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The Rise and Fall of TOPICS

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Presentation by Rachel Lovinger and Barbara McGlamery at the 2009 Semantic Technology Conference.

Presentation by Rachel Lovinger and Barbara McGlamery at the 2009 Semantic Technology Conference.

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  • 1. The Rise and Fall and Rise of TOPICS Semantic Technology Conference June 16, 2009 Barbara McGlamery Rachel Lovinger Page 1 Photo by Adam Ahmed
  • 2. Introduction Time Inc Interactive •Early adopter of Semantic Web technologies •Used successfully in many redesigns of Time Inc. sites The Price of Innovation •Steep learning curve •No one to learn from Page 2 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 3. Agenda • How It Got Started • Challenges • Looking Forward • Summary Page 3 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 4. How It Got Started Page 4 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger Photo by David Fulmer
  • 5. EW.com’s Category Tool What we were trying to do •Standardize keywords •Update once, publish everywhere •Expose rich data relationships Our Solution: Category Tool •Relational database •Controlled vocabulary •Hierarchical structure of terms •Defined relationships between categories •Precision search terms Page 5 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 6. EW.com’s Category Tool Why it needed to be replaced •It wasn’t scalable •It couldn’t handle complex data relationships 79th Annual Oscars 2007 Common Name Academy Awards Best Actress Best Picture Nominees Nominees Winner Winner Little Miss Penelope Meryl Sunshine Cruz Streep Babel Kate Letters from The Departed Helen Judi The Queen Winslet Iwo Jima Mirren Dench Page 6 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger Performance in Performance in Performance in Performance in Performance in
  • 7. Category Tool 2.0: The Next Generation Requirements •Structured, controlled metadata •Relationships between data •Frequent updates •Integrated with CMS, for content tagging •Sharable, expandable, reliable In late 2003 we met with a large group of stakeholders, and then as a smaller working group. We decided to build a new classification system based on RDF and OWL, and we decided to call it TOPICS. Page 7 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 8. TOPICS: The Next Generation Why semantic? •Based on forward-looking industry standard formats •Formats designed to express and efficiently read complex metadata •The power of inferencing Why build instead of buy? •The tools we needed to integrate with a complex publishing process and CMS didn’t exist in 2003 Page 8 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 9. TOPICS stands for… TIME TIME ONTOLOGIES for ONTOLOGIES for PUBLISHING, PUBLISHING INFERENCE, INTELLIGENT CLASSIFICATION and CONTENT SEMANTICS (SYSTEM) Page 9 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 10. Building TOPICS Timing •3 ½ months to define requirements and write specifications •8 months to build Cost •Over $500K in capitalized cost (in real dollars about $1M) Resources •3 people wrote the spec •2 people built it •Several others were involved in other ways Page 10 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 11. Launching the first sites •AOL Home: (12/04) •Teen People: (1/05) •Real Simple: (2/05) •In Style: (7/05) Page 11 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 12. Challenges Page 12 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger Photo by hounddiggity
  • 13. Types of Challenges We Faced •Perception •Performance & Scalability •Business Development •Technical Development Page 13 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 14. Getting Approval In late 2003 we had a meeting with all of the executive sponsors of our department. •Business users explained their requirements and described current systems •Tech experts explained why current systems could not support the growing needs •All stakeholders agreed that a next generation system was needed Page 14 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger Photo by hobvias sudoneighm
  • 15. No Executive Sponsor We had their blessing, but we had no executive sponsor. • We checked in once when the specs were done • Again about 5 months into the build (functional, but not pretty) We have done the “What is TOPICS and why do we need it?” song and dance about 30 times in 5 years. Page 15 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 16. Lessons Learned •Get an Executive Sponsor •Check in often •Let that person do your PR while you focus on the work Page 16 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 17. Page 17 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 18. MyHomeIdeas Goals Relaunch the AOL Home channel as a deep, easy-to-use and fulfilling source of home inspiration •Design Assistant – thousands of photos from a variety of Time Inc. magazines •Browse by room, room detail or solution •Refine results by style or publication Page 18 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 19. MyHomeIdeas: Only Photos Tagged Page 19 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 20. MyHomeIdeas: Meaningless Related Links Page 20 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 21. MyHomeIdeas: Bad Press (from inside) Page 21 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 22. Lessons Learned •Get involved with functionality discussions early to identify all the places where integration should happen •Use realistic sample data in design comps •A little knowledge can be dangerous - make sure that everyone on the team is fully filled in Page 22 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 23. Page 23 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 24. Real Simple Goals Create a useful directory of Home Solutions •Browse by a range of categories •Meaningful related solutions •Website directory Page 24 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 25. Real Simple: Hard-coded Navigational Taxonomy Page 25 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 26. Real Simple: Difficulty Sharing Page 26 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 27. Lessons Learned • Don’t hardcode the taxonomy into a display template! •Establish guidelines for shared metadata – what should be shared and what shouldn’t Page 27 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 28. Page 28 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 29. InStyle Goals Showcase the latest fashion products • Hierarchical browse of products • Meaningful related products • Discovery of new and trusted brands Page 29 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 30. InStyle: No Technical Specifications Page 30 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 31. InStyle: Slow to Retrieve and Sort Data CMS TOPICS Article Search Index Template Article #123 Brad Pitt Page 31 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 32. InStyle: Editors Reluctant to Tag “Why should I tag if it doesn’t show up in search?” Page 32 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 33. Lessons Learned • Develop detailed technical specification • Determine standards for template developers • Reduce time spent processing complex queries • Editorial training geared toward website functionality Page 33 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 34. Page 34 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 35. EW.com Goals Redesign EW.com •Enhance All About Pages •Boost interactivity with audience •Use additional technology to build audience (SEO, RSS, etc) •Create comprehensive media products database Page 35 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 36. EW.com: Simultaneous Large Projects Page 36 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 37. EW.com: Development Setting DEV…..QA…. PROD Instituted New Environments Too many chefs New hardware Page 37 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 38. EW.com: Move to TOPICS version 2.0 Page 38 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 39. EW.com: Complex Data Migration Page 39 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 40. {MediaProductsTax:MovieAustinPowersinGoldmember MediaProductsOnt:hasIndustryRating MediaProductsTax:PG13} {MediaProductsTax:MovieAustinPowersinGoldmember MediaProductsOnt:hasGuestPerformer personsTax:WillFerrell} {MediaProductsTax:MovieAustinPowersinGoldmember MediaProductsOnt:hasGuestPerformer personsTax:DannyDeVito} {MediaProductsTax:MovieAustinPowersinGoldmember EW.com: Too Much Data MediaProductsOnt:hasGuestPerformer personsTax:QuincyJones} {MediaProductsTax:MovieAustinPowersinGoldmember MediaProductsOnt:hasGuestPerformer personsTax:TomCruise} {MediaProductsTax:MovieAustinPowersinGoldmember MediaProductsOnt:hasGuestPerformer personsTax:KatieCouric} {MediaProductsTax:MovieAustinPowersinGoldmember MediaProductsOnt:hasGuestPerformer personsTax:KellyOsbourne} {MediaProductsTax:MovieAustinPowersinGoldmember MediaProductsOnt:hasGuestPerformer personsTax:StevenSpielberg} {MediaProductsTax:MovieAustinPowersinGoldmember MediaProductsOnt:hasGuestPerformer personsTax:BritneySpears} {MediaProductsTax:MovieAustinPowersinGoldmember MediaProductsOnt:hasGuestPerformer personsTax:FredSavage} {MediaProductsTax:MovieAustinPowersinGoldmember MediaProductsOnt:hasGuestPerformer personsTax:GwynethPaltrow} {MediaProductsTax:MovieAustinPowersinGoldmember MediaProductsOnt:hasGuestPerformer personsTax:JackOsbourne} {MediaProductsTax:MovieAustinPowersinGoldmember MediaProductsOnt:hasGuestPerformer personsTax:SharonOsbourne} {MediaProductsTax:MovieAustinPowersinGoldmember MediaProductsOnt:hasGuestPerformer personsTax:KevinSpacey} {MediaProductsTax:MovieAustinPowersinGoldmember MediaProductsOnt:hasGuestPerformer personsTax:OzzyOsbourne} {MediaProductsTax:MovieAustinPowersinGoldmember MediaProductsOnt:hasGenre MediaProductsTax:Comedy} {MediaProductsTax:MovieAustinPowersinGoldmember MediaProductsOnt:hasFranchise MediaProductsTax:AustinPowers} {MediaProductsTax:MovieAustinPowersinGoldmember MediaProductsOnt:hasDistributor CompaniesTax:NewLineCinema} {MediaProductsTax:MovieAustinPowersinGoldmember MediaProductsOnt:hasDirector personsTax:JayRoach} {MediaProductsTax:MovieAustinPowersinGoldmember MediaProductsOnt:hasAuthor personsTax:MichaelMcCullers} {MediaProductsTax:MovieAustinPowersinGoldmember MediaProductsOnt:hasAuthor personsTax:MikeMyers} {MediaProductsTax:MovieAustinPowersinGoldmember MediaProductsOnt:gotVideoGradeCPlusBy personsTax:MissySchwartz} {MediaProductsTax:MovieAustinPowersinGoldmember MediaProductsOnt:gotVideoGradeBy personsTax:MissySchwartz} {MediaProductsTax:MovieAustinPowersinGoldmember MediaProductsOnt:gotMovieGradeBy personsTax:LisaSchwarzbaum} {MediaProductsTax:MovieAustinPowersinGoldmember MediaProductsOnt:gotMovieGradeBBy personsTax:LisaSchwarzbaum} {MediaProductsTax:MovieAustinPowersinGoldmember MediaProductsOnt:gotGradeBy personsTax:MissySchwartz} {MediaProductsTax:MovieAustinPowersinGoldmember MediaProductsOnt:gotGradeBy personsTax:LisaSchwarzbaum} {MediaProductsTax:MovieAustinPowersinGoldmember dcOnt:subject {}} {MediaProductsTax:MovieAustinPowersinGoldmember dcOnt:relation {}} {MediaProductsTax:MovieAustinPowersinGoldmember dcOnt:language en} Page 40 {MediaProductsTax:MovieAustinPowersinGoldmember dcOnt:date {08/15/2006 02:05:21PM}} © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger {MediaProductsTax:MovieAustinPowersinGoldmember dcOnt:creator http://user/test#sdsouza-migration} {MediaProductsTax:MovieAustinPowersinGoldmember dcOnt:contributor {}}
  • 41. EW.com: Scaled Down Dynamic Functionality Page 41 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 42. Lessons Learned • Solve scalability issues before migration • Allow enough time and resources for development • Don’t give up functionality that you consider essential to the site Page 42 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 43. Page 43 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 44. People Goals Redesign People.com • Enhanced and automated Celebrity pages • News items classified by subject • Integration of archive with main site Page 44 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 45. People: Simultaneous Large Projects Page 45 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 46. People: Shortsightedness Page 46 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 47. Lessons Learned •More thorough business development •Solve scalability issues before migration •Allow enough time for development Page 47 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 48. Other Challenges: Prototype People mistakenly believed that TOPICS was a prototype Page 48 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger Photo by Steve Jurvetson
  • 49. Other Challenges: Search vs. Tagging “Can’t we just get a better search engine and do all of this with unstructured content?” Page 49 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger Photo by Danard Vincente
  • 50. Other Challenges: No Visualization QA and Design had no easy way to look at the data in TOPICS Page 50 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 51. Other Challenges: User Interface Editors found it difficult to use Page 51 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 52. Other Challenges: Vision All of the people who originated the project left the company. No one who was left had a big picture view of where the project was going. No one was strategizing about how it could be used across the organization. Page 52 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger Photo by Prabhu
  • 53. Lessons Learned •When the project launches, announce it •Promote the benefits clearly and often •Provide visualizations and easy-to-use interface •Make sure someone is in charge of the vision Page 53 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 54. Looking Forward Page 54 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger Photo by Max Blinkhorn
  • 55. Change of heart •Buy-in from Southern Living and SPC sites •Increased web traffic Page 55 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 56. Improved Perception •User tagging •Tagging Tool redesign •Proven functionality Page 56 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 57. Enhanced Performance •Additional hardware improved performance •Caching of TOPICS data in CMS allows quicker response times •Integration with new CMS CMS TOPICS Article Search Index Template Article TOPICS #123 COPY Brad Pitt Page 57 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 58. Where is it going next? •Establish executive sponsorship •Determine new uses •Enhance taxonomy management tools •Move to more semantically enabled database •Upgrade query language to SPARQL •More thorough integration with CMS and other systems Page 58 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 59. Summary Page 59 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger Photo by ken ratcliff
  • 60. Universal Challenges •Executive sponsorship •Vision, business strategy •Scalability & RDF data storage issues •Efficiency of APIs •Guidelines for shared metadata •Robust, easy-to-use interface •Training and communications for business users •Standards for design, functional specs, implementation •Data migration Page 60 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger
  • 61. Thanks ! barbara_mcglamery@timeinc.com rachel.lovinger@razorfish.com Page 61 © 2009 Barbara McGlamery & Rachel Lovinger Photo by Marak