Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Dave Kellogg's Opening Keynote

I'm told about 400 people are attending this event. Client and sponsor logos flashed on screen include Nerac, Elsevier, Oxford University Press, American Psychological Association, New England Journal of Medicine, Temis, Access Innovations, Data Harmony, etc.

Speed, scale, power, agility are the watchwords here this morning. Andy Feit just stepped up to welcome us all. This year's theme is "Discovering Agility". A particularly good analogy that is emerging from Andy's welcome is the power of the pelotan. A pelotan for those of you unfamiliar with the concept is the main pack of cyclers in a bike race. That pack moves together for two reasons, going downhill the pack gains momentum from the draft created and going uphill, the leaders set the pace. Clearly, the point is that developers working with XML for their content gain from the knowledge of the pack -- ie. the user conference such as this one.

Dave Kellogg has just stepped up with a presentation with a title, "Carving a Niche in the Infrastructure Market". If you aren't following Dave's blog, that is something of a mistake. Dave writes his own CEO blog; it's not the product of his corporate communication staff. I learn about the technology and business community when I read his blog over at He just indicated that he spends 2 to 4 hours a week working on his blog. The subscriptions to his RSS feed greatly dominates over the site visits which is an indication of the power of RSS.

The company strategy and vision is up next. Their mission is to unlock content. That breaks out to the following steps -- Find it, Database-ize it, Build applications on top of it and Analyze it. Finding it means rounding up the content from all the various places where it may be housed (internally and externally). Database-ize it refers to the database management system where you aggregate it in a repository. Building applications involves the re-use of the content in a variety of forms. Analyze it -- see what other information may be contained in that content and surface it for its value.

He's suggesting that a better database management system is currently envisioned by and built by search, database and content people. It's a question of bridging the gaps between text people and data people and content people in order to optimize the content owned by publishers and other organizations (federal agencies, enterprise entities, etc.). The difference in approach is that Mark Logic doesn't envision content just in the context of tables and columns; they see it in the context of flexibility. How can the content be handled so that it works in the way required to best satisfy the need of the content provider/publisher and the community they serve.

He's suggesting that Mark Logic has a "bowling alley strategy" - you have the head pin, in this instance the first thing you hit, and that subsequently drives what else goes down. The success you have with the first customer will create an impact with others surrounding that head pin. Then you pick up on adjacent organizations with similar problems (he references JetBlue and the Church of Latter Day Saints). These are not traditional publishers but they have a high volume of documents. You build success out from that. Dave references Geoffrey Moore, author of "Inside the Tornado" as one of the sources for more on this topic.

Dave uses humor very effectively in his presentation as he talks about how Mark Logic tries to put their internal thinking outside of the traditional box and bringing their customers outside of the box (in terms of database solutions). What's their positioning of their services? In an interview with Steven Arnold, the answer (delivered with some humor) is "better". The company's growth, displayed on one of his slides, is impressive over the course of the past five years. They're balancing focus with experimentation (try things, run with what works, learn). He's referencing MarkMail ( and Mark Logic's Facebook application, KickIt, as instances of experimentation. The creativity inherent in such experiments may help to resolve customer problems.

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