Folksonomies and why they matter for the enterprise

Formal taxonomies have been around for a long time. Librarians have maintained them and put great pride in cautiously adapting them. Everybody who have tried to develop and maintain a set of metadata know that it is as vital as it is hard to keep it up to date with needs of the organization. It is easy to always be one step behind. However, the latest developments around what has been described as Web 2.0 services have brought on a new concept called folksonomies which in essence is a taxonomy created dynamically by all users of a sight. The popular terms at Flickr is one example of one. So that means that we can ”let people loose” and forget about the idea of a centrally managed taxonomy.

No, the cool part is that taxonomies and folksonomies can be combined. That way all the creative power of all users can be harnessed and a steady inflow of needed changes will arrive at the taxnomists desk. The challenge is to be able to connect terms in taxonomy with the keywords in the folksonomy. The people at Siderean have an interesting example of how to do that. It has apparently been used to power Oracle’s new semantic pages at OTN.

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Enterprise search AND Enterprise Content Management not OR

The first day of the Enterprise Search Summit here in New York city was interesting. Enterprise Search vendors have a tendency to promote search as an alternative to ECM-platforms. One of the most clear messages today was the opposite – both technologies are needed and the effort should be put on integration instead. Further on the level of intergration options between search and ECM is rather limited today. A lot of more work should be done on this by the different vendors so that these two kind of platforms can start complementing each other.

Another interesting session covered taxonomies and how to manage them. It turned out that there are several taxonomy management systems out on the market. They look really promising but I am a bit afraid of the level of integration with different ECM-systems.

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To the US again

Today I am leaving for the US again. I always look forward to go there and I have been fortunate to do that several times a year for a few years now. This time we will first go to New York City for the Enterprise Search Summit at the Hilton and then to Orlando, Florida for EMC World 2007 Momentum conference. I look forward to both of them because with last years experiences in mind I believe we have a lot of opportunities to finding how more about how to solve our needs for information and knowledge management.

The Enterprise Search Summit will start with one day of workshops and then followed by two days of more formal presentations. All, I mean all big companies in the Enterprise Search Business are there.

EMC World’s Momentum conference is the main conference where all users of Documentum meet to learn about the latest of that particular platform. I look forward to hearing more about the next release (ver 6 – ”D6”) of Documentum. A lot of exciting new features and technologies that we need to understand in order to see how and if they fit in our strategies.

http://www.emcworld2007.com/momentum.html

http://www.enterprisesearchsummit.com/

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Collaboration and why content management matters

Yet another Powerpoint outlining the collaboration and knowledge problem

For the past years I have been busy working on projects were collaboration have been in the focus. The overall ideas have been to enable people from different countries to work together in a smart way to solve a common problem. In my realm these problems usually have something to do with crisis management operations. Somewhere along these discussions the role of IT-support have came up and collaboration in general more or less automatically turned into collaboration technologies. Not so much about the specifics about which solutions to use for a particular problem but rather a general idea that some kind of easy web application probably could do the trick if only those IT-guys did their magic…

In the discussions around network centric warfare I have seen many Powerpoint slides outlining how people should share knowledge and gain ”situational understandning” whatever that is. However, few of these slides have any substance on how we actually can use existing or emerging technologies to do the trick. There are usually lots of millions spent on handling data from radar, infrared and motion sensors. However most military HQs end up sitting with computers where people like to send messages, write documents, show briefing slide and other ”office stuff”. Instead of treating that part of the information flow as innovativly as we do with sensor data (many millions spent on algorithms!) we keep flooding our email systems with attachments and everybody wonder how to find the information they need.

I follow all the Alfresco blogs reguarly and especially the one by John Newton, CEO of Alfresco and co-founder of Documentum. I smiled for myself when I saw a recent post from him where he presented yet another slide that illustrated the needs for people working in emergency relief operations. I recognized more or less every word in it. However, I believe John Newton not only understand how to solve that but have a product to sell that is critical in doing it.

To me the fascinating part is to look at this ”we need to share knowledge between us”-problem from above. Instant messaging is moving into the enterprise now, people like to buy project management tools that are supposed to fix everything. Wikis and Blogs gets installed. Fueled by Google advanced search engines like FAST and Autonomy are installed to enable searching from different sources. Different people sees one (or maybe two) of these technologies as the key to solve the information chaos. Unfortunately none of these are any silver bullets.The worst part of it is that none of them usually have any analysis done of what the pieces of information really are and how they should be stored to be used efficiently. Enterprise Content Managment System have been around for a while but as Alfresco like to point out only 5-10% of the companies actually have one. That means that all this critical information is not stored as it should. Vital requirements of a repository are:

– Versioning
– Metadata as tags extracted from the documents
– Document-level security
– Workflow actions instead of sending attachment over email
– Lifecycle to handle status like draft, approved and archived.
– Free-text search engine
– Server-side transformation of content between formats

Without these features in the storage chaos will prevail. On the contrary, all other systems should store its document-based information in an ECM repository. That means that project documentation in the project management tool will be stored in the repository, users online on the Corporate IM solution will send(chat) references to documents in the repository and content from an approved document is automatically uploaded to the public website in HTML or PDF-format.

It is the integration of them that can lead forward. A successful implementation of collaboration techonologies requires an analysis of what Your pieces of information look like. Then these pieces need to be stored in a smart way. Otherwise there will be no ”stuff” to collaborate around.

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