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August 26, 1998


Personalisation key to content, says Vandenberg

Priya Ganapati at Pragati Maidan

Email this story to a friend. Back to IIW coverage index. If Microsoft talks, everyone listens. And if a senior Microsoftie tells you they're charting a new course, you just hope you're not going to be in the way.

By the first premise, when Chris Vandenberg, program manager, commercial, systems division came to give a lecture, the hall should have been packed. It was. By the second premise, representatives from a large segment of the computer industry should have been there for their own good. They were.

Vanderberg started off by stating that the personalisation of the Web would make Web-based applications more useful. It would increase productivity for business and help develop more customer-centric applications, he said.

He expressed confidence that broader adoption of the personal web would be driven by the fact that the cost of technology is falling every day. Personal web technology could be more effective since it creates better value which, in turn, guarantees customer loyalty, he said.

Personal web technology are deemed to be more effective as they create better value in terms of customised portfolio, search facilities and better community.

"I know a lot of people who bookmark every interesting page they see but never come back to it after that." Personal web technology, he asserted, would change all that since it would be focussed at communities, Vandenberg said.

Such technology, with its better value of content and service, helps forge stronger relationships, he said, adding that in such cases the customer is also willing to supply more information that would enrich the database.

The key element in such a scenario was "personalisation", he stressed. One of the ways of doing this was to filter content to suit customer needs. But while doing this, diverse interests would have to b considered, and the planning process should involve determining value while focussing on value addition for the user, he said.

"When I submit content in knowledge management, I have to tag the content and search for the tags. So I need a good document index that shares user profiles," Vandenberg said.

Content would have to be carefully selected for such a document index, and the material could, thereafter, be passed on to "display templates" that would be involved in personal page deliveries, all this revolving around a user ID, established by the use of cookies. The disadvantage, of course, being that cookies are machine-dependent and cannot cater effectively to the same user on another machine, formats or changes the hard disk for any reason.

The way out, suggested Vandenberg, was using passwords, which would balance ease of use while with security concerns.

Of course, in terms of data collection, proper tagging and indexing would be vital, he pointed out, but flexibility too should not be compromised, he said.

Some issues were yet unresolved, Vandenberg said, like the value personal web technology would actually provide to the user, the different applications in use, and the overall value to the business and the consumer would have to be evaluated. Personal web technology had to interact with search, news, email, chat and other services, he pointed out.

The ability of such a personal web to communicate with the LDAP directory would also be crucial in mid- to long-term planning. Managing the members of the community would also become a necessity, Vandenberg said, again highlighting the importance of tools for the analysis and integration of data.

Vandenberg did not dwell on the cost of implementation, only stating that the flexibility of the application would affect the cost.

The downside of personalisation was that it would draw up on hardware resources, he said, stressing the providers would have to ensure that necessary tools were accessible to intended users.

He summed up his views, stating that all that he'd suggested would be easily and effectively implemented only if action follows planning. Since software costs were falling everywhere personal webs would be available as cheap as $ 5000, he said.

Back to IIW coverage index. "People are starting to expect more personalised experiences. Once the Net connectivity barriers come down, expectations are just going to rise. There is no other way out," he warned. And everyone in the audience noted it.

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