Magazine article Information Today

Visualizing Online Information

Magazine article Information Today

Visualizing Online Information

Article excerpt

Tim Bray has had a 20-year career in the software industry. He is recognized as an expert in Web architecture, information retrieval, and software optimization. After managing the New Oxford English Dictionary project at Canada's University of Waterloo, he co-founded Open Text Corp. and introduced what would become one of the first commercial Web search engines. In 1996, he joined the World Wide Web Consortium's XML Working Group, serving as co-editor of the eXtensible Markup Language (XML) 1.0 specification. In 1999, he founded Antarctica Systems and is now the company's CTO. In this interview, Bray talks about Antarctica's progress in advancing the role of visualization software for improving users' access to online information.

Q: The last time we spoke was about a year ago when Antarctica was testing a prototype graphical interface for the DIRLINE database for NLM. (See the NewsBreak at What has happened with that?

A. The goal we have all been shooting for is to do something for TOXLINE, NLM's toxicology database, but we haven't gotten started on that yet. The prototype hasn't been developed any further, but there are people using it. NLM is not a real fast-moving organization. But the feedback on the prototype has been good, and I'm confident we will move forward on the project.

Q: Have you done other work with NLM or other government agencies?

A: We are in discussions with several organizations within the Department of Defense, but there's nothing we can talk about yet. The DoD has been doing quite a lot of aggressive work in the KM space recently. It's interesting, though, that there's not much actually happening in KM right now in the private sector.

Q: At one point, Antarctica had several interesting demos available at, including a PubMed demo site. I couldn't find them now.

A: Go to and you'll be able to see them. Last July, Antarctica hired a new CEO. We decided that our technology was a little too horizontal, a bit too general. We were having trouble when we showed prospective customers our very generic demo. We actually lost a few pharmaceutical contracts because the demo didn't speak to them. So now when we talk with a potential buyer, we try hard not to lead with product, but instead try to figure out the problem the company is trying to solve and what data resources it has. When we actually show them a demo, we invoke a demo that speaks their language. It's a matter of sales strategy. We prefer to lead with questions and then follow up with a demo.

Q: I understand that your CEO, Barry Yates, is a seasoned sales professional. It makes sense for a technology person to bring in someone else to lead.

A: Yes, I've done this before. With my company, Open Text, I was CEO for the first 18 months and then hired a replacement. And we went on to do a big IPO and have fun. I would hope that pattern repeats itself. Unlike a lot of technology people, I have the highest respect for people with expertise in the sales and marketing arena. I understand that it is at least as demanding as building technology.

Q: Let's talk about some of the specific markets you are now targeting. One of them is close to my heart, the library market. Antarctica recently signed a distribution agreement with, a software consulting firm that specializes in libraries. is now bringing your Visual Net product to the library, library automation, and research markets in North America and Europe.

A: There were just too many libraries for us to reach. We had been making some headway, but it seemed inefficient for a small company in the Pacific Northwest to attempt to market to the whole library community. The head of felt there was real potential for Visual Net in the market, and we are happy to work with them. He forecasts two deals for this quarter. …

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