Meme of the Moment

Editor’s Note: Beyond Search has decided to monitor search marketing activities. Many enterprise software vendors (and a number of enterprise search and content processing vendors as well) struggle to generate revenue, raise additional venture funding, and deal with the shifting needs of business. The Honk page will contain information about the search sector’s attempts to become software that matters to beleaguered decision makers. I want to shift the focus of this Honk page to a new and interesting development. Search and content processing vendors, consultants, and marketers are embarking on what I call “language creation.”


The plight of search and content processing companies is distressing. Watching the share price of SLI Systems in New Zealand plummet or the stasis that seems to paralyze once promising companies like Digital Reasoning is difficult. The soft but persistent requests for help on the LinkedIn enterprise search discussion threads is poignant.

Search is five decades old. In the last 50 years more people profess an understanding of search than at any other time. The confidence is undermined by a number of pulses. In some years, the pulses are faint; for example, who remembers when Personal Library Systems was folded into the then America Online and quietly disappeared. I have a hunch that many people are not aware of the negative finding about Fast Search & Transfer’s financial procedures. These maneuvers daubed one of the Fast Search founders with tar. More people in enterprise software may be aware of the on going claims and counter claims about the financial health of Autonomy, the management acumen of Hewlett Packard, and the value of an $11 billion search acquisition.

Companies come and go. Where are Convera, Delphes, Kartoo, Siderean Software, and other even less impactful information retrieval and processing companies? What is the role of Exalead, ISYS Search, and Vivisimo in their new corporate shelters? What does the future hold for companies like Attivio, Coveo, and Smartlogic? Will nearly invisible companies like AMI Albert, Intrafind, SearchDaimon, and Sinequa move from backstage to center stage? Why is Elasticsearch growing rapidly with essential zero high dollar, frantic marketing programs? What is causing the management revolving door at Lucid Imagination now doing business as Lucid Works?

Last week, one of the individuals with whom I work called to my attention the phrase “knowledge quotient” or KQ. I scanned the information my colleague compiled for me and realized that existing language used to describe search is essentially meaningless, devalued, and devoid of a full payload of meaning. In a world in which everyone is a searcher, the meaning of search and its many synonyms has been, for many people, boiled down to “Google” or content presented by a curation system. By definition, knowledge quotient is:

  • Relatively meaning free
  • Highly abstract
  • Logically difficult; that is, a math concept and the abstraction knowledge
  • Sophistic
  • A marketing construct
  • A comparative novelty.

The Moment of Birth: Knowledge Quotient

The phrase “knowledge quotient” is not unique. There is in Dubai, as I learned in March 2014, a company providing tutoring. You can find the firm’s Web site at The Free Dictionary points out that KQ has a strong association with an electronic game as well as Kenya Airways, King’s Quest, Knowledge Quest, Kalphite Aqueen, KPNWwest N.V. and Kell Quist. (See

Quasi-academics have used the phrase in relation to extrasensory perception. (See A bit of Googling discloses that a search and content processing vendor in Canada uses the phrase to promote a study by the mid tier consulting firm IDC. (See

The moment of birth for the use of knowledge quotient or KQ appears to be a consulting firm’s sponsored research. Coveo, I want to point out, is one of the supporters of the KQ study.

The question now becomes, “Will knowledge quotient and the acronym KQ become a fresh, high value way to talk about the functions, technologies, benefits, and drawbacks of what is, in my mind, the decades old concept of enterprise search?”


An example of sophistry regarding a nation state on the defensive from splinter groups. Source:

The Content Marketing Imperative

I think the addition of “search” to the relatively unencumbered phrase “knowledge quotient” is important. Here are the reasons from my confidence.

First, the jargon of enterprise search has not translated into the vibrant excitement that connects Hadoop and Big Data. When one says, “Search”, the reaction is likely to be “Google.” Little wonder that enterprise search brands are difficult to make visible. To solve the problem, a tabula rasa concept like “knowledge quotient” has been lashed to the findability buckboard. The abandonment of terms like “precision” and “recall” is evidence that something different is needed to entice prospects to license information retrieval technology. Knowledge quotient, therefore, is a flag of surrender.

Second, the content marketing professionals can use the phrase “knowledge quotient” and impart connotations to it. For example, when the morning program on KQRS airs its KQ Morning show (See, there is little likelihood for the confusion that results when a search vendor explains that its information retrieval technology is a way to find business information or perform text analytics. The denotative and connotative space for “knowledge quotient” is like a ski run covered with fresh snow. No other athlete has sullied the bright, white surface. In short, the search engine optimization wizards will try to make knowledge quotient into a hot, go to, must have concept.


Will Coveo, IDC, and other uses of the “knowledge quotient” be able to out market the entertainers at 92 KQRS? Radio station DQDS (See have little to fear from the marketers at software vendors and mid tier consulting firms. (Note: I refer to non blue chip consulting firms as “azure chip consultants” because in terms of billing and impact, mid tier firms have not challenged the McKinseys, Bains, and Boston Consulting Groups of the world…yet. IDC does not appear on this list.)


Search marketers risk little confusion with the KQ Ranch Resort. The DARPA KQ-X program for autonomous aerial refueling system, or will IDC-like marketing crash and burn like a preliminary one off of of a modified Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

940th Wing - Northrop Grumman RQ-4B Block 20 Global Hawk 04-2015.jpg

Third, use of a low frequency term like knowledge quotient is a Rosetta Stone for the concepts used to communicate about information retrieval. By eschewing words with quite precise meanings like k precision or r precision for meaning free neologisms, the thrashing of marketers is on display.

One can anticipate, knowledge quotient associated with a specific product, a person, an allegedly academic discipline, or another nebulous, hard to define concept like value. Associations can also be forged to pop culture, video games, and negative associations like Hizbullah, Hizballah, or Hezbollah or a similar semantic relationship. Connecting a neologism like knowledge quotient with an unrelated concept may cause semantic dissonance; for example, knowledge quotient and illegal arms dealing or knowledge quotient and money laundering may make “clean” retrieval somewhat more challenging.

Net Net: Make Money

The anticipated use of the phrase “knowledge quotient” will be interesting to observe. The IDC “study” will diffuse through the content marketing ecosystems. The organizations touting capabilities in this quasi academic sounding field will be easy to spot. Google queries, webinars, and conference presentations are likely to be used to get search and retrieval on the management agenda as a red hot topic.


Will “knowledge quotient’s” marketing magic amaze its intended audience?

Several observations:

  1. Search and content processing is difficult to sell using words and terminology that blur into one bubbling pot of associations; for example, “just like Google.” Inventing a new or semi new phrase and loading it like a new shipping container seems to be an idea whose time has come. The problem is that “knowledge” is as difficult to define as “value” any other general concept. Quotient has mathematical referents. These are quite precise. Therefore, some individuals may ponder the oxymoronic nature of “knowledge quotient” and dismiss the phrase as pseudo-scientific.
  2. Content marketing, not the functionality of specific software, determines what the potential customer thinks will be deployed in an organization. The risk for a gap between content marketers’ assertions and the reality of enterprise software may widen over time. Many of the problems with individual company’s search solutions are a direct result of over, false, or misleading marketing. The enterprise search sector may be trapped within its own linguistic snares.
  3. Licensees have problems. In my experiences with enterprise software, I honestly cannot recall a client who said, “We have a knowledge problem?” or who asked, “Can you determine our information quotient?” Creating a new concept and then associating that concept with solutions that have demonstrated their failings over a long span of time may trigger a feedback loop. The ever more far reaching marketing claims lead to amplification of even wilder claims.

I think “knowledge quotient” is an excellent semantic and marketing device to monitor.

Stephen E Arnold, July 26, 2014

Frozen Content (July 25, 2014)

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