Abe pointed me to an article, “An info island or the kitchen sink: when you think about federated search engines, think about what you’ll include in the searches.” While the article is a bit dated (2007) it has this air of timelessness to it.

The author, Richard Todd, considers three paths to source selection:

In the course of implementing a federated search engine at my organization, I eventually recognized three fundamental approaches for determining which of the available sources to include in our system. I call these three guiding concepts the kitchen sink approach, the Easter Island approach, and the gatekeeper approach.

Without reading further can you guess what these three approaches are? Abe told me that he was contacted by someone who threw out these terms as if Abe should be familiar with them. He wasn’t. Neither was I.

The kitchen sink approach refers not to a federated search application that includes a zillion features but to one that includes a zillion sources. If your federated search engine includes every source your organization has ever heard of then you have a kitchen sink deployment.

Easter Island is most well known for the mysterious statues that dot its coastline. The island is so isolated that many people wonder who built the stone monoliths. An Easter Island federated search deployment is an extreme swing in the other direction from the kitchen sink deployment. Users are isolated from sources beyond their little island. Outside resources are beyond reach. Only your internal and licensed content is available in this small world.

The gatekeeper approach is in the middle. The gatekeeper decides which sources are relevant. There will likely be a mix of internal and external sources but not every source imaginable. This approach does involve getting clear on the criteria for selecting sources.

Which deployment strategy does your organization follow? Why?

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 19th, 2010 at 10:07 pm and is filed under viewpoints. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or TrackBack URI from your own site.

3 Responses so far to "Is your federated search a kitchen sink or an Easter Island?"

  1. 1 Peter Noerr
    January 20th, 2010 at 12:38 pm  

    As I am sure Abe will confirm, customer installations cover the whole range. If I had to guess for the installations of our partners, I would plump for the average being just a bit to the Kitchen side of Gatekeeper.

    While most installations do have an administrator whose job is, among other things, to select appropriate Sources, most of them seem to err on the side of plenty. I suppose this is because of both “just in case” thinking and “somebody wanted it in the past so we’ll leave it there”.

    Like many similar things we’ve seen the number of Sources grow at more or less random intervals, but suffer a cut back at what we presume is renewal time!

    Surprise, surprise, tightly focussed Easter Island groups tend to be internal sources and expensive external subscriptions, and with a closed (usually employee) user group. Thus promoting the idea of dedicated tools for specific purposes.

  2. 2 Christine Carmichael
    January 20th, 2010 at 2:50 pm  

    I’m not sure where our deployment approach falls. If I had to categorize it, I would call it “selective federation”. That is, the most relevant resources by a defined subject area.

    Yes, we decided to only federated those things for which we pay - a calculated approach to ensure we get the most bang for our subscription buck.

    As professional evaluators of information, shouldn’t we be advocating using the best tools we can afford? The whole “satis-ficing” phenomenon smacks of the old “good enough for government work” mentality. I think our students/ customers deserve better.

  3. 3 Dan Wygant
    January 22nd, 2010 at 8:31 am  

    SharePoint is an Easter Island when it comes to search. But we want to do Federated Search… spending time again researching how to enable this. I believe it’s easy once you know how to do it, but as in Easter Island, you gotta know where on the map to look in the deep blue sea of KB. Knowledge Base that is.

    I’ll try to update this post once I’ve gathered my own KB on the subject. I see SharePoint as the next killer-app; learning and coding for SP now in prep for SharePoint 2010 is the thing to do.

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