January 27, 2015
It is about time for those New Year’s resolutions to be wearing off. There’s likely a little more dust on the treadmill come mid-January. Yet, it is never too late to commit to a few resolutions for your organization’s SharePoint installation. Read some handy and attainable tips in the Network World article, “5 New Year’s Resolutions (Tips) for SharePoint Power Users.”
The article begins:
“For my first blog post of 2015, I’ve compiled a list of New Year’s resolutions for SharePoint Power Users. These are my favorite tips and best practices to improve user experiences for SharePoint sites. They are in no particular order but they are all designed to improve the user experience for power user designers and/or end users of SharePoint sites.”
Tips go on to include things like organizing content, making meaningful links, and embedding PowerPoint pages via hyperlink. These are not life-changing tips, but they are helpful, and research has found that these small changes make a big impact on overall user experience. Stephen E. Arnold has a vested interest in these tips and tricks when it comes to SharePoint. He has made a career out of all things search and he reports his findings on his Web site, ArnoldIT.com. His SharePoint feed is a treasure trove for those who are interested in these practical suggestions for improved usability.
Emily Rae Aldridge, January 27, 2015
January 21, 2015
Curious to learn where Google is driving the search-engine optimization field these days? Search Engine Watch tells us, “6 Major Changes Reveal the Future of SEO.” Writer Eric Enge declares, “Google is doing a brilliant job of pushing people away from tactical SEO behavior and toward a more strategic approach.” Um, okay. As long as that means more relevant information for users.
The article lists Eng’s six observations and what each means for SEO approaches. For example, Google has stopped handing users’ keyword data to websites, requiring them to use other methods to monitor keyword performance. Then there’s the Hummingbird algorithm, which Enge says is really a major platform change. The write-up also considers the current influence of Google+ and Google’s Authorship program. Finally, Enge cites the In-Depth Article feature Google introduced last August, which points users to more comprehensive sources of information. See the article for more on each of these points. Enge concludes:
“All of these new pieces play a role in getting people to focus on their authority, semantic relevance, and the user experience. Again, this is what Google wants.
“For clarity, I’m not saying that Google designed these initiatives specifically to stop people from being tactical and make them strategic. I don’t really know that. It may simply be the case that Google operates from a frame of reference that they want to find and reward outstanding sites, pages, and authors that offer outstanding answers to user’s search queries. But the practical impact is the same.
“The focus now is on understanding your target users, producing great content, establishing your authority and visibility, and providing a great experience for the users of your site.”
Well, this does sound like a good shift for users. Will SEO workers used to focusing on PageRank data and keywords learn to adapt?
Cynthia Murrell, January 21, 2015
January 20, 2015
SharePoint is hoping to make itself irresistible and irreplaceable with its latest announcement of providing a digital window to make the platform feel more personal. Get all the details in the CMS Wire article, “Office 365 & Sharepoint Online Just Became Irresistible.”
The article begins by explaining the strategy:
“Forget Google Docs, Box and any productivity tool that anyone else has to offer. Microsoft is committing its brains and its brawn to one thing —being your ‘go to’ for your digital life, at work and at home. It plans to do this by providing a window to the digital world that feels ‘more personal and natural,’ to use CEO Satya Nadella’s words, via innovations in touch, speech, vision, inking and much more. They will all come together with intelligent agent (can you say machine learning, analytics, PowerBI, Office Graph) and shell technologies.”
As part of the new strategy, Delve incorporates a new feature called Boards, helping to organize content and keep it on the surface. Other more tangible features are likely to be rolled out in coming weeks. To stay on top of them stay tuned to ArnoldIT.com, particularly the SharePoint feed. Stephen E. Arnold is a longtime leader in search and keeps his eyes peeled for the most important tips, news, and tricks for users and managers alike.
Emily Rae Aldridge, January 20, 2015
January 20, 2015
“Is the ECM problem … changing? That last word was hard to write, as there as many options with much stronger word option. But ECM is changing. It’s not evolving. It’s not becoming ‘Records Management’ or ‘Information Management’ or yet another iteration of ‘Knowledge Management’. It’s not dying. This vendor or that vendor is not on their last legs. It’s definitely not expanding. There are no new content types being managed. But ECM is changing. And if you look in the right places it’s growing. Customers are taking on the ECM challenge on their own. But how have we missed this change? I think we’ve been too focused.”
Sillanpää takes us back to 1998, when crucial decisions about content management were being made. He feels vendors at the time, distracted by the process of defining the shiny new field, failed to listen to their customers. He maintains that vendors are again failing to pay attention to users’ voices, this time because they are too busy watching each other.
Meanwhile, issues that vendors seems to find boring but that customers actually care about go unaddressed. As an example, the write-up cites the continued reliance on paper files at many organizations. It is an issue that truly vexes many users, yet it remains unsolved. Sillanpää may have a point; when was the phrase “paperless office” coined? And when did we give up on getting there?
Cynthia Murrell, January 21, 2015
November 3, 2014
The Internet Archive has a design motif: A postage stamp album. You can see the Internet Arcade implementation at https://archive.org/details/internetarcade. I can do a screen shot of a very long screen, but I want to show you a snippet of the postage-stamp or card design motif. The interface presents about 890 hot links in the form of postage stamps pasted in a 1050s style album.
Click a link and you will be able to play an arcade game in your browse. Performance can be interesting. The white rectangles in the screenshot indicate that a graphic did not render. I grabbed this image after a period of 10 minutes. Rendering was leisurely. I think the horsepower for the system was munching hay.
There is a search box. A search for “anteater” returned a hit to the arcade game and to other content about anteaters, cockroaches, pest control, and other related concepts. Well, related to anteaters, not to the arcade game.
Stephen E Arnold, November 3, 2014
August 29, 2014
The article on Business Insider titled 29 Eye-Tracking Heatmaps Reveal Where People Really Look provides some 25 images with heatmaps, or blobs of color ranging from red (where the eye stayed longest) to dark blue (where the eye didn’t bother to look closely.) It quickly becomes clear that the largest trend is to linger on faces, especially eyes, and to follow the eye of the face. For example, in an ad with Ashley Judd looking at a bottle of shampoo, the heatmap shows more attention paid to the shampoo when compared to an ad with Judd staring straight into the camera. The article states,
“They say the eyes tell all. Now thanks to eye-tracking technology we can tell what they’re saying. Tracking eye movements can give us fascinating insights into advertising and design and reveal a few things about human tendencies.”
This is certainly a worthwhile article to scan for those interested in the placement of Google Adwords. Knowing where people are looking on a web page will help you avoid the mistake of placing much worth in banner ads, for example, since they are practically invisible to the eye. Audience is important as well, with men and women having some divergent tendencies.
Chelsea Kerwin, August 29, 2014
August 21, 2014
Microsoft is turnings its attention to the user experience of SharePoint in their roadmap for Office 365. SharePoint receives a lot of attention for its increased functionality, but it receives a lot of negative attention for its complexity and general difficulty of use. CMS Wire covers the issue in their latest article, “Where User Experience Should Fit in SharePoint’s Roadmap.”
The article begins:
“One only need to take a look at the Microsoft roadmap for Office 365 to see that the company is making huge investments in the UX for SharePoint, from new social and search capabilities (such as Office Graph, inline social and Groups) to deeper integrations with other Microsoft platforms, like Dynamics CRM. Unlike previous platform updates, the focus of each incremental release is clearly meant to improve the end user (and administrator) experience within the platform.”
And while it is comforting to see that Microsoft is taking user experience seriously, many users and managers will still need help along the way. One source of help may be ArnoldIT.com. The Web site is managed by Stephen E. Arnold – a longtime leader in all things search. His SharePoint feed is especially insightful, offering tips and tricks for all levels of user.
Emily Rae Aldridge, August 21, 2014
August 7, 2014
I read what I thought was a remarkable public relations story. You will want to check the write up out for two reasons. First, it demonstrates how content marketing converts an assertion into what a company believes will generate business. And, second, it exemplifies how a fix can address complex issues in information access. You may, like Archimedes, exclaim, “I have found it.”
The title and subtitle of the “news” are:
NewLane’s Eureka! Search Discovery Platform Provides Self-Servicing Configurable User Interface with No Software Development. Eureka! Delivers Outstanding Results in the Cloud, Hybrid Environments, and On Premises Applications.
My reaction was, “What?”
The guts of the NewLane “search discovery platform” is explained this way:
Eureka! was developed from the ground up as a platform to capture all the commonalities of what a search app is and allows for the easy customization of what a company’s search app specifically needs.
I am confused. I navigated to the company’s Web site and learned:
Eureka! empowers key users to configure and automatically generate business applications for fast answers to new question that they face every day. http://bit.ly/V0E8pI
The Web site explains:
Need a solution that provides a unified view of available information housed in multiple locations and formats? Finding it hard to sort among documents, intranet and wiki pages, and available reporting data? Create a tailored view of available information that can be grouped by source, information type or other factors. Now in a unified, organized view you can search for a project name and see results for related documents from multiple libraries, wiki pages from collaboration sites, and the profiles of project team members from your company’s people directory or social platform.
“Unified information access” is a buzzword used by Attivio and PolySpot, among other search vendors. The Eureka! approach seems to be an interface tool for “key users.”
Here’s the Eureka technology block diagram:
Notice that Eureka! has connectors to access the indexes in Solr, the Google Search Appliance, Google Site Search, and a relational database. The content that these indexing and search systems can access include Documentum, Microsoft SharePoint, OpenText LiveLink, IBM FileNet, files shares, databases (presumably NoSQL and XML data management systems as well), and content in “the cloud.”
For me the diagram makes clear that NewLane’s Eureka is an interface tool. A “key user” can create an interface to access content of interest to him or her. I think there are quite a few people who do not care where data come from or what academic nit picking went on to present information. The focus is on something a harried professional like an MBA who has to make a decision “now” needs some information.
Archimedes allegedly jumped from his bath, ran into the street, and shouted “Eureka.” He reacted, I learned from a lousy math teacher, that he had a mathematical insight about displacement. The teacher did not tell me that Archimedes was killed because he was working on a math problem and ignored a Roman soldier’s command to quit calculating. Image source: http://blocs.xtec.cat/sucdecocu/category/va-de-cientifics/
I find interfaces a bit like my wife’s questions about the color of paint to use for walls. She shows me antique ivory and then parchment. For me, both are white. But for her, the distinctions are really important. She knows nothing about paint chemistry, paint cost, and application time. She is into the superficial impact the color has for her. To me, the colors colors are indistinguishable. I want to know about durability, how many preparation steps the painter must go through between brands, and the cost of getting the room painted off white.
Interfaces for “key users” work like this in my experience. The integrity of the underlying data, the freshness of the indexes, the numerical recipes used to prioritize the information in a report are niggling details of zero interest to many system users. An answer—any answer—may be good enough.
Eureka! makes it easier to create interfaces. My view is that a layer on top of connectors, on top of indexing and content processing systems, on top of wildly diverse content is interesting. However, I see the interfaces as a type of paint. The walls look good but the underlying structure may be deeply flawed. The interface my wife uses for her walls does not address the fact that the wallboard has to be replaced BEFORE she paints again. When I explain this to her when she wants to repaint the garage walls, she says, “Why can’t we just paint it again?” I don’t know about you, but I usually roll over, particularly if it is a rental property.
Now what does the content marketing-like “news” story tell me about Eureka!
I found this statement yellow highlight worthy:
Seth Earley, CEO of Earley and Associates, describes the current global search environment this way, “What many executives don’t realize is that search tools and technologies have advanced but need to be adapted to the specific information needed by the enterprise and by different types of employees accomplishing their tasks. The key is context. Doing this across the enterprise quickly and efficiently is the Holy Grail. Developing new classes of cloud-based search applications are an essential component for achieving outstanding results.”
Yep, context is important. My hunch is that the context of the underlying information is more important. 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 talking about a person in shipping or a business development professional being able to use Eureka! to get the interface that puts needed information front and center. I think that shipping departments use dedicated systems who data typically does not find their way into enterprise information access systems. I also think that business development people use Google, whatever is close at hand, and enterprise tools if there is time. When time is short, concise reports can be helpful. But what if the data on which the reports are based are incorrect, stale, incomplete, or just wrong? Well, that is not a question germane to a person focused on the “Holy Grail.”
I also noted this statement from Paul Carney, president and founder of NewLane:
The full functionality of Eureka! enables understaffed and overworked IT departments to address the immediate search requirements as their companies navigate the choppy waters of lessening their dependence on enterprise and proprietary software installations while moving critical business applications to the Cloud. Our ability to work within all their existing systems and transparently find content that is being migrated to the Cloud is saving time, reducing costs and delivering immediate business value.
The point is similar to what Google has used to sell licenses for its Google Search Appliance. Traditional information technology departments can be disintermediated.
If you want to know more about FastLane, navigate to www.fastlane.com. Keep a bathrobe handy if you review the Web site relaxing in a pool or hot tube. Like Archimedes, you may have an insight and jump from the water and run through the streets to tell others about your insight.
Stephen E Arnold, August 7, 2014
August 5, 2014
Computers are soulless machines that are programmed to understand our tastes and make suggestions based off them. Face it, though, computers cannot predict change in people’s tastes, because humans have erratic behaviors. How does this relate to music? According to The Next Web’s article “Why We Crave Human-Curated Playlists” music listeners want human made playlists again, because it allows them to discover new music.
“The unique thing about a playlist is how human it is. When you create a playlist, you’re sharing information about yourself. Sharing a playlist allows for others to look into your music tastes and even into your personality. This connection is what makes following artists on services like Spotify seem more emotionally invested. You get to hear music that the artists are inspired by, and what they’re currently jamming to at this very moment.”
A mixture of algorithms and human creation are the key to appealing to people’s tastes for the old mixed with the new. The human element makes music selection more interesting and is what music startups need to consider. It also gives hope to information professionals worried about being replaced with computers. Information professionals can help people find the best content and make it more personalized.
June 17, 2014
Probably the most all-encompassing challenge facing SharePoint is the tension between the user experience provided by consumer level technology (mobile, social, cloud, etc. etc.) and the limitations of enterprise level technology. SharePoint knows its weaknesses and strives to overcome them, but change is slow. Read more in the eCommerceTimes article, “Microsoft SharePoint’s Crossroads: Where Opportunities, Challenges Meet.”
The article sums up the problem:
“As consumer-based technologies, which are primarily out in the cloud, have progressed, organizations want to focus less on infrastructure and focus more on actual business systems. End users on the other side of that want their corporate solutions to match more closely to their personal habits, to their personal tools. They’re doing everything in the cloud, everything via a mobile phone.”
And in this current scenario there are lots of opportunities present for SharePoint, and yet within them, many challenges. SharePoint is a large ship, so to speak, and is therefore slow to turn. Furthermore, they are restricted by their update plan, which thus far has provided a major overhaul every 3 years instead of their competitors’ continual, smaller improvements. Stephen E. Arnold knows this strengths and weaknesses well, and reports on them through his Web service, ArnoldIT.com. Having made his life’s work about search, Arnold’s SharePoint feed serves to inform end users and managers about tips, tricks, add-ons, and shortcuts that can make life easier.
Emily Rae Aldridge, June 17, 2014