Thursday, February 24, 2011

Plumbing Below the Radar

[caption id="attachment_534" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Photo by Jim Henderson |"][/caption]

"Never mistake your presence for the event."

- Roscoe Lee Brown

I'd like to say that the highlight of Tuesday's Open Mic Night was that I got to teach what I love in the manner I love doing it (teach). I'd like to affirm further that there was an airy effortlessness to the presentation. After all this was a captive, active group -- engaged, smart, skeptical -- all the requisite aptitudes. Finally I should clarify that the staging was in a stately conference facility with a robust wifi signal, no dial-in audience to accommodate, and most importantly ... no institutional middle man.

Truth is, the most gratification came from assembling two Boston-based information communities -- my PI/detectives and fellow SIKM colleagues -- then watching the collaboration fly across the conference table. The joy of discovery is one thing. But sharing that joy is pure rapture.

Kirstie Fiora filled in for my woeful event-planning deficits -- ushering in attendees past locked front doors and assorted roadblocks that escaped my logistical skills for bringing people together. I've been living off her Angie's Kettle Corn snack offering since the session ended. Pathetic.

In addition to Kirstie and brother Gordon, my improbable roundtable for round one included:

  • Ann O'Connor (PI) -- Researcher, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers ("IBEW")

  • Carrie LaRose (PI) -- Comptroller, H&H Delivery

  • Dave Wallace (KM) -- Managing Partner, GameChange LLC

  • Joe Cadillic (PI) -- Private Investigator, Murphy & Associates

  • John Dalli (PI) -- Owner, Worcester Record Search

  • Kate Pugh (KM) -- President, Align Consulting

  • Paula Cohen (KM) -- Knowledge Manager, Information Enterprises

The premise of the News Radar theme was that we're fussing over stuff that should not rise to our radar levels. I demonstrated tools for flushing information waste products back down below the sewer line where they belong. On the attention scale we rake our mental bearings into three piles:

  1. PURPOSE: What makes our lives worth living

  2. OBJECTIVE: What do I do to make #1 happen

  3. DISTRACTION: What gets int the way of #2

Way too much of the web is sheltered under the growth of pile #3. That's where I introduced the pruning shears of semantics, syntax, and search operators for pruning away the rubbish. I also tried to give them some bearings on when a scarcity of information actually calls for expanding the boundaries through keyword cultivation or the simpler queries that create more productive outcomes in ponds (specialty databases) in lieu of oceans (commercial search engines).

These examples were modeled on the saving graces of an XML-centric approach for having useful information find us -- assuming that web searches don't fall in the #1 pile camp. We used syntax to forge for RSS feeds. We used semantics to develop some word algebraics for trapping some common corporate event triggers (marketing, finance, regulatory, musical management chairs, etc.) We even set up watch lists to ensnare specific people we might call on that we can insinuate by the job titles in the announcements of their promotions.

We tested the relationship of push and pull sourcing by using Site Explorer to compare self-referring links to external ones as an even-handed basis to gauge the credibility of information providers by their web domains and pages. Finally we went shopping for higher level concepts like citizenship in Google Keywords and came away with the humbling conclusion that "Citizen Watches" were likelier to tell us Google time better than the Bill of Rights. Another discrepancy worth noting is the number of searches generated for terms versus the ad dollars they fetch, e.g. "SAS Document Management" yielded 73 searches last month despite its "competitive" appeal to Google advertisers.

The one underwhelming demo I thought was the section on rolling your own custom search engines. We grouped media sources back into their traditional pre-web categories. Remember the term "paid media" to describe the success of 20th century PR campaigns?" Didn't think so. The disappointment was in the lack of evidence that the keyword refinements did much to skew the results or tell the underlying story of the custom search theme. I also flew over the information pond completely. That means I didn't focus much on using Google as the search engine of record in order to qualify and build contact lists from social media sites.

I'm looking forward to the next several sessions in Western Mass and will try to localize them. Candidate projects on the agenda? Building alumni lists from LinkedIn of Five College graduates.

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About attentionSpin

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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.