Tagging data has business benefits, web gathering told

At the W3C Conference in Edinburgh this month, the benefits of more powerful search technology were expounded. Jeremy Kirk reports

Next-generation search technologies for the internet can successfully be applied to companies, enabling them to organise and find data on their own intranets.

Businesses that realise the importance of tagging and classifying their data will gain an advantage over those that don’t, says Clare Hart, an executive vice president at Dow Jones and chair of Factiva, the company’s subscription business news and information service.

She says a client recently told her of an employee who was writing a detailed report on a prospective corporate customer. Two weeks into the project, the employee found a 20-page report on the same prospect sitting on a company printer.

“This person was beside themselves,” Hart says. “It happens everywhere.”

New search technologies, such as tagging, mean less time is wasted searching for difficult-to-find items or those that have simply fallen into dark, digital obscurity on company networks.

Earlier this month, researchers gathered at the W3C (World Wide Web) meeting in Edinburgh heralded an approaching era in which computers will be able to interpret descriptions of data, making intelligent links between that data for sharper, more relevant searches — a semantic web.

The idea also applies to company intranets, but to take advantage of the benefits, enterprises should first form a strategy for managing their information. That involves taking an inventory of their own data and figuring out who needs access to it, when and how, Hart says.

The next step is creating taxonomies to classify the data that will be searched. Large organisations are increasingly adding metadata to their data, and many have developed several taxonomies, Hart says.

Taxonomies vary from business to business. Categories could include sales proposals, competitive intelligence reports and market research.

Factiva uses automated tagging for about 80% of the five million items it collects and indexes for its subscription service. Information is classified by company, industry, region, subject and language, Hart says. The remaining 20% is classified manually.

Factiva uses search engine technology from Fast Search & Transfer and Verity, both of which support taxonomies, Hart says.

The work — both within companies and on the internet — is the pursuit of a much richer experience from existing data, one that will be more personal and relevant, she says.

“Web 2.0 is about ‘I want the web to work for me. I don’t want to have to work for the web,’” she says. “Searching and losing two hours, five hours — that’s not efficient for me. I want information presented to me based on who I am and what I’m doing.”

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