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Great article on "Search" from back in '08 in Forbes. "Why Google Isn't Enough
by Dan Woods. He's talking about "Enterprise Search": why in-house
Google-style search is really hard and often unsatisfying.
Here's the cool quote.
search systems also index and navigate information that may reside in
databases, content management systems and other structured or
semi-structured repositories. The contents may include not only text
documents, but also spreadsheets, presentations, XML documents and so
on. Even text documents may include some amount of structure, perhaps
stored in an XML format.
Everyone thinks (hopes)
that the mere presence of data is sufficient. That fact that it's
structured doesn't seem to influence their hopes.
complication is simple -- and harsh. Many enterprise databases are
really bad. Really, really epically bad. So bad as to be
incomprehensible to a search engine.
How many spreadsheets or reports "stand alone" as tidy, complete, usable documents?
create a budget for a project. It seems clear enough. Then the
project director wants to know if the labor costs are "burdened or
unburdened". So the column labeled "cost" has to be further qualified.
And "burdened" costs need to be detailed as to which -- exact --
overheads are included.
So a search engine might find your spreadsheet. If a person can't interpret the data, neither can a search engine.
Star Schema Nuance
can build a clever star schema from source data. But what you find is
that your sources have nuanced definitions. Each field isn't directly
mappable because it includes one or more subtleties.
name and address. Seems simple enough. But... is that mailing address
or shipping address or billing address? Phone number. Seems simple.
Fax, Voice, Mobile, Land-line, corporate switch-board, direct? Sigh.
So much detail.
Of course the users "just want search".
Sadly, they've created data so subtle and nuanced that they can't have search.
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