Lexalytics' ExecDex, or the PR Folks Know Best - InformationWeek

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10/10/2008
11:05 AM
Seth Grimes
Seth Grimes
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Lexalytics' ExecDex, or the PR Folks Know Best

A press release from Lexalytics touts ExecDex, a Web site that features a "business-leader ranking index." Now Lexalytics makes an interesting sentiment-analysis engine, but I thought ExecDex should have been more fully developed before release to the likes of me. It seems Lexalytics CEO Jeff Catlin agreed, but the two of us couldn't have been more wrong. I think we both received a lesson in looking at tech applications through others' eyes.

A press release from Lexalytics touts ExecDex, a Web site that features a "business-leader ranking index." I checked it out. Now Lexalytics makes an interesting sentiment-analysis engine, but I thought ExecDex should have been more fully developed before release to the likes of me. It seems Lexalytics CEO Jeff Catlin agreed, but the two of us couldn't have been more wrong. I suspect in the end, we both received a lesson in looking at tech applications through others' eyes.ExecDex is based on Lexalytics' content-gathering Acquisition Engine and on the company's Salience sentiment-extraction tool. But where the company's PR touted a demo application that would "provide insight into how reputation management and social-media monitoring (SMM) are impacting business value," I saw a site that I characterized in e-mail to Jeff Catlin as shallow and not compelling.

The site picks up spam articles; it fails to disambiguate executives from eponymous companies (e.g., Ralph Lauren); some of the results are nonsensical (try the Money Cloud links for Larry Ellison, which list amounts seemingly based on simple in-page co-occurrences); and it doesn't deduplicate multiple instances of the same page. And from my technologist's point of view, the site simply isn't very useful.

Jeff's response: "All fair observations."

He continued — I'm reposting with Lexalytics' permission — "The site is a work in progress and from my point of view more of a demo than anything else. I tend to agree with you, but the PR folks seemed very intent on talking about it. It's really just different schools of thought... I'm pretty conservative and would tend to sit on it till it had what I want in it, the PR folks seem to think it's good enough.

"The Ralph Lauren one in particular is really tricky...

"It also appears that we're both wrong anyway :-) After it came out one of the financial publishers contacted us and asked if we could build an executive tracking system for them :-)"

The purpose of public relations is to gain attention. This particular PR worked in that sense. The vendor seeks the attention to generate sales leads, and not necessarily (or primarily) to appeal to technologists like me (and Jeff). Evidently this particular PR achieved that lead-generation goal as well.

A good demo showcases key product capabilities. It invites us to imagine how the product may be applied to answer our own business problems. It's robust enough to make the sale; elaboration beyond that point is wasted. And viewers do (or should) understand that a demo is just a demo and not a full-blown implementation. These are all points that I neglected when I looked at the ExecDex site as an end in itself rather than as a lead-generation tool. ExecDex does expose interesting capabilities. It may be shallow, but sometimes shallow is just right. Sometimes the PR folks do know best.A press release from Lexalytics touts ExecDex, a Web site that features a "business-leader ranking index." Now Lexalytics makes an interesting sentiment-analysis engine, but I thought ExecDex should have been more fully developed before release to the likes of me. It seems Lexalytics CEO Jeff Catlin agreed, but the two of us couldn't have been more wrong. I think we both received a lesson in looking at tech applications through others' eyes.

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