"Indexing Power," an interview with Mark Goodstein, X1's founder

Publié le 19 Septembre 2004

Mark Goodstein, X1's founder answered my questions about his program, how it works, the power of indexation, and why he thinks that his software "makes organization optional." I used some of his quotes in an article about indexing (in Spanish).

Q - What should be understood (and what can you say) of your indexing technology?

A - X1's indexing technology is both novel and also mundane. Where it is an inverted word index, like many before it, it has two major distinguishing characteristics. It has been optimized to deliver the innovative as-fast-as-you-type search experience and built to deliver this performance without impacting the computer in a manner that the user notices. Indexing content on an end user's personal computer is a delicate process that involves significant processing and disk use. We have made major advances in our ability to back off when a user or application demands attention. When we started the company, we felt we had to concentrate on three core principles in order to succeed where others had not: speed, simplicity, and invisibility. X1's indexing technology plays a crucial role in all three of these areas.

Q - Could you explain the power of indexation in more general terms and what it represents for the handling of information and data?

A - People who use computers for their livelihood--a fairly large segment--are increasingly inundated with too much data, too much email, too many files, too many attachments, and an archaic storage metaphor based on hierarchies of folders, to organize themselves. X1 allows users to find any email, file, attachment, contact, or other data, as fast as they can type. It doesn't matter what applications or mailers they use. It doesn't matter how or where they (inadvertently) stored their data. X1 provides a single interface to find, use, and manage all their data.

X1 indexes the contents of every file, email, attachment, and contact on a user's machine. It then provides a single list of every item, regardless of where it's filed, allowing the user to turn the standard model of searching on its head. It does this in two major ways. First, this standard model consists of starting with a blank page, thinking ahead and constructing a complex query, pressing enter, waiting for a list of results and then engaging in a modal back and forth dialog with the results set--think of searching Google or using the native Find utility in either Windows or Outlook. It also consists of large up-front investments in organization, with the user setting up those complex sets of nested folders within which to file email or files, often errantly. Instead of doing these things, with X1, the user can jump in to the middle of the search, if you will, and begin filtering from a list of everything, adjusting as they type, while looking inside the contents of the file in question immediately, regardless of whether the native application is even installed.

- You say in your Product Specs document that X1 makes organization optional. What do you mean by this?

A - We've found that users cease to invest their time in maintaining the complex organizational folder structures (does the email belong in "clients" or "friends?"). We've seen people let their inboxes grow to thousands of messages where before they used X1, they filed their mail immediately, to maintain a sense of order. X1 serves as a safety net--since you know you can find any email as quickly as you can type a few simple strings, there's no worry that you'll lose a given file, attachment, or email...
We've heard that the average worker spends up to 40% of their day searching for information--which includes the time invested in organizing data for future retrieval. X1 is saving time on both ends of this equation...making organization optional.

Q - It seems that it makes databases optional? Is that a correct assumption? How so? With what limitations?

A - Good question. In a sense, yes, it does. But not really. Databases are very complicated systems, designed to manage bodies of data greater than that of a single person, not to mention the managing the workflow built around their core indexes. X1 is a personal database product--a personal knowledge management system. It is also, of course, a database.

Finally, I have a suggestion: Would you consider allowing me to create "saved searches" from which I could eliminate some documents without destroying them? Example: I have 100 documents on "search engines" in several folders, and I want to work with 10 of them simply because they fit better my interest at the moment.

In the most recent release of the product, there is support for "saved searches," allowing you to do exactly what you've suggested... Additionally, the product supports a fairly complex search syntax, which you can view here

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