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Current Events

Factiva

Factiva Launch Video

In 1999 I was at the founding of Factiva, a joint venture between Dow Jones and Reuters, two of the leading news organizations at the time. This global JV brought together the news archival databases of both companies and made them available “on the web” which was a big deal back then.

With the right information, our possibilities are endless.

The Factiva product had a super-complicated search UI which allowed you to create complex search statements that could find articles that mentioned Ford and Aardvark in the first paragraph within 5 words of each other but only in articles written by Phillip Roth (no, I do not think such an article exists btw). This database had over 9,000 newspapers, magazines and news wires. Every single article going back decades, fully indexed and fielded for detailed spelunking. The web was only a minor side tab, we crawled something like 300 sites.

With the right information, we can seize opportunities we never realized we had.

Factiva was a huge business, 26 offices around the world, hundreds of millions in revenue each year. We sold our product to the top global companies around the world. We consulted with them on their information needs and delivered the news and information they needed to run their business. We thought we were hot shit.

If information is going to be our most valuable asset, facts will be its currency.

Playing back the marketing launch video at the top of the post, its funny how innocent it all sounds. All you need are facts to make the world a better place. With facts, all will be right.

Every fact can invigorate and improve the way we think.

Today our elected leaders will decide if testimony and documents from key individuals with first hand knowledge of the Ukraine/Biden/Zelensky affair are necessary to pass judgement on Trump’s impeachment. I really hope our Senators answer a higher calling and #TakeOneWeek to remove any doubt but I’ve become too cynical to see that happening. Facts are not needed in the “pick your truth” world we live in today.

Just imagine what we can do with hundreds and thousands of facts at our fingertips.

So back the Factiva promo video. 1999 was a time when information was scarce. You usually had to work with a corporate “information professional” to use specialized databases to locate and find what you needed. Information was mediated, curated by editors and fact-checked by many layers of the media ecosystem.

Today it’s the opposite – we have such easy and direct access to information that it’s time, focus and attention that are scarce. Because our attention is limited and we are bombarded with shiny things on the internet to look at (and of course, share), news organizations need to hoot, scream and holler to get and, more importantly, hold our attention.

I was hoping that our leaders would rise to their test during this impeachment trial but I fear this will not be the case, they will vote in their own self-interest, circling the wagons to protect themselves. It will be up to us, the public citizens, to seek out facts and the truth and hold our leaders accountable.

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Office

Is Goldman Sachs the Canary?

As reported in today’s New York Times,

Bloomberg said the functions that allowed journalists to monitor subscribers were a mistake and were promptly disabled after Goldman Sachs complained that a Bloomberg reporter had, while inquiring about a partner’s employment status, pointed out that the partner had not logged onto his Bloomberg terminal lately.

Privacy Breach on Bloomberg’s Data Terminals

There is no excuse for what the Bloomberg reporter is accused of doing, but it doesn’t surprise me that Goldman Sachs was the one to complain. Back when I was a Product Manager of Factiva.com, a news database where Goldman was one of our clients, I remember an IT person at Goldman telling me that they would run 100 different searches against our database, throwing all but one which was what they were really interested in. The other 99 were chaff.

There’s no doubt that the lines are fuzzy when a media company (including my employer, GigaOM) reports on the news while also running a website where they can see who is reading what. Secretive companies involved in funding, acquisitions, and IPOs have every right to be paranoid. Several times the product team at GigaOM has been briefed on upcoming features that we were under NDA not to tell our colleagues on the editorial desk. In this new world where lines are blurry, your honor & word are all that’s left to keep that ethical line straight and true.

I remember thinking, when the GigaOM Principles were published, that I’d hate to have Om invest in my company because that means that he would never write about my company. But it’s the right thing to do, there’s no other way to look at it.