How *you* can improve IBM Lotus Connections search

If I had a penny for the number of times I’ve heard “send me the link” or “I need to bookmark this”… I’d have a whole lot of coins the vending machines won’t accept! Jokes aside, we need to talk about search. Give me two minutes of your time today, and I’ll save you ten tomorrow.

While most of us will simply Google any information we need, thereby making bookmarks a relic of the nineties netscape era, there is a significant population still forced to bookmark specific links, or ask for them from colleagues. Why, you ask? Well, when was the last time you successfully and quickly found something through internal search? That’s why.

Yes, it’s not the most successful search algorithm I’ve seen. But here comes the surprise. We can help it get better! How? With good content. If you do not use good naming conventions, descriptions, and tags to label your documents, they’ll be as useful as searching through stock photos called “photo1” and “photo2345”. No. If you need the photo with the purple ladybug, someone will have to look at it, and tag it with “purple” and “ladybug”. It’s that or scrolling through every last photo on the system.

Well, I have news for you. There’s no machine who can find it for you if you don’t tell it what’s in there. So you have got to take care of that when you publish the file in the first place.

  1. Useful file names
    “Q4 results 2012 v.4” will be good. “Quarterly results – GBS UKI” will be better. Here’s a bonus secret: Connections does versioning for you. Just update the same exact file. Every time you upload, it’ll be a new version. You can add “Q4 2012” in the comments section for the version you have uploaded, to show which quarter the results are for. If people follow that file, whenever you upload a new version, they’ll be notified. Imagine: You will no longer need to email them the file or link! Ever!
  2. Descriptions
    Connections Files have a description section. It’s short, it’s restricted (no images), and it’s there to be used. If your document has information for sector leaders, say so, if it’s for new recruits, highlight that. If it’s mentioned in a wiki or Community, add the link to that in the description.
  3. Tags
    Tags are that new-fangled web 2.0 thing. We no longer use folders, mainly because each file may belong to multiple projects, groups, or contain a variety of ideas / sectors such as Smarter Commerce and Sustainability rolled into one. That’s what tags are for. I personally stick “GBS_UKI” on any files to do with that business unit, “pdf” if it’s a pdf, and “ppt” if it’s a slide deck in that format. Use tags as labels, memory triggers, and if-i-had-a-folder-what-would-i-call-it replacements. They help. A lot.

The search algorithm picks up all of the above and gives you the files / people / communities (more on the other two later) you have been looking for. Well. assuming someone’s told it where they are.