Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Road Test: VIYYA(TM) Brings High-Power Content Extraction Tools to the Masses

I downloaded the new VIYYA tool from Viyya Technologies, Inc. shortly after its announced commercial availability last week, but received no follow-ups to prompt me to give it a spin. But its little icons continued to pop up in the notification window of my Windows taskbar, so I finally took a little time to give it a whirl. The VIYYA pitch is to provide "automating and managing "favorites" and routine search functions, and reducing the time an individual spends online by as much as 30 to 40 percent!" per the press release. VIYYA provides a point-and-click method to define content that one wants extracted from various sources and to be able to easily form that information into alerts streams and to search extracted content via VIYYA's own search utility. A neat concept, but how does it play?

Clicking on the VIYYA icon on the Windows taskbar links to a browser-based program that allows one to select a target source - Web pages in the free trial version and presumably adding the greyed-out options of local databases, email, RSS feeds and weblogs in the premium version. Once a page is up you point your cursor to what you want to be a headline and click: VIYYA then decides what's a headline. Click the next item that you want as a headline and VIYYA builds the pattern to follow - and so on for summaries and text bodies until you've built your "anchor". The "build anchor set" tab in the program then allows you to associate one or more "anchors" into a set of outputs with specific formatting. You can then set up alerting to have these sources extracted on a regular basis and searched via the VIYYA search utility.

It's a nicely designed interface and workflow from many perspectives, but it's still a work in progress in the using. VIYYA does fairly well at identifying blocks of text for headlines and such but it's very eager to pick stuff that's not appropriate - and not very willing to let you tune it easily. The ticker window is like a private RSS feed of sorts and the search window a private Google Desktop, but it's also available to a limited range of applications (email and mobile phone oriented SMS alerts so far). A very useful tool for people on the go fingering their Blackberries or mobile phones, but limited in use for the desktop so far. Given the limited output format that it's trying to produce it would be very useful if it could republish the content into an RSS stream that could be used by local applications without resorting to email. You'll have some local search capabilities indirectly via email search, but that's less than optimal.

VIYYA offers an interesting foray into a service-based approach to personal content extraction - available for a subscription at USD 9.95 a month or USD 79.00 annually. Content extraction of this kind was once the exclusive purview of major institutions and now through this service becomes available to individuals needing to create their own personalized content streams. Many purveyors of content extraction technology fall short of understanding how to create user-oriented content value out of their wares, but VIYYA is barking up at least some of the right trees to enable individuals and institutions to become their own powerful sources of content aggregation.
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