The Elusive Quest for Intranet Search

Loraine Lawson

Internet search just keeps getting better and better, but intranet search is still in a rut. Google's intranet search product, Google Search Appliance, has gotten good reviews and claims features that let users search not only HTML documents, but relational databases as well. But the fact remains that Google's success on the consumer-dominated Web can't be easily replicated in the enterprise environment, because Google's consumer offering is so dependant on the tracking of links, and links are relatively rare in the documents found on intranets.

 

From a technology point of view, there are three keys to effective intranet search: metadata, taxonomies and controlled vocabulary. Unfortunately, all three impose huge -- some would say unworkable -- burdens on the people who are meant to use the systems based on these technologies.

 

Taxonomies are a good example. They require that people agree on what the categories should be -- a problem in itself, e.g., should they be user-created or imposed from the top? With metadata, there are similar problems. Should the tags be applied by unskilled workers after the fact, or by knowledge workers at the time of document creation? In the first case, the quality of the tagging suffers; in the second, it's felt that knowledge workers are wasting valuable time.

 

When all is said and done, the real problem is simple: Doing what it takes to make effective intranet searches possible is just too much work.



Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Dec 13, 2006 12:09 PM terry seale terry seale  says:
Mike!"just too much work."You've got to be kidding!  Estimate the cost of workers NOT finding things and you will see that there can not be "too much work."  Nielson puts the annual cost for a mid-size company at $3.5 million a year for not finding things. Give me one tenth of that and an assistant and we'll fix it.The bipolar choices you offer are simplistic. All usable controlled vocabularies have a procedure for "candidate terms" or "provisional terms" which after reflection and negotiation become "preferred terms."   A suggested taxonomy can be offered from above with the ability for all users to affix their own candidate terms and flesh out their individual area of expertise "folksominy" as they like.A blended taxonomy and controlled vocabulary would support "standard" terms widely known and understood, plus candidate or provisional terms suggested by users, and even more, totally individual personalized terms for individual users.  Computers give us the power and sortability for that now and fixed controlled vocabularies and printed in books--like the Library of Congress or Sears subject headings, or the Dewey or LC classification systems--are unecessary.  They were great solutions for the technology of the day (1890) but inadequate for today.  Reply

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