Heartened, I then scanned some of copious flows of content from my Overflight system, which keeps me posted on information germane to search and content processing.
The system displayed a link to an article which urges me to use my experience in a non cynical way. I suppose Jonathan Swift’s first tutor told him to knock off with the characterizations of those who fell under his gaze.
He did not.
And, to be truthful, I am not likely to change my approach either.
The write up, which is the work of a person who seems to be much younger than I, recognizes that there are a few, not many, but a few benefits of having experience. In my case, I started work after I graduated from college in 1966 and have been chugging along through graduate school and beyond for—let’s see, what is the tally?—49 years.
I find the admonitions of those more youthful than I interesting. For example, I learned:
It can be fun to be the wise elder telling legends of the great monster you barely escaped in your younger days.
Yep, it is. The good news is that I have a wealth of information upon which to draw. The bad news, for those whom I find as “interesting” produce a cornucopia of triggers.
I also learned:
If you don’t share experience with others, your effectiveness will never scale beyond your own efforts. If you impart your battle scars on others without considering the circumstances in which they were inflicted, people who believe you will miss out on awesome things. The challenge of the experienced developer is to pass on wisdom without passing on dogma, but most developers think their personal experience should be enshrined as a best practice.
I have a tutor. My tutor winces each time I translate one of my observations into her native language. She said yesterday, “You should not reference the characters in the dialogs as drug dealers.”
Okay, I understand. When she is not working with me three times a week, she helps children, lost souls, and victims of assorted disasters.
I find the contrast between our world views a reminder that the ability to identify lessons, cautions, and warning signs a skill not everyone possesses.
Consequently I approach the content I monitor with a variation on my instructor’s selflessness. For example, I point out that Watson is an expensive effort that has essentially a low probability of hitting the revenue goal of $10 billion by 2020. I find the craziness of search and content processing firms funny. Explanations of how such and such technology can process “all an organization’s information” are my equivalent of the Three Stooges’ routine involving assorted face slaps. I often get tears in my eyes when I read the puffery on the LinkedIn enterprise search discussions. One amusing incident involves a new hire pontificating about the future of his company which has burned through $20 million plus and has been trampled by another outfit in the manner of Real Madrid defeating Granada.
The write up includes a puppy break. I like this type of puppy because it demonstrates what is beneath the surface of the entitlement-style approach of many ever so young experts, analysts, and commentators. Perhaps callow is a better word? No, jejune. I quite like jejune.
I found this passage suitable for presentation in a Typeslab graphic:
Imagine yourself as a wise elder, bitten once before by a project that used the Ook! programming language. The project was to build a social network specifically for people who hate social networks. You used the web framework Ook! on Oreos, but even then it turns out a language built around manually moving pointers around an array using grunts made it hard to build a modern web application. The project failed, and you learned.
My mind generates an image of an unmarried teacher with the glorious name Miss Soapes. Yes, Ms. Soapes. She was good at giving me and everyone in her charge “advice.” I listened to her and rejected that which did not match my approach. She struck me as out of touch with reality. You know. The real world of conniving, disrespectful, sometimes cruel seventh graders.
I do not recall anyone in our seventh grade class heeding her suggestions which did not match the zoom zoom world of 1956. Oh, wait. Yes, there was one person who followed Miss Soapes’ plan for life. Lois had much promise but it ended in repetitive life abuse. Sad. Lois, like Miss Soapes, was sure of herself, but uninformed.
Call me prescient, but I have had an effective early warning system for advice delivered with apparent reasonableness. Yes, ex cathedra. Yes, a chimerical throne.
In the write up, the kicker for me was this statement:
The difference between saying “I used X and it sucked” and “I used X for Y and it didn’t work out because of Z” is the difference between becoming experienced and simply growing cynical. Be experienced, not cynical.
Nah, I want to to make the message clear.
Keeping parents happy or vendors who foist questionable software upon clueless customers does not interest me. I tolerate with difficulty those who want every child to get a gold star and an A for effort.
Yes, puppies. How lovable.
The puppy with the teeth probably got the most food. I quite like the author’s word choice. “Sucked” has a Miltonic touch. How better to convey a nuance that with “sucked.”
I wish there were a FURminator for some other modest problems in life.
Stephen E Arnold, April 15, 2015
April 9, 2015
I have to hand it to the mid tier consultants. Just when I thought the baloney about enterprise search had begun to recede, I learned I was wrong. That puts me in my place.
Search is now “endpoint computing.” I know this because I received an email from the incubator-spawned X1 search company. I have tested X1 over the years, and I have come to think neutral thoughts about the company’s administrative options and its interface.
The method of communicating with me was a somewhat dry email that began with the salutation, “Hello.”
The email offered me a report by the ever fascinating Gartner Group. The point of the email is that X1 is a cool vendor. That’s nice. Curious I clicked on the link and was redirected to this page:
Okay, a lead generating system. I filled out the information and then I received another email. This one was a bit more serious.
The author, an earnest person named “Janice” wanted to speak with me to discuss my search requirement. Furthermore the person looks forward to speaking with me about “unified search and discovery for virtual, cloud, and hybrid environments.” X1 was founded in 2003and has experienced several management changes, which is common in the “unified search and discovery for virtual, cloud, and hybrid environments” market.
What makes X1 cool? To answer the question I had to read the Gartner Report, a task which I know is a chore.
The idea is that search is now endpoint computing. Okay. I guess. The report reassures me that the information in the report is not an “exhaustive list of vendors.” That’s good because in the report there are five companies mentioned:
- Login Consultants, a workspace consultant, but I don’t know what this term means
- Tanium, a company offering endpoint security and systems management, which strikes me as a consulting outfit
- X1, a search and retrieval vendor offering desktop search, eDiscovery, and enterprise search
- Kaviza (a where are they now company which puzzles me) a virtualized desktop outfit now owned by Citrix
- Framehawk (another where are they outfit), a company in the high definition user experience business (I have no idea what this means). Apparently Citrix does because Citrix also acquired Framehawk.
Quite an eclectic list. I remember when I worked at Ziff Communications in Manhattan. I listened to a group of editors working up a list of top trends over lunch. So much for methodology. The approach produced a somewhat eclectic list which was, in my opinion, of little value. The list was silly. But these were professionals. Who was I?
So the Gartner list is neither exhaustive nor coherent from my point of view.
What’s cool about X1 search as endpoint computing?
According to the mid tier consulting firms’ authors, X1 is cool because:
“Implementing VDI that provides a user experience that’s equal or superior to a distributed PC environment has been a huge challenge for organizations. While much of the innovation in the VDI space over the past few years has been focused on reducing cost and complexity, some vendors, like X1, have concentrated on removing barriers or exceptions that make VDI a compromise rather than a business enabler.” (page 3)
In the context of the firms profiled by Gartner’s “expert, the explanation of the X1 cool factor baffles me. I am not confused. I just don’t know what Gartner is trying to communicate.
I have several thoughts running through my head:
First, Gartner obviously has a financial model in place that makes it possible for the mid tier consulting firm to crank out analyses that seem to be authoritative. On closer inspection, the terminology and the information provided are not particularly useful. Does Gartner write these for free and allow the “cool” vendors to distribute these analyses for free? Why do I get a copy for free? Hmmm.
Second, there are obviously companies which value the Gartner endorsement even if it is not exactly clear what the message is. These companies—specifically X1—have seized upon the Gartner report as a way to generate leads and sales. I have no problem with that, but sending information that makes sense would appeal to me more than what I perceive as “information free” commentary.
Third, I continue to worry about the chance for meaningful discourse about the relative merits of information retrieval systems. The presentation of vendors in the context of buzzwords does little to convince me of the merits of X1 or the credibility of Gartner Group. I suppose that is why there are blue chip consulting firms and mid tier (azure chip) consulting firms. One good point: Unlike IDC’s Dave Schubmehl, the report was not $3,500 available on Amazon with my name slapped on as the “author.”
Score one for Gartner’s merrie band.
Stephen E Arnold, April 9, 2015