Improving Findability Is Not Just About Metadata

Christian Buckley

Christian is a 7-time Office Servers and Services MVP, internationally-recognized technology evangelist and collaboration expert, and the Founder & CEO of CollabTalk LLC, an independent research and technical marketing services firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah.

  • Excellent post. Thank you. My only comment is that in the enterprise if people can’t find their content there is no where else to go. They end up either interrupting someone else’s work or making a decision based on inadequate information. Search is business (and career) critical

  • I’ve always believed that the best search is the one you don’t need to do. Findability (which isn’t a word!) is about creating multiple ways to get to the right content in the context of doing the work. That’s why things like the Content Search Web Part are so important in SharePoint 2013. Embedding content in the right places – whether it is search-driven or not – leads to more streamlined knowledge management. More importantly, it can lead to improved performance, which is the actual goal.

  • Of course, I’ve got a little bias, but I kind of like Sympmarc’s sentiments, “the best search is the one you don’t need to do,” and which is echoed on slide 29 of Daniel Tunkelang’s presentation, “Design an experience that doesn’t require search.” In other words, strive to anticipate what a user needs when at all possible (but recognize search will always be an important part of the overall findability solution).
    That ability to flexibly anticipate is, of course, now becoming easier because we can in a sense flip search around–rather than just people searching for knowledge, knowledge can also be continuously “searching” for the users who most need the knowledge at a given time. And to continue the analogy, the “meta-data” associated with people that the knowledge searches against are each person’s particular inferred interests, expertise, and experiences.

  • Agreed. If people can’t find their content, they begin taking content storage into their own hands, building new information silos and perpetuating many of the problems in knowledge management.

  • I think that’s why Microsoft is putting so much emphasis around Office Graph and Oslo as the future of their search interface — its about presenting you with the most relevant, personalized data possible. I don’t think it totally moves us away from some kind of search interface, but there’s a ton of room for improvement.

  • It’s also why social has become so important to search. There’s only so much you can anticipate and automate. An algorithm can never (not yet, anyway) match the human brain’s ability to connect (or create) patterns in content, but by including social interaction within the mix, you are more likely to surface relevant content.

  • Indeed, and even just a little extra in the way of social behaviors goes a long ways, as Google’s search competitors in the late 1990s/early 2000s found out. The simple notion of an algorithm leveraging web page linking behaviors to augment classic text matching provided the extra quality that put all of Google’s competitors out of business and led to a few hundred billion dollars of market value.

  • Nice post, and it states what I have been working with for the past 10+ years. I also enjoy Daniel Tunkelangs work immensely.
    Seems in the Enterprise the challenge is the same today as when I started out with search, and I use the same techniques today as well to make it better. How do people work, how can search as a technology help you do parts of your job better? I never ever talk about search in a search project unless someone else brings it up. I want to know how you get the information you need to solve tasks. Ask a colleague, use tarot cards, or perhaps search? 😉
    As for SharePoint the tools has gotten a lot better, especially with 2013. Today it is so much quicker to create context aware search and pretty good UI’s, without doing a ton of development – which makes it easier to do A/B testing and solve the problems instead of doing plumbing.