Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Vivisimo hits the bullseye--Rebecca Thompson on Velocity 6.0

I'm attending a presentation at the Omni-Parker Hotel on Vivisimo's new enterprise search tool that promises to bring enterprise 2.0 to search. Rebecca is the VP of Marketing at Vivisimo. I attended a reception afterwords, but did not partake of the "Terminal Velocity" tequila drink.

Organon --"Where enterprise search is today."

Rebecca showed a sample search screen from pharmaceutical company Organon. As she rightly pointed out, most companies do not have a search this effective. Their enterprise search has content from a variety of domains (types of sources) including people bios / intranet / internent / sharepoint/ documentum / network. Like other Vivisimo GUIs I've seen, it has multiple sets of clustered results, one based on its semantic navigation, and two others by criteria (or metadata) specific to pharma, one by "therapeutic area" metadata and another by "brand name" metadata.

Next Steps--Enterprise Search 2.0

Web 2.0 is changing user expectations. People now want to interact with the information in a simplified way. If they have to take a training class, it's not going to happen. People go home to web 2.0. they use delicious, facebook, digg it, and share information (my informal surveys of our youngest associates suggest that these tools have not quite penetrated as far as Rebecca suggests). The new generation's method of communicating has been facebook--there is no need to send email when they can post. (This is certainly true--see my colleague Doug Cornelius' post on summer associates' use of web 2.0 technology). The sites are so easy to use that people won't suffer through training. Their common complaint is, "Why can't we have a corporate facebook."? They want "a better way to communicate and collaborate."

Enterprise search is a natural fit with collaborative software because the search goes across content domains and pulls in content from different sources.

Social search gives people power and control over their search, also leads to buy-in through their investment and participation in the process.

Three aspects of social search in Velocity 6.0

· Social Tagging
· Collaboration
· Social Networking

Social Tagging

There are three types of social tagging in Velocity 6.0 ("6.0").

The first and simplest option is "voting" on usefulness of results by clicking on a green "thumbs up," or a red "thumbs down." Votes can affect relevancy, or not, as you choose. There can also be some "super-raters" whose votes have more weight or who are the only people whose votes count. The system knows who you are, so you can change your vote (and can't vote multiple times on one document).

A second kind of tagging is "rating." One to five stars, and average rating is also displayed. Rating has the same set of controls on whether relevancy is affected. The engine can sort results by ratings.

The third way is adding keywords (I'd call this real "tagging"). The keywords become metadata bound to the search result and add context to the documents that you and others can see. The firm can control the available vocabulary for tagging--auto fill or drop-down list. Permissions to tag are controlled in the same fashion as voting and rating. Tags will not reveal documents otherwise marked as secure and documents are not revealed to a walled-off person just because they search on that tag. The engine will start to show similarly-spelled tags as you type. The 6.0 engine displays and finds tags by clusters on your search result.


Users can also annotate search results with their own thoughts and commentary. People's comments on documents remain as a type of institutional knowledge. This can turn into a view of people's work and experience.

Every user has a profile and can be alerted if there is a change in a search result or a given tag. This is a "reader-like" feature that can lead to more collaboration as users can see others that are working on similar issues or documents.

Virtual Folders

6.0 has "virtual folders" where search results can be stored. Folders can be public or private, although I did not see the "private" feature in the GUI of the demo. Individual search returns, that is, pieces of content, are dragged into that folder.

Virtual folders are shared on a group or public level.

One client of theirs, a "major NY-based media company", has a fixed group of KM / library researchers who set up folders on particular topics, and then grant project teams have read-only access.

Virtual folders appear only when relevant to your particular search.

One limitation, elicited by a questioner, is that you can't tag or annotate an external URL. Binding search results to documents rather than URLs allowed faceted guided navigation.

Social Networking

Search for personnel shows the tags that they've used. A search for content can also switch to a view of the people who have authored or tagged the content.

Clustering on employee results--after running a search for a particular key word, 6.0 can further cluster semantically on the employee information. This approach appears to be a great way to find particular types of employees with particular expertise.


As an administrative and KM tool, 6.0 has a set of tagging dashboards. They show top keyword tags, top taggers, by time frame. It helps manager see what employees are doing and demonstrate ROI.

The next step will be to give people more control over what they see in the results.

Other Thoughts

Rebecca recommended to treat search as an ongoing, living project. Don't set it up and walk away. Keep an eye on user behavior and on how content is changing.

Velocity 6.0 can be configured to ignore or stop clustering on certain terms, or to relate one "theme" to another, if, for instance, a company name was also an acronym.

Looking Back At What I Wanted

Last week I posted on the 6.0 announcement. There were a couple of features I was looking for:
  1. Pivoting on other users' tags and favorites;
  2. Pivoting around others' tags;
  3. Ranking or segregating people's tags on documents based on their role within an organization;
  4. Controlled sets of tags (as an option);
  5. Predicting and displaying others' tags based on what you have started typing;

The short answer is, the demo I saw absolutely had features 1, 2, 4, and 5. It also had the ability to rank the tagging based on a person's role in the organization, which is close to what I was looking at in feature 3 (you can have "super taggers").


Vivisimo has really hit the Enterprise 2.0 target here. The four different ways that 6.0 brings in social collaboration into search have the potential to provide a rich, intuitive search experience inside the firewall, without much training required. Both tagging and virtual folders have tremendous potential to enhance collaboration and findability of content and people. And it's already associated with a really strong enterprise search engine.

The lawyerly skeptic in me wonders if lawyers will start contributing by rating, ranking or tagging, when a social collaboration tool like this is turned on. I think, however, that because a tool such as tagging has immediate personal benefit (i.e., it will help you find what you've previously found), without requiring significant investment of time, it will likely catch on. Tagging has even more benefit the more and more broadly it is used.

Taking advantage of the annotation feature will be more complicated and may require significantly more structure and institutional investment such as organization by practice areas, since lawyers by training can be quick to criticize and are proportionally more concerned about others' criticism of their comments.

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