Monthly Archives: October 2008

Vignette Village 2008

Vignette, the Austin-based Web content management company,  has an annual show called Vignette Village.  A whole crew went from our company; Mark and I represented the Web Admins.

I got a lot out of Village though I wasn’t expecting to.  There was excitement in the air and clear commitment to continued development of their core Vignette Content Management (VCM V7) product and other products which had been lacking for the last couple years.  To be honest, I had begun to expect that it was a matter of time unti the Plone/Drupal/Joomla crowd outstripped VCM, but they seem to be making the changes required to keep the product as the true enterprise choice.  We already moved off Vignette Dialog, which was a very good email marketing package, because of the lackof support and new development.  I don’t know the details, but basically Vignette went all meathead and turned away from their core products to chase medical/legal document management money a couple years ago, combined with financial problems and layoffs, and so the products started to suck.  They seem to have turned that around, though, and everyone I spoke to inside Vignette is excited about their new leadership, especially Bertrand de Coatpont, the new VCM product manager.

The new Vignette Recommendations (OEMed from Baynote Systems) looks really good, and will expose some new data to us that I think can be used in a lot of different and innovative ways.  From previous descriptions I had thought “Yeah, whatever, BazaarVoice but from Vignette, which doesn’t necessarily inspire confidence in me” (frankly, we Web Admins have learned to be suspicious about additional offerings from Oracle, Vignette, HP, etc. as they will try to sell you crap on the strength of their brand name and alleged integration).  But the reality, which is an extremely elegant way of collecting and immediately reusing usage info, is brilliant and especially with their social search aspect to it, I feel like they have an actual vision they’re working towards.  So two thumbs up there!

Also two thumbs up on the Transfer Tool, which allows you to easily clone VCM installs to other servers – it’ll allow for frequent and efficient refreshes.  We had to have that working, so we Web Admins had devised a complicated two-day process to clone an environment; this should be much better.

VCM 7.6 is planned to be complete this year, and it has a lot of compelling features – you can migrate Content Type Definitions (change a CTD and the content changes inside the VCM to fit), lots of performance, availability, and console GUI fixes…  Then “Ace,” which everyone knows is VCM V8 but they don’t want to own up to that yet, has a total GUI overhaul.  Most of the issues we have with VCM are content contributor usability, so that’s great.

All in all, two days well spent.  It definitely exceeded my expectations (and I’ve been to Village in years previous).


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Our Search Implementation In The News!

InformationWeek did a big story on enterprise search, and used NI as their lead example!  Note all the system info in the article that I fed them. And we’re getting a lot of fun out of Graff’s quote about how it’s easy to sign off on more resources forus, we’re including that in every purchase req now. 🙂

One of the reasons that our FAST enterprise search program has been so successful here is that the programmers and the Web Admins have worked pretty much 50/50 on the platform.  Also, FAST is a great product and has great support (we’re waiting with bated breath to see if Microsoft screws it up; we’ve been with FAST since way way before they got bought), and we have some very visionary search business folks who saw its potential early on.

Nowadays, search is more than it was considered traditionally.  We have a normal “search box”, of course.   But we also run our faceted navigation off search (e.g. our Data Acquisition product line page), pull things like related links and other resources (see resources tab on this page).  Search, in many ways, can be used the way people have used databases in the past.  With some metadata added, a search index is kinda like a big database, highly denormalized for speed, focusing on text search.  In fact, I think there’s a master’s thesis in there somewhere as to when search makes sense vs. when a database makes sense.  Databases make sense with lots of numerical information, but on the Web that’s frankly a fringe use case!   On the Web it’s all about text, from name/address to links to articles to product info…  When we did things like query related links out of a database table, and I mean an oracle database table on a big ass Solaris box, it was painfully slow.  Pulling from search, it’s 15 milliseconds.

As a result, our internal search use is even more killer.  We pull Intranet pages, documents from Notes repositories, data from our Oracle ERP system, files off file shares, etc. all into one place and let people delve through it.  They’ve even implemented “screens” on top of some of the data (mainly because Oracle ERP is painful to use).  Our entire sales force is gaga over it.

Anyway, so yay to modern search technology, yay to FAST, and yay us!

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No No, You Really DO Want To Use Live Search

It’s been in the news that Microsoft is pushing “rewards programs” for people to use Live Search and the Live Toolbar.  But did you know they’re trying to get your local IT department to do it for you?

Yep, the program’s called the “Search@Work Rewards Program”.  If your IT department puts IE, with Live Search as the default search, and the Live Toolbar installed, and some kind of tracker plugin called the “Search Rewards Client,” on your company PCs, then they get Microsoft service credits!  Yay.  I can only assume my ISP is next.

Here’s the exact service description from Microsoft.  Note that they’re tracking Yahoo and Google ad impressions too!  The rest of it’s “fair enough” at least by usual IT industry standards but that’s kinda shady I think.

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