Implementing an Insight Center

The Marketing Information Center was built on top of a product from Xerox Special Information Systems called The Analyst (version 3.0) that was, in turn, built upon Smalltalk-80 from ParcPlace Systems. The Analyst makes use of many of the functions and features found in the Smalltalk system. The Smalltalk system provides a hypertext-like graphical user interface that is an integrated collection of programming tools for the Smalltalk language. The system makes use of pop-up windows, code browsers, graphic editors, etc.

The goal of the system is the storage and retrieval of documents that are stored in the computer. These documents refer to objects such as items, markets, retailers, events, etc. Semantic networks are used to relate these objects to one another so that when one is examining an item such as 87481, it is known to the system and hence "knowable" by the user that 87481 is Ivory, and Ivory is made by Procter & Gamble. Further, the semantic network would allow one to move from an exploration of 87481 to an exploration of Procter & Gamble via other links and nodes in the semantic network.

The user can navigate around the network to explore, to browse, to learn things about the objects and relationship in his/her marketing world. One of the things that s/he might learn is that Report 40 exists, and that Report 40 is about a display and feature opportunity that exists in chain 281 for item 87481. The user could also learn that this report contains text and data. The user could then ask the system to display or print the text and/or the data.

In this scenario, the manager has found or located an insight about display and feature opportunities for one of his/her items. After reading the text, the manager could then use the network for further explorations. For instance, s/he might want to know about other display and feature opportunities for item 87481, or about similar opportunities for other sizes of Ivory, or for other items that also have opportunities in chain 281, etc. Retrieving the necessary reports would be a simple matter of navigating around the network. Textual navigation has been incorporated into the Analyst in a special form of hypertext.

Further discussion: