Tuesday, October 30, 2007

BigString: No More Sender Regret

I saw the founder and CEO of BigString on CNBC's "The Big Idea" and thought, hey, awesome.

It's an email service, with a twist. Not only can you send and receive email, but you can also send "self-destruct" email, which is Mission:Impossible style email as they describe it on the website, recallable/erasable email and a variety of other means, including video email.

There have been numerous instances of emails being sent on the fly, causing mischief and mayhem as the contents were, well, less than civil. Emails fired off in the heat of the moment instead of taking a few to chill. And email sits out in the ether of the Web, stored somewhere and never really erased. There's always the possibility, however remote, that a particular email will come back to haunt you.

BigString, therefore, is on to something. The ability to make a troublesome email go poof is enticing, and removes any incentive to think before you type.

Too bad Enron didn't have such a service at its disposal, though it seems as if the White House does since emails are still, ahem, missing.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see how BigString and its email elimination business does. No doubt there is a market for it. And who knows what could be next. Now that people are understanding that the Web is public domain, plenty want information removed and have discovered that it is not quite that easy; information is never completely removed.

Perhaps this will lead to a solution, and more privacy and ethical battles are sure to ensue.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Why a Search Engine Company Needs to Fix LexisNexis

Most of us, at this point, especially people my age and younger, take searching on the Internet for granted. We've grown up with the technology, we have little issue with freely posting information (damning or not) for the world to see and generally assumed that if we type in keywords into a box, we'll get the results we want.

If you go to law school, you'll be given access to the well-known legal research tool called Lexis-Nexis, which will remain your archaic friend for as long as you pursue a legal career. And within your first few minutes of training, you'll discover that Lexis-Nexis is a horrible search tool by today's technology standards. You have to memorize a list of archaic commands, commands that used to be second nature when you had to use the library computer to figure out where on particular book was located in the millions of stacks. But, you have to string the commands together just right in order to get the result you want, which takes practice and lots of trial and error. And that is assuming you have started your search in the correct category.

Needless to say, finding anything in Lexis-Nexis is a time-consuming, tedious task. But as it is the definitive research tool used by the legal profession, using it is a necessity. And since technology permeates so much of the world today, and as the legal staffs of technology companies continue to expand, I am surprised that none of them, not even search engine companies, have done anything to improve the search capabilities of Lexis-Nexis.

If you think about it, Lexis-Nexis is a treasure trove of information. Any case from anytime, anywhere, is in Lexis-Nexis. Legal definitions. Statues. Ordinances. Any legal document at all, can be found in Lexis-Nexis. Now isn't that a database worth creating useful search algorithms? Think of the hours (as in $$) that would be saved by legal departments and law students everywhere if Lexis-Nexis had the search smarts of Google, Yahoo or even MSN behind it, not to mention how much more 21st Century Lexis-Nexis would be.

Everyone is on the hunt to organize information, which usually involves trying to talk various groups of people into sharing information so it can be compiled and indexed in one spot. Why not start in an area that already has the information complied and indexed, and improve the indexing process? What good is a wealth of information in one place if you can't easily find anything?