Interesting Discussions From Fast Forward 2007

I attended FASTforward ’07, this week. There were some very interesting talks:

  • John Battelle, author of Searchblog: Search is a conversion. Search becomes a way to have a dialog with your customers.  Interaction with your website should mirror a conversation. Batelle offered the New York Times site as an example of one that did not seem to value their customer’s contribution to the site.
  • Jeannette Borzo of the Economist Intelligence Unit reported on a study on Web 2.0 .  She delivered the most surprising news: CFO aren’t Web2.0 friendly. But CEO believe Web 2.0 will increase innovation as well as decrease innovation cost.  It will be interesting to see the CEO and CFO’s views evolve.
  • John Markus Lervik, Fast CEO, Search is connecting people with content.  Results from a search might answers, concepts, people, or facts.
  • Tim O’Reilly: Power of Web 2.0 is collective intelligence.  The Internet is a platform. How do we turn data into knowledge?
  • Zia Zaman, SVP at FAST: Search is about making connections and business decisions. It is about finding answers not results. An answer can be fellow expert or a better understanding of the problem you are trying to search for.

The conference expanded my thinking about about search technology and it’s impact on business. At the end of the day, there is still a huge difference between Internet search and enterprise search. On the Internet, authors spend a lot of time, money, and energy making their pages easily found. In the enterprise, authors spend little or no effort to make them found. Cleaning up data quality issues is still 2/3 the effort involved in making enterprise information searchable:

  • Many documents are missing title, authors and other meta tags.
  • Often dates are the same on an entire set of documents.
  • Because documents don’t cross-link as often, page rank and relevance algorithms give way to keyword counts that are not as useful. More effort is required to indicate valuable or useful reference material in the enterprise.

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