GCN Insider | Desktop intelligence

TRENDS & TECHNOLOGIES that affect the way government does IT

Back in our cub reporting days, we once
met a city council president who had what
looked to be the best low-maintenance
way of organizing data. This busy woman
took comprehensive minutes on all her
meetings in spiral bound notebooks. She
didn't bother organizing these notes later
by topics or any other category. Instead,
she kept these notebooks on a shelf in
chronological order. Time was the primary
key. If she knew she met with someone,
she would have at least a general idea
of where to find the corresponding notes
by reflecting on when they met.

These days, of course, most desktop
computers have several years of informational
cruft, some of which may eventually
prove useful. Yet who among us has a foolproof
way of organizing all these e-mails
and documents? This is the problem Antonio
Badia, assistant professor at the University
of Louisville, has been studying.
While many of his colleagues at the International
Conference on Intelligence and Security Informatics
held recently in San Diego'
showed off complex data mining
algorithms, Badia argued that analysts
could glean valuable information simply
by better organizing the materials on their
desktop computer.

'Keeping everything is not enough ... the
ultimate goal is to find it, no matter what
we remember about it, when and how we
stored it,' Badia wrote in an accompanying
paper. Badia suggested a few new
types of applications that could help. One
would be a tool that could monitor data
for certain sets of conditions, so that when
some sort of threshold is reached (such as
the number of mentions on a particular
word), the user would be alerted. Workers
also need a better way to query information.
Desktop search tools offer only simple
keyword searches, which can be handy.
But even handier would be a reiterative
search process, allowing us to refine the
queries the deeper we dig into the data.

More intuitive workflow and collaboration
tools would also be handy too, Badia

Mass numbers of PC users may soon be
able to experiment with easier ways of finding
information on their computers. Microsoft's
Windows Vista
is being designed, offi-
cials say, to effectively remove the operating
system as a middleman between the end
user and their data. See GCN's Vista beta 2
review [GCN, June 5, Page 1], to hear how
well the company is doing. Microsoft is
by no means a pioneer in this area, but its
considerable reach could give a wider population
the desktop intelligence they need.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.


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