Tuesday, May 6, 2008



That's the word that vendors use to describe the state of the problem you are hiring them to fix.

Me, the content romantic: Send a crawler that can paw through the stacks of our towering piles in hopes of rescuing a lost lesson or past bid for potential greatness, sandbagged by the ravages of past downsizings and market disruptions.

The vendor responds: We are not in the business of fixing something that is too unruly, rampant, and culturally taboo for your colleagues to care -- let alone change or hire an outside firm to go fix. Besides, the vendor doesn't sell to the business -- it sells to my IT group and it's a message of plug and play -- not asset recovery.

The vendor proposes a work-around that indexes every file and treats it with the same deference that one might your recyclables at curbside: this was a leaf pile and those were some egg cartons but either way they're being carted off in the same truck.

But how does unstructured become structured? Content is not reducible to "1"s and "0"s. Content is about subjects and predicates. This is not how IT thinks and this is not what's being sold here. When it comes to the recycling of your unstructured data the vendor has some useful wrappers for "re-purposing" the IP trash you might otherwise toss with your document shreddings. For instance there might be some kind of precanned attempt to classify your unlabeled inventory by mapping some recurrent keywords in your index to sets of selective phrases that hint at structure. But it's just a tease.

There's no more credence between your content and organizing it than a simple passing match-word resemblance to the phrases reproduced in the vendor's approximation of your salient concepts -- what the document is about.

Is that better than nothing? It's better than nothing if you've already surrendered to the notion that unstructured information was never meant to be...

* recovered
* gathering electronic dust like some deep cryogenics freeze of your firm's institutional memory
* re-dedicated to a higher state of usefulness -- even though so many of these past lessons hold shelf lives beyond the retention of a major account, product line, or fading wisdom of a key former contributor).

Really, when you get down to unstructured it's only the structured world's way of saying that it can trap context, meaning, and judgment in the same binary webbing that entraps numbers and facts in spreadsheets and databases. But trapping is not the same as translating or interpreting why yesterday's document landfill could become tomorrow's breakthrough thinking. True structuring requires an understanding of the actions taken with the information as the basis for any formal content structure.

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attentionSpin is a consulting practice formed in 1990 to create, automate and apply a universal scoring system (“The Biggest Picture”) to brands, celebrities, events and policy issues in the public eye. In the Biggest Picture, attentionSpin applies the principles of market research to the process of media analytics to score the volume and nature of media coverage. The explanatory power of this research model: 1. Allows practitioners to understand the requirements for managing the quality of attention they receive 2. Shows influencers the level of authority they hold in forums where companies, office-seekers, celebrities and experts sell their visions, opinions and skills 3. Creates meaningful standards for measuring the success and failure of campaigns and their connection to marketable assets.