Tim Buckley Owen NewsGator, Cataphora: opportunities for infopros
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By Tim Buckley Owen

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Email has been getting a bad press as an inefficient time-waster that can perpetuate the most egregious forms of office politics for some time. But now a new marketing pitch from one business computing solutions provider – NewsGator – lays into it head-on. The occasion is the launch of two new capabilities for NewsGator’s Social Sites Enterprise social computing platform. Socialpedia leverages Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 to offer a ‘Wikipedia-style’ internal web site covering knowledge generated in topic-based online communities across the organisation; Knowledge Explorer provides ‘expertise maps’, which exploit the rich media features in Microsoft Silverlight to provide an interactive graphical snapshot of the professionals in an organization who are most informed on a selected topic (http://digbig.com/4yyte). ‘Despite the growing capabilities of social computing, some knowledge workers are still hamstrung by email,’ suggests NewsGator’s products vice president Brian Kellner, puffing the new offering. ‘“Collaboration” around email too often translates into just scheduling conference calls to figure out where the content is, who the experts are, and what they need to do.’ It’s not the only broadside email has had to suffer recently. A recent article in the Economist newspaper has profiled the activities of two companies, Cataphora and RenewData, that specialise in e-discovery – the practice of mining email archives and other electronic records to uncover potential wrongdoing in an enterprise. Cataphora’s software can for example flag exceptions to normal patterns, such as individuals who send many messages to one another even though they have little reason to communicate for work purposes. It can even analyse linguistic patterns to detect the possibility of conspiracy or fraud (http://digbig.com/4yytg). Neither of these issues is particularly new of course. Last December Outsell published a report called The E-Mail Challenge: Managing a Tsunami, which showed how information professionals were being called upon to help with solutions for the increasingly inefficient use of email (http://www.vivavip.com/go/e14253) – and a report a month earlier from the think tank Demos suggested that there was a dark side to social networks, which could become ‘self-sealing, exclusive clubs’ (http://www.vivavip.com/go/e13533). All of this implies roles for enterprise infopros. As information architecture consultant Marc Stephenson says in an article for VIP’s sister publication FUMSI, SharePoint is a classic case of a technology defining our information environment (http://web.fumsi.com/go/article/manage/3730); simply because it’s becoming so ubiquitous, more and more information professionals are having to get to grips with it and applications like NewsGator’s that exploit its capabilities are likely to proliferate. Nor is there any sign that compliance issues are likely to go away any time soon – or semantic searching for that matter. So e-discovery services like Cataphora’s may be at least worthy of investigation.

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