17 Mar Onfolio unlocks web research
Three years after selling to Macromedia the company he founded with his brother Jeremy, JJ Allaire is back at the helm of a start-up venture, this time offering a product for the user side of the Web equation.
In 1995, the Allaire brothers, along with Adam Berrey, founded Allaire software and developed the award-winning Web development tool, ColdFusion. The product soared, as did the company’s value after a stunning IPO in January of 1999. Then, as stocks took their tumble in 2000, Allaire found safe harbor at Macromedia. Jeremy stayed on at Macromedia, becoming chief technology officer, and Adam joined him there for a time, as well. JJ began looking for new adventures.
His search took him, perhaps naturally enough, to searching – Web-based searching, that is. “Good search has turned us into armature researchers,” JJ told me last week. “We’ve become a Research Nation.”
“How you find something [on the Web] has been well solved by Google,” JJ said, “but there is a parallel problem: How do you use what you find?”
That question led to the creation of Onfolio, a company and product that launches today.
Onfolio the company took root more than two years ago as JJ explored the question of how to make online research more productive. He pondered, researched, and built a prototype, then convinced Berrey and Charles Teague (Allaire employee No. 1) to join him in his new venture. These three now lead a team of eight “mostly R&D” people in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Onfolio the product is an elegant tool that lets you collect, organize, annotate, and share the information you find online. The company calls it a “search information manager” (SIM). I call it beautiful software.
As a young student, I learned to read card catalogs and the Guide to Periodicals. I ransacked the stacks and studied microfiche and put my notes on index cards. I’d shuffle those cards a dozen ways, then sit at my desk and write a term paper.
The Web has changed all that, except, perhaps, the index card and term paper part. I still cut and paste notes and jot ideas into a Word document, then later struggle to remember where I found some bit of data as I attempt to synthesize it all into a cohesive report.
Onfolio integrates well into Internet Explorer. As you research a topic, you can easily clip information and add it to an Onfolio collection. Onfolio auto-captures meta data, including source location, author and copyright information, even meta tags, if they are available. You can annotate items, arrange and rearrange them, then easily share what you find, either as an email message with annotated links or as a document attached to an email message.
But Onfolio does sharing one better than other search assist tools do. The Publisher module of Onfolio enables you to create fully documented, designed, and formatted reports from the snippets of data in an Onfolio collection. Once organized and written, the report can be easily published electronically as an MHTML document. Effectively, Publisher is the term paper creation tool.
As a recent convert to Microsoft OneNote, I questioned the need for another program, no matter how well integrated or elegantly designed, to organize the tidbits of information that flow through a typical workday. After using both over a few days, I recognize distinct differences. OneNote is great for collecting random ideas and data from a wide range of sources. It’s a notebook to be referred to later, as I return to an idea or topic.
My use of Onfolio is much more purpose driven, and very much Web- centric. I have a goal to understand a topic area and Onfolio lets me drive to a conclusion.
Perhaps Onfolio has legitimized a new category of software, the search information manager, with the release of this product – legitimized rather than trumped the search support products we explored at DEMO 2004. Products such as Groxis’ Grokker, e.story’s LinkedMinds, or BIGontheNet’s p-ZOOM are all excellent tools for organizing and sharing searches. These tools focus on improving the quality of search results, whereas Onfolio focuses on what you do with those results. In fact, in testing Onfolio, I found p-ZOOM to be an excellent companion tool, letting p-ZOOM first analyze and categorize the results, then using Onfolio to gather and annotate the useful bits.
Some folks complain that the ocean of information on the Web will impact negatively our ability to synthesize information. Students will simply spew back factoids found on one site or another. I think Onfolio answers that concern well. It is a tool that supports thoughtful research, careful analysis, and intelligent reporting of Web-based information.
As always, the most valuable skill is not gathering facts and figures, but synthesizing and analyzing that data in order to draw smart conclusions. Onfolio is the first software tool to support that higher ambition.
Three questions: Your social networks
DEMOletter readers are definitely LinkedIn. In fact, 78 percent of respondents to last week’s Three Questions Survey on social networking said they are a member of LinkedIn. Friendster (37 percent), Orkut (35 percent), and Tribe (31 percent) were the next most used networks. The survey did record a long list of “other” networks, as well, including Stanford Alumni InCircle, Skype, Flickr, Tickle, and Yafro. Only 2 percent said they were not members of an online social network.
Are the networks really useful? Yes, say 75 percent of respondents. But here’s the rub: 36 percent are unwilling to pay to play. While 42 percent said they would be willing to pay something under $10 per month for such a service, respondents offered a range of alternative payment methods. Some are willing to pay per use, others suggest an annual fee, and one respondent said social networks should be paid for “by the employer, like email.”
With so little consensus from customers, the social network business model question will continue to loom large.
DEMOmobile alum Twingo Systems is joining the big leagues. The company has been snapped up by Cisco Systems for $5 million in cash. Cisco says it will use Twingo’s Secure Sockets Layer VPN technology to clean up after remote sessions. Twingo’s Virtual Secure Desktop will be added to Cisco’s VPN 3000 Concentrator to help fully erase history files, temporary files, caches, cookies, email file attachments, and other downloaded data at the close of an SSL VPN user session. The deal is set to close in July . . . Aeroprise has teamed with Research in Motion to provide IT managers with service management access via their BlackBerries. The partnership aims to let users call up critical applications via Aeroprise’s Mobile Workflow Management for Service Management product. The companies say that field technicians will also benefit from this technology to answer customer service needs . . . Caffeine-laden soap? Seems tech folks are taking their need for a jolt to the extreme. Network World Senior Editor Cara Garretson searched far and wide for unique approaches to caffeine intake among the networked set. Lest you think soap is the quirkiest, think peppers and caffeine in one spicy combo. You can read her report at: http://www.nwfusion.com/news/2004/0315widernetcaffeine.html.
Chris Shipley is the executive producer of NetworkWorld’s DEMO Conferences, Editor of DEMOletter and a technology industry analyst for nearly 20 years. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Shipley, has covered the personal technology business since 1984 and is regarded as one of the top analysts covering the technology industry today. Shipley has worked as a writer and editor for variety of technology consumer magazines, including PC Week, PC Magazine, PC/Computing, and InfoWorld, US Magazine and Working Woman. She has written two books on communications and Internet technology, has won numerous awards for journalistic excellence, and was named the #1 newsletter editor by Marketing Computers for two years in a row. To subscribe to DEMOletter please visit: http://www.idgexecforums.com/demoletter/index.html.
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