What are the pros and cons in using an algorithm-based people finder?
When you’re searching out biography or contact details for potential contributors as a journalist, its vital those details be accurate, timely and reliable.
So its with this in mind I present to you: ZoomInfo People Search.
Here’s how they find the information which appears in their profiles:
…the information that makes up a ZoomInfo profile was built from dozens or even hundreds of public sources found across the Internet, and intelligently assembled into a single, concise professional profile using ZoomInfo’s proprietary search technology. You will see a date associated with every web reference, which will let you know how recently the text was available on a public web site.
Timeliness is good, and given Wikipedia entries feature heavily in it’s results, timeliness isn’t really a problem for ZoomInfo.
No, the problem with this site is the ‘intelligence’ of the automated methods used.
Try searching for Michael Jackson. You will see a Michael Jackson who happens to be the CEO of AutoNation Inc has been wrongly attributed the Wiki biography of his more famous/infamous namesake.
Alternatively try searching for John Barnes – you’ll find A Research Associate at Newcastle University has been attributed the biography of the former England footballer and Celtic manager (!) John Barnes.
But there are other problems too with sites which use algorithms to scan the web and return ‘meaningful’ information.
Try running a search for Vic Reeves. One result comes back saying he is Entertainment Chief for Fox News – but when you look at the reference responsible, you can see that because of a rogue comma, this role has been wrongly attributed. Moreover, the source in question is a personal blog entry – is this a trustworthy source upon which to base the life and times of someone, whether real or invented by an algorithm?
Put bluntly, if you don’t employ a human eye (or at the bare minimum some semantic technology), then you’re always going to end up with egg on your face, like with these examples.
Now, pardon my cynicism, but there seems to be a good business reason behind ZoomInfo taking this proactive approach to profile building, even if it does jeopardise the quality of their content in the process.
By creating automated (and often erroneous) profiles for recognised people, ZoomInfo hedge their bets on the need for the profilees in question to manage as much of their online image as possible, hence roping everyone in to amend/correct their own profile, whether they want to be part of it or not.
Not a great business model for establishing trust and goodwill on the part of your customerbase, imo.