The Dialog Corporation, now a subsidiary of Thomson Corp., has announced a Web portal for professional searchers that provides customizable access to industry information and news and to Dialog's products and services. The Info Pro Portal (http://www.dialog.com/infopro) was reportedly designed with input from information professionals.
"We created an easy-to-use portal that can be personalized to meet the unique needs of each user," said Betty Jo Hibberd, Dialog's information professional market manager. "It's one way of adding value for our most important customers, and the portal will continue to evolve as they provide feedback." Hibberd will be monitoring comments and overseeing ongoing enhancements to the portal.
If it seems like the word portal is everywhere these days, it is! We've been portalized. My ISP, and probably most others, offers a personalized start page with weather, news categories, stock reports, and favorite links. You can have your own MyExcite, MyLycos, or MyNetscape. Then there are all the vertical portals, or vortals. Customization and personalization have definitely become essential functions for any Web product or service, and Dialog has been trying to keep pace with the Web environment.
While the press release doesn't mention it, the Info Pro Portal joins several other portals available from Dialog: Dialog Business (http://www.dialog.com/business), Dialog Science (http://www.dialog.com/science), Dialog Technology (http://www.dialog.com/technology), and PowerPortal (actually Open Access to DialogSelect; see the Oct. 11, 1999 NewsBreak by Mary Ellen Bates, "Dialog Offers Pay-Per-View"). These portals made their debut last October when Dialog joined with Netscape to combine Dialog's content with consumer content and custom portal services in Netscape's Custom NetCenter.
The Info Pro Portal's layout and interface are very similar to the others as offered directly on MyNetscape. There are three zones of information in Dialog Info Pro. One zone focuses on general resources for information professionals, offering a very selective and eclectic but useful mix of links. It includes career information and job listings, a currency exchange tool, links to a handful of government sites, links to magazines and resources (including the Information Today, Inc. Web site), links to some pages with country-specific information, and a few handy lookup tools like Peterson's, ZIP and area code lookups, and the World Fact Book.
The middle zone provides continuous updates about Dialog products and future development plans, as well as a quick link to DialogWeb for subscribers. It also offers free searching of Dialog resources for non-subscribers, with pay-per-document access and credit card billing. The search categories are those in DialogSelect: Business & News, Environment, Engineering, Intellectual Property, Medicine, etc. Users can also search the Web with the WebCheck engine and can request company OutSmart Reports (costing $100 each for a complete in-depth report). (See the May 30, 2000 NewsBreak "Dialog Gets Smart with Outsmart Company Profiles.")
The third zone features Dialog resources for the information professional, including free access to Dialog's Journal Name Finder file and links to SolutionBase, Dialog's online customer support tool for frequently asked questions, search solutions, tips, and technical support. Users can also access an online discussion group, "A Dialogue for Information Professionals."
Users can also opt to include other customary portal tools, such as stock quotes, weather, travel, business and people finders, and links to Web search engines. While these could be handy for those who want to use Dialog Info Pro as their home page, I'd like to see more emphasis on industry news with additional resources and possibly a small archive of stories, maybe a week's worth or two.
Of course, there's room for other improvements, especially if the site is measured against Barbara Quint's recommendations for the Perfect Portal for Perfect Information Professionals. (See her Quint's Online columns in the January and February 2000 issues of Information Today.) I'm sure Barbara would want to add archives of (or at least links to) important listservs and newsgroups, and more directories and resource information, a site map and search, and more.
However, this is not a general industry portal. It is Dialog's portal, with the main emphasis on streamlining access to its own products and services. Dialog has had a skills development program called Quantum that provides a mixture of tools and resources to help information and knowledge workers evolve professionally and gain support from decision makers in their organizations. The Info Pro Portal now augments that support for Dialog's information professional customers.