Monday, January 15, 2007

The Future of Enterprise Search

Dana Gardner of Interarbor Solutions recently interviewed members of FAST Search & Transfer. Their discussion brought up several interesting topics about semantic, search-centered applications.

Dr. Bjørn Olstad (CTO) makes the following insightful remarks:

The fundamental difference between search and such things as database, content management, and document management systems is that search starts with the user and then does reverse engineering -- what is necessary to realize this user's experience. It's starting with the content and then trying to deduce what should we do with this content. When you do that, you end up with a user-driven experience.
...increasingly the user experience will be driven by algorithms and will be dynamic, so that you can actually optimize the user experience... can auto-generate metadata and find ways to use that structure and to improve the discovery. Then, the allocation elements that the traditional Semantic Web talks about can be aimed at how to improve algorithms, as opposed to starting from scratch. In doing that, I think search has the opportunity to deliver on the premise of the Semantic Web, by applying algorithms as opposed to altering tools.
Technically, if you use an open-ended query like, "List the innovative people in my company," or something, you could get back kind of a menu of people that have been referred to in the documents or discussions where there is talk of innovation, and then get the facts related to these people. So it’s not coming back with an answer, but it is coming back with an analysis -- and giving you the opportunity to refine the query.

I really liked Zia Zaman's ideas as well (Vice President, Strategic Market Development):

I often like to talk about Greek philosophers, and Socrates is one of my favorites. The reason is because of what he did with a seeker. He didn’t answer a question with an answer. Rather he asked another question, and that allowed the seeker to refine his or her question, until finally they got to what they were looking for. In many ways, technology -- whether it’s information discovery, search, and business intelligence, whatever it might be -- shouldn’t insult the intelligence of the seeker. Rather it should allow individuals to find the answer that they’re looking for, either through tacit information that’s stored in the enterprise, or semantic information, or structured information, whatever it might be. What we’re trying to do is mimic the type of dialogue that Socrates had.

Listen to the podcast or read the transcription...

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