Quiz: Acknowledged Globally as the Leader…


This is actually a quiz. I found the following in a job post for an NLP engineer from a company that’s so far been rather shy on the hype surrounding NLP.

XXX is a provider of innovative software products for semantic search and text mining. Thanks to a great team, and sophisticated natural language processing technology, our software is acknowledged globally as the leader in its field, with a strong focus on the YYY and ZZZ industry.

I love marketing/sales talk. It’s like political speech in its combination of vagueness and grandiloquence.


Read the above passage and answer:

Question 1. The software in question is “acknowledged globally” by whom?

Question 2. How restrictive is “field”? Just the YYY and ZZZ industries or all of semantic search and text mining?

Putting yourself in the place of a consumer, answer:

Question 3. Does a “strong focus” on YYY and ZZZ put you off asking XXX to do ABC?

Question 4. What does “innovative” mean in this context? Provide a contrasting example of non-innovative text mining and semantic search.

Using your general world knowledge, answer the following:

Question 5. What is “semantic search” and “text mining”?

Question 6. Based on your answer to 5, who do you think is the leader in the field of “semantic search” and “text mining”?

Question 7. What counts as a “sophisticated” technology? What is the relevant comparison group?

Using web search, answer the following (to yourself, no spoilers right away, please):

Extra Credit. What are the values for XXX, YYY, and ZZZ?

4 Responses to “Quiz: Acknowledged Globally as the Leader…”

  1. Nobody Says:

    My first attempt on google revealed an opening for a position based in Boston, MA.

    I figured your other questions were rhetorical anyway.

    • Bob Carpenter Says:

      I am curious about what people think terms like “text mining” and “semantic search” and “semantic web” mean and who people think has the best software in those areas. And I actually am curious about whether someone would try to approach a company specializing in medical NLP to do something in banking.

      We’ve stayed away from specializing LingPipe for a particular application. We also haven’t tried to build language kits like Teragram (now part of SAS) and Basis and Inxight do (probably our closest-in-kind competitors). In part, it’s because we don’t have (or want to manage) the staff required for language or domain specialization. It’s a full-time job in and of itself. Having said that, we’ve been lucky to get work in a broad range of areas from biosurveillance to database deduplication to enterprise search. I think it’s largely because we’re willing to customize for one-off apps, but I’m really curious about the customers’ point of view.

      I always find it amusing how easy it is to figure out where a job comes from when a headhunter does a cut-and-paste job on a publicly-advertised job (this job was actually posted to a mailing list to which I subscribe by the company itself). There are always key phrases that come up that are just too specific to be created by a headhunter.

  2. Building Gurus Says:

    Just curious why it matters, really, where the job description comes from? (headhunter or corporate job description) I guess I always let my candidates know who the position is with if they have a fitting background and are interested. My clients work with me for a reason and hae outsourced the position to me because they haven’t been able to fill it… so if a candidate decides to bypass me and go strait to a client, it is not usually a good thing. Make sense?

    • Bob Carpenter Says:

      It’s really just about people keeping information to themselves, which is almost always annoying, even if a headhunter’s doing it “for the candidate’s own good” or “for the company’s own good”.

      At some point, headhunters have to tell clients where the job is at. They will have to interview. But they only want to do it after they’ve locked in the commission arrangement. They don’t want it to be public knowledge, or people will cut them out of the loop.

      Headhunters are almost never domain experts, so it’s like playing a game of telephone (I tell you what I want you to tell X, they respond to you, and you convey it back to me), which is very noisy in my experience. Headhunters often rewrite the job ad garbling or confusing the original content or its intent.

      All this goes for HR inside big companies, too, by the way.

      Headhunters can sometimes be useful for candidates, though they (almsot always, at least my experience) get paid by the employer. It’s always a good idea to keep in mind who’s paying for the service when you’re involved as a party.

      Headhunters are especially useful for candidates who are afraid to negotiate on their own behalf. But even for those of us who don’t mind, having an agent can be helpful.

      The problem is like with real estate agents. The headhunter wants to close as many deals as possible rather than maximize each deal. So our goals aren’t aligned. And that’s frustrating, though less so in my experience with headhunters than real estate agents.

      Headhunter fees seem high to me (not that I’d want to try to make a living at it) at multiple months of salary and bonuses for retention. All things being equal, employers would rather not pay the headhunter. Of course, they want the headhunters to filter their candidate pool for them, so there is some benefit to the company, too.

      Given that I’m not looking for a job, I often ask headhunters who contact me about salaries and employers, but none of them have ever responded. So I do search, though jobs are almost never listed with salaries. When there are no headhunters involved, I don’t have to do the search bit.

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