Friday, October 19, 2007

The Four Types of Search and Vivisimo's Social Search

After looking at my post on the Vivisimo Social Search, I thought back to how it relates to each of the four types of search. For those of you who missed my post from a few months ago on types of search, my studies show there to be four types of search: fetch, recall, precedent and research.

With the fetch, you have exact identifying information. For instance, with a document in the document management system you have the document number, or you have a filename and path, or a URL. Obviously, an enterprise search engine adds little to this type of document search. The social search would allow you or others to annotate that item. For instance, the law has changed and a provision in the document does not work anymore.

With the recall search, you have some distinct information about the nature of the item. You remember a matter it was associated with, who created it, when it was created, etc. With this type of search you typically get back several or many items and you need to sort through the results to find the item you were looking for. The social search may help with this sorting. For instance, if an item were tagged as the final document. Or just the opposite, the item was tagged as being an interim or discarded draft.

The research is the type of search that an enterprise search was built for. You want to find information on a topic and you may have no idea if the enterprise has any information on that topic. Information could be stored in a variety of sources/databases. The social enterprise search should pull back information that others found useful, more so than just an enterprise search. If I am looking for information on "poison pills" it would be great if the search pulled back intranet pages on the subject, documents on poison pills and personnel with experience with poison pills. It would be even better if those search results were improved with tags and annotations from others: "useful summary memo", "helped me get poison pill approved by the board", "the courts overturned this poison pill", etc.

The enterprise social search also gives you a tool to allow for or improve your search for a precedent. With a precedent search, the information that makes the item relevant is generally not in the text of the document. For instance, if I were looking for a purchase and sale agreement for a retail shopping center in Florida that is buyer favorable. The words "Florida" "retail shopping center" and "buyer favorable" may not appear in the document and if they do they may only appear once or twice. To enable this kind of search you need to harness the document collection to another database of information. The social search gives you another option. You can just add an annotation to the document that it is a "buyer favorable agreement for a retail shopping center in Florida."

Some skeptics of the social search will point out that you can already accomplish some of the same results. For instance, if you have a comments field in your document management system, you could use that comment field for annotations. The problem is that the comment field is anonymous and therefore the annotation is anonymous. I do not know if I wrote it, someone smarter than me wrote it or someone less competent wrote it.

I think Vivisimo's new search tool offers a lot of promise to improve all of the types of searching and better harness the knowledge of an enterprise.

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