Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Importance of Customization

I listened to two presentations this morning from publishers (one commercial, one a scholarly society) as they discussed the ways in which they are leveraging the strength of Mark Logic's tools. Both services were designed to satisfy specific populations. In the instance of the commercial publisher, the provider was developing an information service to serve industry analysts associated with brokerage and investment firms. In the instance of the scholarly society, the service was designed to satisfy an equally specialized population, exploratory geophysicists. These are the populations that can not be satisfied with just a "good enough" answer. These populations need authoritative information, augmented by analytical tools.

In previous years, both of these populations would have been supported by systems that forced the searcher to run a query using the same interface, regardless of the difference in the nature of the content being sought. Very like Henry Ford's old line about buying a Model-T -- "You can have any color you want as long as it is black." There was no customization of display or rendering of content specifically suited to a community or profession. In the current environment, it seems that this is one of the primary ways in which publishers are trying to tailor their product to satisfy the need. In the case of Platts, a McGraw-Hill B2B information service, the results generated from a search include not just the full text of an article or report, but additional links to relevant pricing data, regional information and additional relevant content from McGraw Hill publications that the user may not have thought to consider. In the case of the American Institute of Physics, the system brought together the content from more than half-dozen publishers to enable a unified search that even allowed searches to be run according to a variety of mark-up languages. That's important because mathematical equations are currently being rendered in several different mark-up languages, each with its own population of supporters who need to work in that particular rendering. Such differences may seem minor, but are indicative of how different user populations approach an information query, discover relevant content and interact or re-use that content.

Users will be better served by this style of customization. Mark Logic's contribution is to provide the technology in support of that publishing need.

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