PLM thoughts about information access after reading Mr. Page’s letter

PLM thoughts about information access after reading Mr. Page’s letter

plm-info-context

I had a chance to read “Google ‘A Million Miles Away from Creating the Search Engine of my Dreams’, Says Larry Page.” this morning. The article points to Mr. Page annual “Founder’s Letter”, published ahead of the company’s annual shareholder meeting.

One of the most interesting part to me was how Mr. Page sees Google focus on answering a user’s question. Here is my favorite passage:

“Information is Google’s core,” Page said, noting that over 100 billion Google searches are conducted each month — 15 percent of which are never-before-asked new queries. The search engine is working on being able to provide direct answers to questions rather than just a list of results said Page, adding that Voice Search now works in 38 languages.

It made me think about engineers, product development, search and information retrieval. Tine glitch I learned 5 years ago when I started to work with engineers on how search can solve their information problems. Usually, engineers don’t know what question to ask. What was the most important to engineers is the ability to provide an additional information about the answer,which helps to get the right result. Project, supplier, date/time, customer name… this is a short list of examples.

This Later in the latter Mr. Page outlined the importance of “context”. Here is another passage:

Page explained: “Improved context will also help make search more natural, and not a series of keywords you artificially type into a computer. We’re getting closer: ask how tall the Eiffel Tower is, and then when ‘it’ was built. By understanding what ‘it’ means in different contexts, we can make search conversational.”

In many cases “context” is an important lifecycle piece of data need to retrieve the right information. Revision, Configuration, Manufacturer, Serial Number, Project Name – these are all examples of contextual information needed to make data retrieval easy and painlessly. Search for part description can bring you thousands of results. You won’t be able to filter the right one. Context might have a larger implication in the future world. You may find more examples about “contextual world” in the book – The Age of Context by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel.

What is my conclusion? Keyword search as a foundation of information retrieval mechanism is dying. Information overload. Laundry list of results. Not good. We are moving to the age of contextual information retrieval. To get right context from the data and user is the key element of successful information retrieval. Product development and manufacturing is a very complicated environment. Data is intertwined and disconnected. It is essential to build right contexts to get right answer. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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  • Christian

    Oleg, enjoyed your post.

    Contextual search for engineering is something we work on for some years now and are pushing it now out to the community. We found that context definition is a really hard problem, because different people / departments / functions describe similar things in different ways.

    So if a user of domain A searches for data of domain B he might use different terminology than used in domain B and he will not find what he is looking for. So we need “mappings” to solve this.

    Of course you can add filter capabilities (e.g. drop down boxes) to your search engine, but very quickly you will end up with a myriad of ui elements and nobody understands the system anymore. So getting context from the search query tough and worth to work on.

    BR
    Christian

  • beyondplm

    Christian, thanks for your comment and example! Absolutely agree, definition of context in engineering and manufacturing is sometimes very complex. But it is the right way to get information in consistent manner. I’d consider to improve “context” definition (similar to how we improve precision and efficiency of GPS in the past :)) .