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Confessions of a barefoot cobbler

By Hugh McKellarKMWorld executive editor

The date: Oct. 29 to 31, 2002. The place: Santa Clara Convention Center. The event: KMWorld and Intranets 2002.

This is hard for me to admit, so please try to be understanding. OK, here goes (deep breath): I didn’t come anywhere close to accomplishing all I had hoped to at our conference. Here’s the one event I look forward to most all year—after all, I’m the editor of the magazine and along with Jane Dysart, co-chair of the four knowledge management conference tracks. More than anyone, I should have known I couldn’t moderate one seminar while simultaneously attending three others and still spend enough time on the show floor to discover what all the vendors were introducing and developing. No question about it—a poorly designed and executed knowledge management initiative on my part. I am so ashamed. There, I said it.

I know I’m not alone in my feelings. My sentiments were probably best articulated in a brief conversation I overheard between sessions. A fellow was complaining about his inability to decide which session to attend. His colleague replied, “It’s nice that the buffet table is too long rather than too short.”

And if it’s true that what’s repeatedly overheard in the aisles provides the real pulse of an event, then unstructured data management was the heart of this year’s show. You’ll be hearing that term a lot over the next 12 months as companies previously associated with search, taxonomy development and categorization software bring analytic capabilities to their solutions. For example, Intelliseek and Inxight are deploying technology from the former WhizBang Labs into their individual solutions. For Intelliseek, the deal means its deep search analysis and other robust technology will be enhanced through the extraction of information from multiple, disparate data sources in the form of what it calls “facts.” Intelliseek will produce ASP solutions that create analytic tools and structured reports from vast amounts of unstructured data. In its Smart Discovery software, Inxight will use WhizBang’s fact-extraction technology, which crawls even dynamically generated Web pages, classifies them, extracts the entities and associates them into a database record.

Semagix takes a different approach to UDM with its emphasis on ontologies and enhanced metadata. Semagix aggregates information from any internal or external source—Web site, content repository, relational database and, through the help of human experts and trusted sources, builds a domain-specific ontology, which it calls a “superset” of a taxonomy with classes, attributes, relationships and the like, all connected through a semantic network.

ClearForest takes the auto-tagging approach to mining the riches of unstructured data. The company’s ClearTags software semantically, structurally and statistically tags content, greatly enhancing the number and value of the tags. The process is automatic and results in the discovery of relevant and related information both inside individual documents and between documents in large document repositories. These richly tagged XML files are well-suited for repurposing or repackaging for use in other applications.

Stratify automates the process of organizing unstructured information by using the structure implicit in documents to construct a taxonomy customized for a business. The company says that for customers using custom, industry-standard or third-party taxonomies—or organizing their information using a file server or Web server—the system can directly import that existing work and automatically extend it.

Space here limits further discussion of the UDM offerings on display in Santa Clara, but it’s pretty obvious this is one of the hottest areas of technology right now. And I’ll safely predict that next year’s show will highlight even more sophisticated UDM solutions.

And next year, this KM cobbler won’t be going barefoot. Really.

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