One of CMSWire's earliest contributors, Martin White is recognized as an expert on all things intranets and is passionate about enterprise search. He took some time out to answer a few questions so we could get to know him better.
An Interview with Martin White
CMSWire: What first brought you to the information management industry?
Martin White: As a chemistry major at Southampton University I discovered that chemistry was just as much about using the information in libraries as the equipment in the laboratory. As soon as I graduated I moved into information science and have never regretted the decision.
CMSWire: What project are you working on now that you'd like the readers to know about?
Martin: I’m working on a user research project for one of the UK’s leading universities to work out how to enhance the web site search. This is used by prospective and current students, administration and teaching staff and research academics.
In many respects the web site acts as a campus intranet. So it’s a real challenge to develop good approaches to relevance tuning and ranking, improving content quality (especially metadata) and providing a flexible user interface.
Just as well I've written an e-book on the subject (Enterprise Search from O’Reilly Media) but I’m learning a great deal as the project proceeds that will appear in the next update.
CMSWire: What excites you most about your field today?
Martin: Search technology dates back over 60 years but only now are organizations realizing the importance of search as a cross-enterprise application. The impact of effective search, providing access to data, information and expertise, can transform business performance in a way that no other application is able to, mainly because search is used by most -- if not all -- employees every working day.
I also feel strongly that search is an enabling technology for digital workplace development.
CMSWire: Was there ever an "aha" moment in your career and if so, what was it?
Martin: In 2001 I was running an intranet re-development project at the IMF in Washington. My project team gained a sense that search was not working well, and wanted to run an all-employee survey to check. We were advised against it because such surveys had very low response rates. We persevered and achieved a 52% response rate.
It was not because the survey was well designed, but because the search implementation was terrible and people at last had an opportunity to say so. The lessons? No matter how good the intranet IA search is essential, and ask users what they want before investing in technology.
CMSWire: Is there anything else our readers should know about you?
Martin: The two things about me that annoy people, especially my clients, is that I have a very good photographic memory and a reading speed of around 10,000 words a minute. Useful attributes for a consultant!
Speed Round: 6 things you should know about Martin
1. Right now I am reading
"Capturing Sound – How Technology has Changed Music," by Mark Katz
2. Quote to live by
"The fire of progress is lit by inspiration, fueled by information and sustained by hope and hard work." -- Lyndon Johnson, President
3. The best word ever said
4. When not working
I am a church organist and choir director.
5. Word that should be struck from the dictionary
6. Best song ever sung
"I can hear music" by The Beach Boys