Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Lunch with Collexis: What Happens When KM Tools Get Married with Professional Networking and Great Content

I took the suggestion of my colleague Jeff Cutler and sat down to lunch recently with Collexis EVP and CMO Darrell Gunter to get a briefing on their progress in launching product platforms leveraging their core content technologies. I must admit that I approached the lunch with some skepticism. The knowledge management landscape is littered with startups that had great technology ideas but which never quite made it as independent companies. With this troubled environment in mind, what was it that Collexis could offer that would distinguish it quickly enough to be a successful David amongst content Goliaths?

Collexis' core competency is being able to apply its "secret sauce" of semantic processing and faceted navigation to more valuable forms of content than others and to develop unique ways to apply those semantic tools to real-life business problems. Where companies like Inxight had semantic engines trained to parse already commoditized forms of content such as news articles Collexis focuses its semantic processing capabilities on unstructured content generated by professionals such as medical researchers. The story could have ended right there like so many other companies in the KM "dead pool", but instead of settling for marketing a nifty content categorization tool Collexis has worked with its recently acquired platform partner Syynx to develop some very serious solutions for scientific, technical and medical clients that are strong indicators of how semantics and professional networks can combine to create powerful publishing solutions in high-value enterprise markets.

The most interesting of these emerging platforms is biomed experts.com, a portal being readied for launch by Collexis that combines Collexis' semantic capabilites with public research articles from PubMed to develop an extremely powerful expert network tool. Put in any relevant set of terms from the world of STM publishing and biomedexperts.com will return a cite-ranked list of relevant categories that can be navigated to find experts who publish research in that topic specialty. Choose any one of these experts (click on screen grab to right for more detail) and get an excellent analysis of their publishing patterns in this topic arena, including a publishing timeline and categoried publication cites organized by more than a dozen related topic areas, including disorders, anatomy, procedures, physiology and so on. If this person's work is of interest to you it's easy in biomedexperts.com to track this person's publications and to invite them into your personal network. Biomedexperts.com enables one to view patterns in research and relationships amongst researchers with other powerful analysis tools, including a nifty map representation of which locations are collaborating heavily with other worldwide locations on a topic as well as a startree-like representation of the strength of publishing ties between different authors.

While we've seen some navigation tools like this deployed on platforms such as Factiva's Search 2.0 research portal Collexis has taken sophisticated analysis of texts to a whole new level in placing the exploration of authors and their network of relationships at the core of biomedexperts.com's capabilities. Not only can one identify rapidly the strengths of an author's research with biomedexperts.com but one can also move rapidly to understand the social contexts in which that research is developed. When your next step in your own research is understanding not only who wrote what but who's in thick with whom in their research it can accelerate rapidly your own next steps.

While it's uncertain that biomedexperts.com will succeed in developing community around its platform any more effectively than other efforts such as Elsevier's 2Collab its focus on organizing both content and authors into meaningful patterns is a key advantage that could help Collexis accelerate its product development efforts in a number of very interesting directions - including other market verticals where professional expertise is expressed effectively through publishing. Collexis understands as well as any other content company out there today that content is as much about the people who create it as it is about documents and data and has developed tools that exploit that understanding very effectively.

This interesting marriage of social insight and insight into topic expertise is a valuable combination that we can expect to see in many major content platforms over the next few years. Collexis has a window of opportunity in which it can sling its very potent capabilities at Goliaths focusing on similar opportunities - or decide to collaborate with a wide range of Davids and Goliaths to help them succeed in keeping their value propositions from frittering away as social networking tools begin to replace document repositories as primary content discovery tools. Lock and load, Collexis, you're in the right place at the right time. Thanks for the sandwich!
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