Searching Content for People

January 7, 2009 · · Posted by Jordan Frank

By moving communication and knowledge exchange to web pages, social software breaks down the walls that traditionally divide e-mail communication and traditional folder based document sharing. As discussed at the conclusion of So, What About Enterprise Social Networking?, this style of interacting online opens avenues for content enrichment and exploitation.

Reducing Search Chains Delivers Dollars

In consideration of research suggesting reducing search chains (how long it takes to find an expert) improves productivity - there are very tangible top and bottom line motivations to deploy social software like Traction TeamPage.

One of the ways to exploit the value of content and reduce search chains is by searching content for people. By offering a platform on which to contribute and comment on information in the course of every-day working activity, the content contributed by individuals forms a reflection of their expertise and the connections they've made either personally ("I met Doug Engelbart to talk about the mother of all demos") or by the power of the pen ("I watch Sanjay Gupta regularly and think he was a good choice for Surgeon General by Barack Obama").

Ranked Search Results - Also Rank the Authors, Point to Experts

The example below shows a search of our own TeamPage server for a few key terms that are of interest at the moment. It returns 8,231 results, ranked based on a mix of time, tags, link references and text analytics.


Forgetting the content within, a visual scan of the authors show that Jordan Frank (me) and Greg Lloyd are the apparent authorities on these topics.The backdrop of this result is a server that has around 200,000 potential page, comment and documents as well as several thousand potential authors. And in the top 10 results, I honed in on the two that are, quite likely, the two that one would want to contact with an issue or question. That's a quick way to shorten the search chain!!

The Author Cloud Provides More Pointers to Internal Experts

I can click the link to their profiles to see what they've been discussing recently and get a telephone number, or I can explore the author cloud to see who else is prominent in the result set:


The Author cloud, based on a combination the permission filtered search, gives me quick insight into the people who post the most pages and comments in the search result. Supposing I was doing the search (and therefore may care more about content authored by other people!!) I might multi-select on David Rendall, Lt. Don Brown and Michael Angeles to see what they've been posting. The search results would re-rank accordingly and I might then choose to visit Rendall's profile and then call him or send him a message. Another search chain shortened!

The Name Cloud Points to External Experts, and Authors Who Reference them

Supposing I was more interested in identifying external figures or experts, I can view the Name Cloud. This shows me names of people that authors in my TeamPage server are referencing.


The result shows that, in consideration of these search topics and my permissions, Doug Engelbart is the most referenced industry figure. But, perhaps, I am most interested in the content (and authors) referencing Brad Feld, Ted Nelson and Jon Udell. Multi-select and drill down on that content set will help me figure out what my organization knows about these people, and could also point me to someone that could offer an introduction.

Making Connections Through Search and Contribution

In the pursuit of enterprise social networking, some of the principal goals are to shorten search chains, get specific questions answered, and to solicit someone for collaboration on a project or topic.

Simply posting a question to a group blog can facilitate a range of responses from the individuals monitoring a given community or project workspace, while searching content for people can help to target a given authority and make a quick connection via the contact information provided on their profile.

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