The Noisy Channel

 

Vivisimo, Please Keep It Real

March 13th, 2009 · 22 Comments · General

Let me preface this post with a clear disclaimer: I am the Chief Scientist of Endeca, a leading enterprise search vendor, but the views I express on this blog, including those about Endeca’s customers, partners, and competitors, are my own.

And one of my strong personal opinions is that marketing campaigns should be honest. One of the blogs I read is Search Done Right, a corporate blog maintained by Vivisimo.  Regardless of my opinions about Vivisimo’s technology, I am a fan of their marketing department. They’ve achieved visibility disproportionate to their market share–in no small part by promoting interface innovation. I also have met their CEO and CTO, and I think they’re both great guys.

But today, I saw a post entitled “New Enterprise Search Pundit on the Scene?“, which I copy in full below:

When I logged into my Vivisimo email this morning, I had a message from a guy named Stan. He must have gotten my contact info from this blog or the LinkedIn Enterprise Search Professionals group as someone interested in search and sent me the manifesto below since I don’t recall meeting him at a recent Gartner PCC show or an Enterprise Search Strategy (ESS) event. At any rate, I bookmarked his site and will let you know when it goes live – should be interesting. Maybe he has the makings of a search industry pundit in him…

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m getting really sick of not being able to find things at my company. I mean, I have a hard enough time finding my coffee cup each morning because someone in Marketing (I know it’s you, Jan) keeps moving it. But when it comes to data, it’s just impossible to find anything. Think about it for a second. On when I’m on the Internet, I do a Google search for “product requirements document” and get more than 22 million results in less than half a second. Try doing that on your intranet. I mean seriously. Can you even find a search box on your intranet? My last company didn’t even have one.

And when there is a box, what does it really search? A couple of intranet pages? What happens if you have multiple intranets? I bet your search only looks at one. Then you have to use a separate desktop search. And another search for email. And another for your external website. All of this searching is stopping us from getting any work done.

Then I heard about this enterprise search thing. Frankly, it sounds too good to be true. Searching across multiple repositories from a single search box. Presenting results into topical clusters. Tagging and rating documents to impact future search relevancy. Sharing results with other users. All of this while respecting my individual security rights. Seems like pie in the sky to me. Is anybody actually doing this, or is it just some marketing hype?

So I’m starting my own website, www.meetstan.com, to figure things out for myself. The site will be up March 16. Come by and tell me what you think.

Curious, I went to Whois.com and looked up meetstan.com. As you can verify for yourself, the registrant is none other than Vivisimo.

Am I naive to be shocked at this sort of marketing gimmick? Perhaps. But I’m sensitive because there aren’t that many people who understand enterprise search, and there’s a lot of concern about analysts offering less than independent opinions. I assume that Vivisimo isn’t planning to the site to promote a shill analyst, but rather is using this blog post  to create pre-launch buzz around a marketing portal.

Please, Vivisimo, don’t play these sorts of games. Given how uniformed so many people are about enterprise search, many people are likely to take a hoax like this seriously. That’s bad for Vivisimo’s reputation, and for the field as a whole. I’m sure this was an innocent mistake. I hope it will be quickly resolved, and that you will go back to promoting your technology and vision without resorting to such gimmicks.

I also encourage anyone from Vivisimo to comment here and offer clarification.

22 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Max L. Wilson // Mar 13, 2009 at 5:28 am

    disgraceful and also very stupid. registering meetstan to vivisimo. Yknow, I had an email from someone called Will Maxson who said my research was the best he’d ever seen.

  • 2 Rebecca Thompson // Mar 13, 2009 at 9:56 am

    Daniel,

    You are correct in guessing that the “Meet Stan” site that I blogged about is in fact by Vivisimo – when it launches next week it will be obvious that it is as our logo will be on the site and addressed in the site FAQs. In fact, if you go to the Vivisimo site, you’ll see we have are promoting him there, making it pretty clear he is a creation of ours. My quip about Stan being a new industry pundit was tongue in cheek , of course.

    The Vivisimo team created Stan as a way to help explain the benefits of enterprise search to folks who may not know much about it in a simple, but fun manner.

    Vivisimo, like Endeca, uses a variety of traditional methods to try to educate the market about search in general, which can be challenging given how many in our space shy away from the use of the word “search” in describing their products. Despite the ubiquitousness of web search, enterprise search still hasn’t cracked Gartner’s top ten list of technologies CIOs care about. Maybe a fresh marketing approach can help explain why it should be.

    At any rate, why not give Stan a chance? We launch him next week – stop by then and check it out.

    Rebecca

  • 3 Steve Ardire // Mar 13, 2009 at 10:08 am

    Daniel – agree that this comes across as weak ‘hype marketing’

  • 4 Pedro Campos // Mar 13, 2009 at 11:42 am

    It’s called astroturf marketing, and it’s definitly unethical. But then again, imoral marketing is kind of a pleonasm, right?
    I remember ask.com did a stunt like that on London Underground, anarch red and black posters saying “One source isn’t choice” and a link to a website with anti-Google propaganda.
    It’s interesting how search (lack of) ethics are getting closer to marketing ethics every day: Google is becoming a more and more evil ad company; most search engines interfering with their ranking algorithms for business reasons, and using the web and link structure to advertize themselves. I am not expressing myself very well, but there’s a growing link there, don’t you think?

  • 5 Craig VerColen // Mar 13, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    Tongue and cheek is, ahem, one way to put it. At best, this is a distasteful stunt. At worst, it’s a cardinal sin in social media-style marketing. I agree with Rebecca that you need to try fresh approaches, and with you that Vivisimo has historically punched above its weight when it came to marketing. But from the company and team that brought the world the first clustering showcase in Clusty — a brilliant marketing move — this seems like an awful big step backwards.

  • 6 Daniel Tunkelang // Mar 13, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    Rebecca, perhaps we simply have to agree to disagree as to what is reasonable marketing. While I’m not a marketer, I appreciate the need to be provocative and edgy to generate buzz. Nonetheless, I think you’re playing with fire by posting something that was not obvious as tongue in cheek, especially given the current state of industry education.

    I think of myself as something of an industry expert, and I’d never seen this “Stan” character before. Even now I can’t find any mention of it on the Vivisimo site.

    Maybe this will resolve itself in a few days when you launch the site. I hope so; I like to debate technology and vision, not marketing tactics.

  • 7 Leo Tignini // Mar 13, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    Poor Stan, just a baby and he is already causing trouble. All kidding aside, anyone who follows Vivisimo would see that Stan is an extension of the brand and has already been promoted on the Web site. Kudos to Vivisimo for bringing fun and humor into enterprise search and introducing Stan who clearly recognizes the pains of the common customer.

  • 8 Stan Bielski // Mar 13, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    Daniel, did you actually visit the site in question? If you had, you would have noticed that the home page is an image of a cartoon character for crying out loud .

    Your criticism, if not blatantly disingenuous, is predicated on the assumption that enterprise search customers are on the same developmental level as infants who think Barney is something other than a guy in a costume.
    Does Endeca really hold its prospects in such low esteem?

  • 9 Max L. Wilson // Mar 13, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    ooo burn – looks like you started something with the vivisimo guys. the rebuttals from the vivisimo corner of the ring (one who appears to do PR for them) are very convincing. back to the blogger in the red corner.

    (providing commentry for the tonights big fight)

  • 10 Daniel Tunkelang // Mar 13, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    Let me explain why I wrote this post. I came home and checked my blog alerts for “enterprise search”. I saw the post on the Search Done Right blog and read it immediately based on the title. It read to me as something fishy, not as a joke. I clicked through to the meetstan.com site. and saw no indication that it was a Vivisimo-affiliated site, nor did I take the cartoon character accompanied by a “coming soon” message as an indication that the site was a joke.

    And I did visit the site, looking to see any mention of Stan. I didn’t see any. I also tried searching on the Vivisimo site and using Google. Nothing turned up other than the blog page.

    After reading Stan’s comment, I went back to the site and looked harder. I then realized that I wasn’t looking at the animated Flash on the home page, which was blocked by my Flashblock Firefox extension. Even enabling Flash, however, “Stan” doesn’t show up until quite a ways into the animation.

    If I lack a sense of humor about this stuff, I stand guilty as charged. In any case, I stand by the sincerity of my criticism. Beyond that, I’ll let readers form their own opinions, both of the merits of my arguments and of my personal integrity.

  • 11 Christopher // Mar 13, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    Stan (Bielski not cartoon character),

    Before you’re next comment you may want to do some research and look at past posts from Daniel.

    His posts on peers and competitors alike has been balanced and complete. While you may not agree with his assessment of the marketing ploy Vivisimo is using a slightly veiled character attack is a pretty sad rebuttal.

    On the substance of the post, I have to agree with Daniel, the linked content simply feels fishy and if anything is disingenuous it is this type of marketing.

  • 12 Daniel Tunkelang // Mar 13, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    Chris, thanks for the moral support. And to the Vivisimo folks here, if any of you are interested in writing a guest post here, let me know. I’m sure readers here would be interested. All I ask is that it be substantive and not a sales pitch.

  • 13 MarkH // Mar 14, 2009 at 5:05 am

    FWIW, I read Daniel’s blog for the thought-provoking content. In contrast, the Vivisimo post was ~400 words of marketing puff at best or deceitful at worst.

    Maybe Daniel assumed the worst but care to guess which blog draws my attention in future?

  • 14 Dave // Mar 14, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    I too read this the same way Daniel did. I think inventing fictitious characters is fine; but please provide some way of letting us know they’re not real.

    I guess the marketing folks went a little too far here.

  • 15 Daniel Tunkelang // Mar 14, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    Again, thanks to all for the moral support. And, in my own defense, I’d like to note that industry analyst Stephen Arnold also read the post, and I don’t see any indication that he read the post as tongue-in-cheek:

    http://arnoldit.com/wordpress/2009/03/14/confused-puppies-chewing-on-enterprise-search/

  • 16 Daniel Tunkelang // Mar 17, 2009 at 10:32 am

    In case anyone missed the launch, http://meetstan.com/ is now live and clearly represents itself as advertising for Vivisimo. The FAQ reflects some of the discussion here, and the video is cute. Hopefully we can now let past be prologue.

  • 17 Shad // Mar 17, 2009 at 11:30 am

    In Rebecca’s defense; all that was needed was a winking smiley to show she was joshing us. The context (the search done right blog site) made it very un-obvious that she was kidding around.

  • 18 Christopher // Mar 19, 2009 at 2:54 am

    This site still feels off to me & I have a great sense of humor.

  • 19 Daniel Tunkelang // Mar 19, 2009 at 8:54 am

    My idea of enterprise search humor done right is this Google ad. I strongly disagree with their approach (and I assume Vivisimo would too), but the ad, which paints a caricature of large enterprise search companies (presumably Endeca, FAST, and Autonomy) is pretty funny.

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  • 22 Miles Kehoe // Jun 22, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    With you on this Daniel. I read SearchDoneRight as well, and it’s usually got good content. I’m disappointed by the ‘tongue in cheek’ approach as well…

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