Synata startup offers enterprise “search across all your cloud platforms”

Apparently Synata will search an employee’s cloud accounts, like the original Greplin.

Synata will extract a social graph from the content for everyone on their service (one big graph) and store it in their cloud, then rank results based on this graph, “like pagerank”. I’m dubious about this, as it seems like any data security goes out the window.

The services they connect to:

  • Box
  • Dropbox
  • Gmail
  • Google Docs
  • LinkedIn
  • Office365
  • SaleForce
  • Yammer
  • Zendesk

There’s Synata press release about how they won a prize at Launch 2013, and a little more information in a Pandodaily video interview 


When Zero Matches Is Not Zero Matches: How Search Filter Scope Affects Analytics

Recently, a routine check on a search engine log report suddenly started showing zero matches for a very common query. This seemed impossible, so I checked the search index, but there were plenty of items that matched the query term, and I could search for and find the term without any problems. Nor did the search engine or configuration settings seem to have any bugs that could cause this.

After some head-scratching, I realized that the query term had zero matches only when it was filtered, and that was not expressed in my search reports.

Example: search + some filters = no matches

Filters can lead to zero matches, dead ends

These kinds of filters are search limits imposed either by a user action or a configuration setting. Examples include filtering by country code, language, file type, company, product, genre, and so on. In my case, it was a geographic zone set in the user account, so they didn’t even know the filter existed.

Analytics reports must reflect filter scope

In these situations, the zero match reports cannot be aggregated, because the scope is incorrect.  Each filtered section’s zero-match reports must be examined separately for accurate analysis. Then it’s possible to evaluate whether the filters are working with the users expectations of content availability, and improve vocabulary and content coverage, or consider widening the search automatically.

Even user-friendly features such as autocomplete and spelling suggestions can cause a lot of problems with filtered search scope, as they can lead users to believe they will get results and then leave them with zero matches. It may be possible to filter these automated options to only display those that contain matches within the scope. Best bets — manually managed search recommendations — should not have the scope problem, as they link to specific locations not dependent on search.

Facet issues

In contrast to static filters, dynamic metadata facets should not trigger zero match results, as by definition they do not allow users to combine conditions that contain no matches. Facet interfaces either do not display these combinations or display them as inactive with 0 items. However, a user may drill down by facets and then do a search: if the search engine incorporates the existing facets in the query, it may find zero matches within that scope, although there are items available that match within the index. Facets are not a panacea.

Analytics reports must reflect filter scope

Given all this, I recommend adding an overall zero-match filter/facet metrics report to the search analytics — it could be as simple as a list of zones with their query frequencies, or as complex as a matrix with multiple facet/filter zero match queries. The idea is to identify the most important issues first.

In the following example, an ice cream site with tens of thousands of queries per day has two kinds of filters: dessert type and flavor.

Frequency of Zero-Match Queries By Filter
[no type filter] ice cream filter fr. yogurt filter gelato filter
[no flavor filter] 5,234 580 1411 697
chocolate filter 855 221 5 20
vanilla filter 621 46 91 44
strawberry filter 288 11 87 23
pistachio filter 473 173 26 12

This table makes it clear that the priorities for fixing the zero-matches result by adding content or synonyms should be:

  1. where there is no filter
  2. where either flavor or type filter is selected
  3. the most common few multi-filter situations, such as ice cream/chocolate, ice cream/pistachio, and frozen yogurt/strawberry.

Very small numbers of no-matches results with filters are probably not important, unless they apply to very expensive items such as jewelry, or vital ones such as legal precedents.

Filters and analytics for query frequency and clickthrough

Scope issues affect several analytic reports addition to zero-match cases. Query frequency reports are less influenced by filters, because users often search without regard for current filter constraints, so it causes fewer problems with aggregating query terms. However, for the most commonly-used filters, it’s worth separating and monitoring the specific query frequencies. Ecommerce sites frequently allow product managers to check reports within a specific product line or category.

Clickthrough rankings can vary widely based on filter or facet mode: if the best matches for a query are not within the scope, users may either click on inappropriate matches or abandon the search altogether. With enough traffic, they could affect the data context and reduce the accuracy of the rankings.

Forewarned is forearmed

This scope problem does make analytics more difficult, but at least knowing about the issue avoids wasting time with mysterious and impossible Zero Match situations.

Search Analytics Resources

Page Created 2013-03-07

Enterprise Search Summit Fall 2011

  1. We’re excited: #Enterprise #Search Summit kicks off tomorrow! Our own Senior #IA John Sutton is speaking! #DC #ESS11
  2. @ in DC planning my next article (and world domination) #ess11
  3. Following tweets from #ESS11. Hello to all search colleagues ! @MicroLinkTweets will be attending the conference.
  4. Martin White ( @IntranetFocus ) – can you to talk to other users of search vendor’s products, have accessible tech support? #ESSF
  5. Case study, Enterprise Search, payback for incremental improvements is high – Miles Kehoe – #ESSF
  6. RT @searchtools_avi: How many enterprise search users ever go to advanced search interface? #ESSF attendees report 0.3 to 10%
  7. via @IntranetFocus – automatic thumbnails for search results, show document layout and colors, add transparency – #ESSF
  8. search team: 1 info FTE per language, 1 help/training per country, 1 for each business unit, 3 for search mgmt & vendor relations #ESSF
  9. consider screen-readers and other accessibility issues in evaluating enterprise search interfaces @intranetfocus #ESSF
  10. RT @designcaffeine: If you read my Designing Search, leave me an Amazon review and get @rosenfeldmedia Search Analytics FREE! #ess11 @ess11
  11. How many #enterprisesearch users ever go to advanced search interface? #ESSF attendees report 0.3 to 10% via @searchtools_avi
  12. #ESS11 begins tomorrow! Visit booth 15 to speak w/Patrick Fleming & @BAInsight to begin your customized #searc… (cont)
  13. There are *always* complaints about enterprise search, are you getting them? Does your Help Desk know about search? @IntranetFocus #ESSF
  14. Reviewing the presentations for #ESS11 Topics: #EnterpriseSearch in the #Cloud , Optimization, #UX And what makes a successful #Search.
  15. Are you attending @ESS11 in Washington, DC this week? Stop by our booth, see a demo and talk to our experts.
  16. Ask senior managers, can they find their own documents from months ago? @intranefocus #ESSF Enterprise Search Summit Fall 2011

Who owns Search in the Enterprise?

Sometimes it’s IT, Communications, HR, everyone, or no one. None of these by themselves are sustainable for supporting information access in the long term, so we as professionals must find some way to do it better.

At Qualcomm, they have created Enterprise Centers of Excellence (CoE), including Search, Content Management, Collaboration and Desktop, combining leaders from IT, Engineering, Program Management, Finance, and more. The Search COE has succeeded in providing a central organizing point for search, muting search technology affinity wars, and increasing awareness of search capabilites leading to increased demand for specialized tools.

Mark Livingstone of Qualcomm and Miles Kehoe of New Idea Engineering will be presenting about this CoE experiences at the Enterprise Search Summit, and we’ll have an open discussion at ESSF, moderated by Lynda Moulton, where experts and conference participants can share experiences, good and bad.

The Enterprise Search Summit Fall will be held November 1 – 3, 2011, in Washington DC — I hope to learn from you there. For a $200 discount, use the code at the online registration page.

Fall Enterprise Search Summit is nearly here

The Enterprise Search Summit will be in Washington, CD, from November 1 to 3, and it’s looking good!  We’re concentrating on strategies for making Enterprise Search work in the real world, with case studies of successful implementations and practical information about search-based applications and mobile search.

New to our lineup is Greg Nudelman, author of this year’s best book, Designing Search: UX Strategies for eCommerce Success.  He’s been involved in several mobile search interfaces, and will present Ubiquitous Enterprise Search: New Design Approaches for Mobile and Tablet — this is going to be good!  Register for the conference before October 7 to get the early-bird discount.

BTW, I’ve been so busy with this conference and a large contract with a giant healthcare system’s intranet search that I haven’t been very responsive, and I apologize.  If you need something from me, please remind me by commenting here or sending email, don’t be shy!