Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Word Algebra

It was Steve Arnold who fathered the ABI Inform taxonomy. And we thank him. In it he created two telecommunications categories -- one as an industry and another as an operational function. And we owe him big time. Why?

Arnold understood that taxonomies had to be strongest where search is weakest -- separating objects from predicates, actions from actors, the simple mechanics of grammar. His decision to isolate industries from operations was an elegant way to map verticals and horizontals within what the pre-web world used to call full-text databases.

So now we've got big, messy data sets whose only barrier to entry is hitting the key. How do we create clarity around the events we anticipate? How do we increase the certainty that we can identify who is driving those events and who's on the receiving end?

The framework I use for teaching this to my BU students is through "word algebra." In word algebra the Boolean construct would be:
actor1 OR actor2 "(verb1 OR verb2)(outcome1 OR outcome2)"
Plug this into Google as a future crime fighter and you get:
police OR cops "(taking OR took OR take)*(bribe OR bribes)"
The beauty of the formula is that you're tuning your results to the consequence of actions. This is nearly always a more interesting result than a topic-based query string consisting of keywords and subject classifications.

Better still, consider an entire index of query-based strings that chronicle a common set of outcomes -- say police corruption. The result is a formula more productive as an indexing agent for information-gathering than any static taxonomy related to criminal justice.

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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.