Today I was thinking about search tools -- and adjacent topics such as content/business analytics -- and all the different situations that today's enterprise search engines find themselves involved in.
This then got me to thinking about how a search result is only as good as the content getting searched, and how people have no problem throwing huge sums of time and money at search solutions from IBM, Oracle, Vivisimo, Coveo, and the rest, but balk at spending any time or money cleaning up their content disaster zones.
On the radio and television I have recently been bombarded with adverts for really expensive diet pills and potions, and as a man of a certain age and paunch I find myself drawn to them with disturbing regularity. For a year or so back I was suffering from chronic tiredness, this worried me as something was clearly very wrong. So, I spent time and money on going through a series of medical checks to find the cause. The result was that there was nothing wrong with me that a bit of exercise and a better (lesser) diet wouldn't fix (my doctor was less diplomatic than that). So the result of all those tests was that I was very relieved to hear that there was nothing wrong with me, and that I could carry on merrily with my regular lifestyle. Yet, now that I am starting to look like the cocktail stick that swallowed the cherry, those diet pills are starting to look good, even though I know they probably won't really work. At least they won't work without a change in my diet and exercise regimen.
Search tools are much the same. They are the result of many years and millions in R&D, and hence have become very clever indeed. But if as organizations we were to diet a little (cut down on the junk) and exercise a little (apply some lifecycle management to content so that it doesn't just accumulate), then search tools could work much, much better. If we were to get a bit more serious and join a gym (start to tag content in a more structured manner) then the search tool can deliver outstanding results. But that all takes effort, and we don't much like effort, and the magic solution is so much more appealing, as you are promised all the benefits with none of the effort.
Just as in life a little self discipline with content can go a very long way. And after I finish this sandwich and can of cola I am thinking of trying some for myself.