Are You Being Google-Clever About Information Relevancy?

The Office TV Show, Keith's appraisal - a type of information gathering that sucksGoogle is known for it's search engine, a search engine that no-one had to sign up for before using - it just worked. However, it doesn't work quite well enough - if it did it would return just one result, the one you were looking for. To do that Google needs to know more about you as this famous quote from the Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, highlights:
We cannot even answer the most basic questions because we don’t know enough about you. That is the most important aspect of Google’s expansion.

You see, relevancy - the more relevant they can make the search (& therefore adverts) the more you and I will see them as "useful information" and therefore click on them upping the ante for other search providers AND ultimately keeping the $$$s rolling into the Googleplex bank account. Yep, they're in this for the money folks!

Relevancy ... it's the key to all information providers be it a worldwide search engine or your team wiki. Make the information relevant to the user and you're sorted. However, relevancy is an eel of a concept though as it slips through time, events, moods and even surroundings. Looking for a person to contact about getting a piece of software installed at work will bump into these "relevancy factors":
  • what software
  • why do you want it
  • what rights do you have
  • where are you, geographically
  • where are you, in the chain of command
  • who is available
  • when do you want it installed
  • ...
If you can find me a staff directory that can lead me straight to the ONE person that can help me straight away then I'll be amazed. Probably you'll go to a human to sort out the relevancy via a "Help Desk" who will assign attributes of relevancy (priority, SLA response time etc) before dumping these same attributes by dropping your request into a dark pool with everyone else. Two weeks later, someone will call that can do the work but by then it's no longer relevant as you've moved on and no longer need the software.

So, if it's tough with a limited set of attributes can you imagine trying to garner relevancy for those searching "the worlds information". With internal systems though we can gain a lot of relevancy from what's out there about the person - we (probably) know who they are because they're logged and from that we can find out where they are in the chain of command and a whole stack of "company given attributes", things that you get when you turn up for day one of the job.

Google started with a similar approach - they know where you are in the world (roughly) via your IP, they may know what you've queried before if you're using the same computer and they can assume a whole lot more - all from an "anonymous" user (more ...). But this is no way enough for them to serve up the ONE result , they need to get information from us.

How did Google go about collecting this information? Did they ask us all to fill in questionnaire, complete a survey, be a part of a census ... hmm, whilst this is an approach most organisations take (hands up who's recently filled in a "Staff Engagement Survey"?) this isn't gonna work for the fluid and real world Google operates within. And, to be fair, it doesn't really work for organisations either as they never seem to acknowledge the "time" (when it was filled in) is as relevant as any other attribute.

Nope, Google does what Google does best. They give us a whole stack of useful tools and from that they (openly) collate the relevancy. For instance, they gave us GMail which was our first means of telling Google who we were because we had to login in. Who is gonna complain about having to login to get their email, no-one! The number of useful tools have exploded since that moment:
  • Google Reader - what are you reading
  • Google Docs - what are you writing
  • Google News - what events are you interested in
  • Google Search Wiki - what you think is more relevant
  • Google Maps (smart phones) - where are you
  • Google Sites - who are you collaborating with
  • Google Chat - who are you talking with
  • Google Latitude - where are you (again)
  • Google Profiles - WHO are you
If at this point you are a) shocked; b) horrified then I think you need to stop, take a look around you and realise that the new world order is here and how much control you have over this is first gained by educating yourself about it.

So, in Google's quest to supply the ONE result they have given us a whole stack of amazingly useful tools into which we supply (knowingly) a lot about ourselves. And if you don't supply it someone else will, for instance as your mate explains what a 40-something white male in Wellington is interested in Google can start to infer from the little they know about you that you might be interested in the same.

So what about the Google Profile (mine) - is this about social networking, is this about going head-to-head with Facebook, is this about having the coolest toys? No - because we are all fundamentally lazy we have no interest in giving out the same information loads and loads of times, "Hey, Google I've already said who my friends were over in Facebook, and no way am I'm gonna do it all again!" And so Google has competition with garnering that information that it needs to get to the ONE result. And Facebook is NOT gonna share that information with Google.

Internally you have the same issue, "Yes, yes, yes I can see I can type in my interests, my current projects and the school I went to but ...". The "but ..." is your competition - it might even be Facebook, it might be that they told everyone at a staff Christmas party, they might ... they might, they might - whatever it is doesn't matter. It is your competition to gaining more about your staff.

Once you know the competition you next challenge is defeating it.
Do you have the technical and business competence to do be Google-clever and forgo the obvious and flawed response of one-off "asking the people to supply". Are you up for being Google-clever and giving your staff useful tools that also collect metrics? I know of no "enterprise" system that comes close to doing this - do you?

But remember the why you're doing this - to make your information more relevant. Give them the ONE piece of information that they need. Give them the ONE person that can install that piece of software right now.

Who uses the staff profile like that? Who is being Google-clever within organisations? - leave a comment ...



See also:

Comments

  1. Gosh, look what I found in my Google Reader - great minds thinking alike, almost:
    Many of their wish-list features centered around the concept of user-generated content for enterprise directories. This is a definitely a serious gap in most intranets today. Few organizations have optimized employee directories and made them a key piece in enterprise collaboration.

    http://netjmc.typepad.com/globally_local/2009/02/user-generated-content-for-employee-directories.html

    ReplyDelete

Post a comment