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Knowledgespeak Exclusive -- An interview with Ms.Ruth K Koolish, President, Information Sources, Inc - 03 Aug 2006

Q

Your company, Information Sources, Inc., was one of the exhibitors at the Special Libraries Association (SLA) conference held at Baltimore, MD, USA . Based on your interactions with potential customers there, and also based on your own past industry experience, can you briefly summarize how the needs of information-consumers have evolved in the recent few years?

A

With the advent of contemporary search engines and technology, users now expect to navigate the information world without or with only limited aid from information professionals as they did in the past. With the exponentially expanding amount of information available on the web, business and professional users have a particular need to identify and visit the sources that will give them the most satisfactory search results. Users now have a choice of options. They can visit the generically general-purpose search engines like Google, but also have the ability to identify and visit more vertically-oriented websites for vertical searching. The difficult challenge is to find vertical search engines that are relevant, of high quality, and have features to present results in ways that are more useful to end users than the traditional “running list” formats that search engines provide.


Q

Briefly summarize how TecTrends helps in technology development, intelligence gathering and product purchase evaluations? Please summarize the efforts undertaken by your company to keep the TecTrends database current and updated.

A

TecTrends facilitates users’ ability to gather market intelligence, explore market trends, and make informed product purchase decisions by including a carefully selected editorialized layer to extensive aggregated content on technology companies and products. In selecting editorial content to abstract for inclusion in TecTrends, we make a point to seek out coverage on both emerging technologies and the evolving nature of existing technologies. By covering the evolving nature of current technology, TecTrends seeks to report and alert technology providers and technology users to the need to be open to the challenges and new possibilities as presented by both inside and outside forces will affect their organization’s wellbeing. Miniaturization and portability concerns affect many technology sectors. Telephones are becoming communication centers, computers are no longer solely computing devices, and sensors are everywhere. The wide-ranging effects of the growing convergence between technology sectors (for example, the convergence between computer technology, wireless communications, and digital content providers) are ubiquitous.
Proprietary descriptors known as “TecTerms” are assigned to all entries within the database. Comprised of more than 3,000 current descriptors, TecTerms span the areas of technology and science, as well as popular trends concerning such topics as XML technology, blogs, wikis, social networking, and others. Using TecTerms, users can search, link to, and navigate TecTrends using company name, product name, article references, and any combination of these. Important to the internal effort of keeping TecTrends current and updated, the web-based integrated production and delivery system specifically creates and manages the links between company, product and article information in TecTrends.


Q

How does TecTrends differ from other technical reference sources like ICBL’s TechXtra? Will TecTrends still manage to differentiate itself in the market, if other sources like TechXtra, Infotrieve’s Articlefinder or GoogleScholar etc, were to fortify their existing technical databases with product/company information and editorial reviews?

A

All information in TecTrends – Company, Product, and Article – is integrated via both our extensive authority files of company and product names and TecTerms. Because of the highly integrated aspect of our database, for example, an information user with just a company or product name can also quickly find information about technological trends related to that type of product. TecTrends is supported by an underlying database design and structure that was structured from its inception to be completely integrated. We continue to deepen and broaden this database implementation. In comparison to others such as TechXtra, TecTrends addresses technology with a vertical orientation, emphasizing fundamental technology, and how it relates to both providers and users of technology. TecTrends permits users to search and link throughout the entire database, as well as to link to external sources using active links to companies, products and article references. The most current and relevant information about the companies and their products is best provided by the company organizations themselves. Full text for the article references is available through the publisher or through commercial document delivery companies.
In comparison to others: According to my discussions with Infotrieve’s Director of Marketing, Ian Palmer, Infotrieve is focusing on what they do best: providing content retrieval and delivery (“document delivery”) services and related information services and solutions. While this means that Infotrieve does focus on integrating with search solutions, ArticleFinder and those from other companies, Infotrieve is not focusing on search and therefore does not appear to be relevant comparison to TecTrends. As for GoogleScholar, it is my opinion that Google would not compete in this way, as it would turn its focus from search and access/integration to that of a database or publisher. According to their mission statement, “Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Therefore, I believe Google is focused more on algorithms, automation, and breadth of search. If Google ever decided otherwise and moved forward to fortify their search offering in the ways you described, I believe they could be successful but only at great cost to other important parts of their business. My rationale is that if Google is going to present massive amounts of information (versus a vertical focus), then they would need massive amounts of editorial staff and content processing infrastructure.


Q

What are the major challenges that technical publishers face while compiling and publishing technical databases (like TecTrends)? How has Information Sources, Inc., handled these challenges?

A

The three major challenges facing technical publishers are the exponential growth of information on technology, the ever-expanding number of technology-based companies and products, and the speed with which information about technologies, companies, and products changes or become obsolete. Dealing with these challenges requires enormous investments of our time and energy at TecTrends, but we realize that this effort is essential for success in our business and in our customers’ businesses. In that regard, we have set up both manual and automated procedures for quickly and efficiently updating the content of our product.


Q

What are your plans regarding enhancing TecTrends’ functionality, going forward? Any new product releases that can be expected in the near term?

A

Our principal plans for enhancing TecTrends relate to various ways of re-packaging our content for information users and offering content in various formats. We currently plan to offer a series of reports on evolving and emerging technologies. These reports will combine a high-level overview of each subject together with carefully selected editorial content and information on key companies and products. We also plan to offer an alert service also focusing on selected and important technology-related concerns. In addition, we plan to continue upgrading the functionality of TecTrends, particularly as we continue to respond to feedback from our user base.


Q

TecTrends is currently an advertising supported, free access website. Do you intend to keep this as a free access version permanently, as the market seems to prefer free-access models, subsidized by advertising or through other revenue streams (such as document delivery)?

A

TecTrends will continue to be available in several versions: a non-registered version providing limited access and a full-access version that will be made accessible to registered users. Additional products and services will include a paid version of the database, and additional services such as technology reports and automatic updates on a fee basis.


Q

Comment on your company’s performance, for the fiscal 2005, highlighting key challenges that were successfully tackled. What are your growth plans for 2006/07?

A

TecTrends is still in the development phase and continues to require additional resources. Our key recent accomplishments have included the development of an internet-based production system in 2005 and the release of the beta version of TecTrends website and its successful integration with our production system in 2006. In 2006/2007 we will continue our plans to enhance our product offerings and explore sales and marketing opportunities, which will include direct sales of TecTrends to corporations through librarians and via licensing of the TecTrends database to existing database providers.


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