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Pudding. Yes, Pudding. A key concept to improving enterprise search.

Sep 28, 2017 10:12:26 AM by John Mancini

My wife and I are big fans of the British Bake Off show – it’s called the Great British Baking Show in the US for Pillsbury copyright reasons.

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The official premise of the show is this: “Follow the trials and tribulations of passionate amateur bakers whose goal is to be named the UK’s best. Each week, the bakers tackle a different skill, the difficulty of which increases as the competition unfolds.”

All of which is well and good, especially for someone for whom carbohydrate-worship almost amounts to a religion. But beyond that, I love the show for three reasons. 

First, compared to US reality shows that all seem to thrive on the “elimination moment” (one such set of moments actually helped a certain partly become president!), it’s much kinder and gentler and more polite.

Secondly, the hosts, Paul and Mary and Mel and Sue, are hilarious.  A few samples:

  • Sue to one of the contestants: “When you were foraging in the hedgerows, did you eat any weird mushrooms that may have inspired this bake?”
  • Mel: “That oven’s doing lovely things to your hair, Marie. It’s like being at a Rod Stewart gig.”
  • Sue on the crème brûlée round: “Finally, a signature challenge where it’s OK to burn the living hell out of something.”
  • Sandy on her crème brûlée: “The wobble should be like me backside.”
  • Sue on crème brûlées: “What wobble are you looking for? A Kim Kardashian? A Jessica Rabbit?”

But I’m getting off topic.  After all, this is a content management blog.

The third thing that intrigues me about the show is the use and interpretation of language.  Theoretically, we're talking about a common language between my British colleagues and me, but one with frequent gaps of meaning that constantly illustrate why this task of assigning meaning to the content and context of documents is so vexing.

A short quiz on some of the terms used in the show. See how many you can identify without resorting to Google (answers at the end!)

  • argy bargy
  • gone pear-shaped
  • bang off
  • bang on
  • bank job
  • right pig’s ear of this
  • on full whack
  • manky
  • I don’t know if I’m Arthur or Martha
  • up the swanny
And that doesn’t even include the curious use of “pudding” to describe all sorts of desserts that are, in fact, not pudding at all. As far as “Spotted Dick,” I won’t even go there.

Text-based search has been the dominant tool for finding business information for decades. But in the British Bake Off context, text based search will simply not understand that “manky” means super-dirty and disgusting or that the phrase “I don’t know if I’m Arthur or Martha” is Australian for “confused.”

Our workplaces are filled with words and concepts that are equally arcane and inconsistent – meaning that text-based search will never get the job done.  

This is compounded by all of the many, unconnected applications we use. Let me tell you a bit about my typical workday, filled with balkanized information sources.  Hubspot. LinkedIn. Twitter. Office 365/Outlook. Yammer. Box. And then Word, Excel, and Powerpoint, with a little dose of Google Docs for when we really need to collaborate. Evernote. And then into our association management system. Skype for Business. Unless Skype for Business doesn’t work, and then off to Go To Meeting or regular old vanilla Skype.

This translates into an employee experience that is suboptimal. The experience of using all of these different applications, each with their own user interface and vocabulary, means engagement is lacking.

All of this is amplified when you need to actually find a document or a piece of information across all of these systems. On average, employees spend 1.8 hours every day or 9.3 hours per week searching and gathering information. 60% of company executives feel that time constraints and multiple databases prevented employees from finding key information. It means employee productivity is suboptimal.

The challenge is that many organizations have gotten so used to poor search performance that they don’t even know they have a search problem. Knowledge workers are so used to looking in 5 or 6 or more places for information that they don’t really have a sense for what COULD be.

Enterprise search with semantic enrichment provides a framework to rethink the enterprise search value equation.  The first step is using statistical analysis to think through our taxonomies and identify synonyms so we being to understand that “chin wag” is in fact a synonym for "conversation." It also means using semantic metadata to help answer the question, “What is the meaning of this content?” in a way that computers can process so that they can find, filter, and connect information from both inside and outside the organization.

I recently did an interview with Justin Ullman from Rhinodox on this topic.  Check it out; I think you'll like it, either via THIS LINK or the player below.

And you might also be interested in these:

Do Your New Hires Think They've Entered a Computer Museum?

What if your search was better and more encompassing?

From Documents to Content to Data


Answer Key!

  • argy bargy: noisy quarreling
  • Gone pear-shaped: something gone horribly wrong
  • bang off: immediately
  • bang on: perfect
  • Pudding: any dessert. Yes, any dessert.
  • bank job: to do something quickly, in and out.
  • right pig’s ear of this: to do something mad poorly.
  • on full whack: to the greatest extent (“I turned my oven on full whack.”)
  • manky: super-dirty and disgusting.
  • I don’t know if I’m Arthur or Martha: Of Australian/ New Zealand origin; dreadfully confused.
  • up the swanny: Of Australian/ New Zealand origin; apparently refers to the Suwanee River in the US and is a polite way of referencing another creek we’re fond of referring to.
  • "Spotted Dick": A delightful, spotted pastry, often filled with dried fruit and fresh citrus zest.

Topics: content analytics, semantic, content management, semantic web, enterprise search

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