Archive for April, 2009

Apr 16 2009

FAST Powers Globrix Property Search

Published by under General

C5 Alliance LogoToday I’m attending an event being hosted by my employer C5 Alliance in Jersey.  We’ve got two respresentitive from FAST (a Microsoft Subsidiary) hosting a presentation and discussion session about FAST ESP, Microsofts vision for the future of FAST and helping users to navigate to the search results they are looking for.

FAST LogoAs well as the general bumf about how FAST ESP works, they have also done a couple of demonstrations of clients they have worked with.  Two very interesting sites that demonstration the power of FAST ESP in helping users quick find what they are looking for are Getty and Globrix.

FAST @ C5 Alliance

Globrix was a surprise to me – although quite logical now that I know – as I have been using Gobrix for a while to look for a house to buy in Guernsey.  Everytime I go to Globrix I just start with a general search for “Guernsey”.  The result navigators down the left and the price graph across the top allow users to quickly refine the search results – it’s also AJAX enabled so the user doesn’t even leave the page to get the latest results.

The Globrix paradigm deviates from the normal type of property search website, in which the users creates a fixed query and if they don’t find what they’re after they have to create a new search query.  Globrix allows the users to dynamically build their query usign contextual navigators, e.g. you might select an area to search in then refine the number of bedrooms and then refine the price.

FAST also differs from Google.  The power of Google is in getting relevant information to the user in the first few results (how many people look more than 2 pages through the results?) but this fails the users when they don’t know what they’re looking for, it requires to keep try to guess more terms or different combinations of terms to try and find what they’re looking for.  FAST allows the users to enter very simple search terms and then gives the users options to refine the query based on the context of the results that have been returned from thier initial query.  But it doesn’t end there, as the user refines their query the context changes therefore the content refinement navigators change with the context.

Other interesting nuggets that come out of the sessions was the ability to search audio and video.  The scenario brought to the table was about having to record all telephone conversations and have those readily accessible for future retreival.  The simple solution to this is to store the audio files in a known location.  When indexing that location run the audio through a speak-to-text conversion service and index the resulting text and associate the audio file location with the index.

In terms of SharePoint integration of FAST, we got a very sneak preview of an exciting new webpart that should be making its way into Codeplex in the not too distant future.  I’m not sure if I can more than that as I was informed that this web part hasn’t been announced yet – watch this space for more information!

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Apr 08 2009

Getting Things Done By Location

Published by under General,Software,Technology

For several years now I’ve been trying to find a way of keeping on top of everything that I need to get done.  To be honest, I didn’t think I had a problem until I read David Allens book “Getting Things Done” (GTD).  It was whilst reading that book that I realised that I spend most of my time worry about what I need to get done and what I might be forgetting to do and not enough time actually doing things.

I’ve had several attempts at trying to follow the GTD methodology but so far they have all failed and I’ve reverted to just relying on the good ole grey matter to remember what I have got to do.  I’ve tried using software to help me – iGTD, Midnight Inbox, OmniFocus, Outlook, iCal, Google Calendar – but the problem with a lot of these is that they are either platform specific (I need my laptop with me) or are calendar based (a lot of what I need to remember is not date specific).

Other attempts have been centered around a notebook that I try to remember to take with me.  This has inevitably resulted in my failing to remember to take my notebook with me and therefore forgetting to update it what I have it to hand again.

I am now embarking on another attempt to follow the GTD methodology.  This time I’m resting my faith on a relatively new entry into the GTD software arena: TheHitList form a compay called Potion Factory.  A couple of nice features that I’m hoping are going to make this easier for me to get along with are:

  • iCal syncing (I have all my calendars synced – iCal, Google, Entourage, iPhone)
  • Repeating tasks (cleaning fish tank, mothly invoicing, etc.)
  • Timer (hopefully no more getting distracted!)
  • Future iPhone support (I may forget my notepad but I NEVER forget my iPhone!)

As great as this software is shaping up there is one striking feature that I think this app – and all other GTD apps – really needs.  Task Locations!  So I’ll go out to run some errands, get home and realised there was some else I could have got done because I was in the area but didn’t because I didn;t think of it whilst I was there – if I had a map on my iPhone of tasks in my current location I could get more done in less time.

TheHitList Task MapI’m not sure of how the iPhone app UI is going to look for TheHitList but I came up with a (very) rough Photoshop version of what the desktop app might look like.

This example is showing the Today list selected and the map with the number of tasks for today on their locations.  If you  had general list selected it might show the tasks for today in red with tasks in the future fading through to grey for tasks without a specific date.  With this type of functionality you’d be easily able to see if you’re going to a location for a specific task whether or not there were other things in the area you could do at the same time.

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