Lousy Ratings, Part 2

By Marc Solomon posted 06-10-2011 10:59


Last week we considered how binary logic is about as helpful for writing code as it is useless for assessing information quality. Our non-working model? The I-like button version of content analytics, a.k.a. the Smiley Face-ification of Social Media.

So how do we tilt the universal code for check it out, the thumbs-up sign, to tilt at an angle that respects the dignity of our colleagues' userhood? That means they believe an endorsement is designed around their knowledge-seeking demands -- not around what we have in our content inventories dressed up as ECM-flavored friend invites.
Under the firewall our colleagues are incentivized to be productive first, social second. It's nice to know that Sandy is a birder and Tom has a special needs son. But the actual success story lies in leveraging expertise teased out through background details, accounting records, and project outputs. That's the kind of historical visits that bear repeating. Knowing how to piece together the moving parts of an organization is not only a hockey metaphor for skating towards where the puck will soon be. It's a metric worthy of systematic capture along with the reverse revisitation -- building from scratch what's already in place.
How do we generate a collaboration score on SharePoint? How do we quantify the frustration and opportunity costs of wheel reinvention?
For starters we need to forego the language of web marketing when it comes to setting the success goals of our intranets. Our users are no more likely to preen in front of their My Sites mirrors than we are to accept pop-up ads from our competitors to defray the cost of our upgrade to SharePoint 2010. It's not about stickiness in a click-happy rich media setting. It's about expediency and synthesizing what they learn into the task at hand. In fact the less time they spend hunting down documents the more likely their demands are being met.
For years we intranet managers have shuffled with our heads down past the Google hit parade because our users can service their internal needs faster through Google than our internal systems. It's time to stop mumbling about user apathy. It's time to stop blaming our tools and start cashing in on the advantages of running a demand-side information store. That means not only answering to our user's demands but actually qualifying what those demands are through our search logs and making these usage patterns widely known.
That means matching popular key terms to the official versions of need-to-have news items and project materials. But it also means reporting on the organic side through unsung or less sanctioned outputs that prompt some serious downloading. It's 2011 already -- 'bout time to get viral and know the news of it will be catching to all concerned.
Another key metric is to stop dismissing zero hit queries as a stain on our abilities to match content producers with knowledge consumers. If anything a fruitless search is an open invite to a host of improvable outcomes, including:
  • Search engine training to broaden the narrowly-based queries of fixated users
  • Gap analysis distributed to content owners who may well have answers -- just not captured in the wording or format requested by the user
  • Expansion of word maps, glossaries and/or thesaurii through managed metadata services so that variants and equivalencies can address an otherwise zero hit encounter the next time around
The truth about document ratings and usage metrics is that SharePoint's activity streams are rolling our colleague's knowledge-seeking behaviors from isolated browser sessions to the big screen of community life. That gives ECM managers a front row seat of our own enterprises. This is not about customer service or even social networks under microscopes. We're long past the point of people who don't need persuasion to answer surveys.
This is an understanding of those influences in the queries they shape and the random pieces of the partial answers we puzzle together with the help of our old pal, technology. When we stop being spectators to our own systems we will have a serious story to tell. 

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