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Search is Becoming Everything, And Vice Versa

Search is Everything is Search

I’ve just come out of a series of discussions on the issue of records preservation, and one of my take-aways is how similar at least one current approach to the issue is to what we nominally call “search.” And the more I think about it, the more I wonder whether search is on its way to becoming everything, even as everything is becoming search.

What I heard this week was highlighted the use of metadata to identify documents that really need to be preserved, whether or not they are already tagged as such. Though the fundamental context here was records retention and archiving, the practice sounded an awful lot like what’s happening in taxonomy-building and autoclassification, where metadata increasingly is being used as soup-starter for constructing vocabularies and categorizing information.

The common thread, of course, is using technology to comb through a corpus of information and any associated descriptors – perhaps even adding those descriptors if need be – to identify documents that meet particular criteria: e.g., they all relate to a particular supplier, or are part of an active legal case, or share a destruction date, or are historically valuable and need to be preserved for all time.

Vive La Non Difference!

Looked at this way, it’s clear that there really isn’t any significant difference between the latest approaches to search and the latest approaches to preservation. And couldn’t we also say the same of business intelligence and ERP and sales automation? These, too, rely on associating related chunks information so we can perform some sort of value-added task.

The bottom line is that we can no longer think about search as being separate from other applications, as virtually all other applications require search in order to be effective. Which is why I’m coming to the conclusion that search is everything, and everything is search. Even though what we’re really after is “find”!

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