On Tuesday, Jan. 17, Factiva will officially take the wraps off the beta of its new Search 2.0 interface. Existing Factiva.com users can opt to click on the beta preview link and a new browser window will open, offering them the latest in Factiva's "Discovery Technologies." The new search interface, which features results visualization and interactive graphical navigation, is targeted at end users who desire a search experience that is similar to popular Web search engines, though it may also appeal to seasoned researchers. The most obvious difference is a new graphical pane on the right side of the screen that visually surfaces metadata from the search results. Factiva claims that the new graphical filtering and navigation capabilities will transform business research because users will be able to easily see connections, relationships, and ideas within search results.
The Discovery pane sorts search results into categories so that users can quickly see what's going on with a search. Filtered results are interactive, so users can adjust a search dynamically to find new connections and ideas. Filters are applied to every search result set and include date (with a week-by-week timeline graph), "news clusters" (clusters of hot topics or "tag clouds"), and the top 5 of each found in companies, subjects, industries, and sources.
The Search 2.0 Beta is searching against a 90-day archive of content, which includes those sources in Factiva's collection that are actively updated. Therefore, a Search 2.0 search will retrieve results from approximately 6,000 sources and roughly 18 million documents. The help FAQ noted that this time period and content set may be adjusted at some point during the preview period. The interface is in English only, though some of the included sources may be in other languages. For a public company, users can also click to retrieve company snapshots and stock quotes.
Results are presented via three selectable tabs: publications (divided into wires, newspapers, and magazines), Web news (gathered by Factiva's proprietary Web crawling), and pictures. The results list shows contextual snippets with word highlighting. Web results are relevancy-ranked using an algorithm that employs "proximity boosting"; date ranking can also be selected. Clicking to view an article will display the article text in the left pane and a list of "more articles like this" in the right pane, along with metadata lists again.
Users can search with a simple word or two in the search box, but complex Boolean search strings reportedly will work as well. Most end users would have no understanding of Factiva's taxonomy searching capabilities, and Search 2.0 does not currently support searching with Factiva Intelligent Indexing codes. However, Factiva Intelligent Indexing is used to surface the companies, subjects, industries, and sources relevant to a search. News clusters that identify trends, relationships, and patterns within search results are also organized using Factiva's taxonomy.
The service is still working out some bugs. Several times when I tried to click on the date filter (in preliminary testing prior to the Jan. 17 debut), I got the message: "Please enter a search string." But, assuming the company responds to users' comments and suggestions, the preview period should result in welcome improvements. A Factiva spokesperson said the company would not give a specific timeframe for the length of the beta but expects it to last for at least several months. According to a letter sent to customers: "After a larger amount of customer feedback is evaluated, the Beta will conclude and some or all of Search 2.0 will be integrated into various Factiva products. Additionally, other new capabilities that provide our customers with competitive advantages will be introduced via other Beta environments throughout 2006."
Factiva recently announced that the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) had issued it U.S. Patent number 6,938,046. The patent, titled Polyarchical Data Indexing and Automatically Generated Hierarchical Data Indexing Paths, covers the Factiva Intelligent Indexing—the Industry, Region, Subject, and Company taxonomy that is applied to all of the content, in all formats and languages, in Factiva's services. Factiva also uses discovery technology from Inxight Software, Inc. in its services.
Factiva CEO Clare Hart has spoken frequently of the pressures on businesses to work faster and smarter. Studies have shown that employees spend too much time searching for and gathering information and not enough time analyzing information and acting upon the insights. So, Factiva's products have been increasingly moving toward personalized, role- and task-based environments in which systems anticipate the needs of end users and provide easier paths to information discovery. An example is Factiva SalesWorks (http://www.factiva.com/salesworks), which offers a simple interface that requires little searching or sorting, provides alerts and watch lists, and integrates with existing applications. Factiva considers its media and reputation intelligence product, Factiva Insight, to be the first phase of its Discovery Technologies and Search 2.0 as the second major implementation of its text mining, clustering, and visualization capabilities. More products are promised.