Google Acquires Case Study Patents from International Tech Broadcaster

In my last couple of posts, I wrote about the acquisition of over 1,000 patents from IBM by Google. There are a number of reasons why a company might acquire a patent. In the case of the IBM patents, it’s likely that many of those will be used to protect Google from patent infringement litigation. It’s possible that some might be considered as launching points for the development of technology or processes that the company could use internally, or may offer to others outside of Google itself.

Some other recent patent acquisitions by Google include patents from Exbiblio, from Widevine, the phone patents from Myriad Group, more phone related patents from Verizon, and a number of memory chip related patents from Metaram, amongst others.

While many of those have the flavor of patents acquired to either help protect Google from patent litigation or to help them develop new technologies, a pair of patents recorded in the USPTO assignment database this Thursday, assigning the interests of Successes.com in those patents to Google, have a different taste to them. Successes.com is a company run by veteran broadcaster Jan Ziff (a correspondent for the BBC, the State Department, Voice of America, Associated Press, Mutual Radio, and National Public Radio’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered) and her executive producer on the 20 year CBS international news show Sound*Bytes, Allan Davidson. The testimonials page from successes.com includes many from some fairly large tech companies, including Nextel, America Online, Red Hat, Zonelabs, and this one from Google:

“… very easy to work with, and … Consistently deliver quality work in a timely manner …”

I don’t know if the patent assignments indicate an acquisition of Successes.com, Inc., by Google, a hiring of the people behind the company, or an acknowledgment and reward to valued business partners. The processes described in the patent appear to describe the business model behind successes.com, but the successes.com site seems to still be up and running at this point. The patents are:

Content development management system and method
Invented by Susan Janette Ziff and Allan L. Davidson
Assigned to Successes.com, Inc.
US Patent 6,697,821
Granted February 24, 2004
Filed: May 8, 2001

Abstract

A system and method for content development management is provided which increases the speed, quality control and accuracy of the content generation process and reduces the cost of the content generation process by providing the steps of the content generation process in a single integrated system.

The system also permits the users of the system to work at different times of the day and in different geographic locations. The system also permits the users of the system to rapidly determine the current status of any content in the system.

The system may be used to generate various different types of content including written content, such as success stories, stories, articles, advertisements, auditory content, such as radio spots, radio advertisements, radio presentations, electronic downloaded auditory content, audiovisual content that combines audible content and written content and visual content including television video or video data.

Story workflow management system and method
Invented by Susan Janette Ziff and Allan L. Davidson
Assigned to Successes.com, Inc.
US Patent 6,557,013
Granted April 29, 2003
Filed: March 15, 2000

Abstract

A system and method for story creation workflow management is provided which increases the speed, quality control and accuracy and reduces the cost of the story creation process by providing the steps of the story creation process in a single integrated system. The system also permits the users of the system to work at different times of the day and in different geographic locations. The system also permits the users of the system to rapidly determine the current status of any story in the system.

The patents show a richly detailed online process for building case studies, corporate biographies, and other content. These include screens that customers can fill out to provide information, other screens that writers can use to use that information and other sources to create rich articles and other content, forms and checklists that editors can use to verify sources and check facts and provide suggestions for updates and revisions. The following three are some of the introductory forms:

The first page in a form used for people to write a success story.
The second screen used in telling a success story, including industry, company size, hardware and software used on the project and the success story itself.
The third and final screen in telling a success story, including details on how a particular product helped lead to success.

The images from the patent also show a number of screens for an editor, including checklists of steps that need to be taken in the creation of a document. For example:

An editor's checklist of the information need to write the story, including fact checking and consent to use the story.

There are also a number of detailed screens showing steps for a writer to take, including verification of releases from contributors of information and images, spell checking, keywords to be used, and more:

A checklist of the items needed to be completed to write the story

Most of the images above were taken from the Story Workflow patent images. The Content development management patent describes a content management system that includes this kind of information, and a way to search for stories, to collaborate upon them, to rate them, and to manage the whole process so that a corporation like Google can use the system. That patent shows some examples of how Google might use a system like this, and I’ve included a number of images from that process:

A screen showing that a lead was successfuly created and saved with a serial number
A screen in the content development system showing leads in workthreads that need to be worked upon
A bug report showing a followup question that should be addressed in an interview.
A lead generation form inviting people to share their google success story
Additional forms for people to use to tell their Google success story.
More details in the Google success story data collection.
A screen asking if the information provided by someone telling their Google success story can be shared with others.

I’ve been involved in the creation of work flow processes in the past, while working within Delaware’s court system and as an internet marketer. Creating detailed workflows make it possible not only to develop high quality content and to make sure that every step necessary is accomplished well, but they also give you a chance to study what you do and improve upon it.

One of the difficulties of creating a detailed and useful workflow like this is that much of it involves tacit knowledge or illustrating a “know how” involved in doing something that might make it difficult for one person to step into someone else’s job and perform up to the same level. The story telling and content development systems described in these patents can make that a lot easier.

I’ve included a good number of the images from these two patents, and there are more that give us some other views involving managing this content creation process as well as some more examples. After reading through the patents and viewing the images, it’s understandable why Google would value working with successes.com, and would find value this kind of knowledge transfer.

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9 thoughts on “Google Acquires Case Study Patents from International Tech Broadcaster”

  1. This post is a gold mine. When I look at Google’s strategy and try to figure out where they’re going, I always go to their mission statement. “Google’s mission is to organize the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful. ” Looks like Google is trying to develop process workflows to do that very thing internally as well. Now that they are on the radar, they can provide detailed evidence as to where the info comes from to support them should they need to produce it. Very Smart of them. Thanks for all your hard work and congrats on the pretty URLs. :)

  2. Hi Bill,

    Thanks for including so many illustrations in this post – it certainly helps me to understand and from the way it appears – it certainly looks like a well thought out scheme.

    It reminds me a little of working with sharepoint while working in the banking sector. The process for updating team members and managing work flow was horrendous – I can why they would want to look for an alternative!

    Tom

  3. Hi Dave,

    Thank you. The process workflows from successes.com look like they were developed over a number of years. The company has been around at least 16-17 years, and they’ve been working with some pretty big companies during that time period. I suspect that the following case studies were created using this process:

    https://www.google.com/intl/en_us/adwords/select/success.html

    (warning: video starts upon accessing that page, so you might want to turn your volume down if it might disturb co-workers or others)

    Creating those types of workflows can lead to consistency, to quality, and to faster development of content.

    Thanks.

    Thanks on noticing the pretty URLs, too. Adding them resulted in a fair amount of work, but I had been getting enough questions about why I wasn’t using them that I figured it was time to add them. :)

  4. Hi Tom,

    I’m not sure I could have written this post without using the images – this is a situation where a picture tells more than a thousand words. The Content development management patent had more images than I’m used to seeing in a patent as well – more than I used in this post. It is a pretty well thought out scheme.

    When I first started working for the Court, the people before me had mapped out the workflows for the office on paper, and I had a few volumes of workflows that were more than a year old, and terribly outdated. That was before the Web, and I thought it was a shame that they were created in a system that didn’t make it easy to update them. When I started working on a project to bring a state-wide case management computer system to Delaware’s Courts, we streamlined so many business rules and processes, and started the move to rewrite court rules (and Delaware laws) in a way that made everything more efficient for everyone working at the Courts.

    Data was rarely entered twice anymore, money was saved on eliminating wasteful practices, documents no longer had to be printed to move cases from one court to another, and an incredible amount of time was saved in labor.

    It’s a lot of work, but a good workflow mapping and analysis brings you so many benefits that it’s a shame not to go through the effort. Especially when it comes to training someone new at a job that they just entered.

  5. This reminds me a lot of the process in mapping out a website. The flow of it is essential for both visitors in that they are easily able to find their way around and a webmaster to develop on a continual basis. Man, I can see how far behind I am in mapping out my own process as an SEO compared to this type of process. I mean, sure I have checklists and processes, but nothing like this. Thanks Bill, this gives me a great idea to increase my productiveness. I can already use these documents in mapping out my own companies goals.

  6. Hi Chase,

    I’ve been increasingly attempting to map out my processes, and I think it’s an exercise that’s useful for anyone in business, regardless of what the business might be. It makes it easier to train new employees, to allocate time for work that needs to be done, to maintain the quality of your work, to help people collaborate on projects, and to improve upon the processes that you do follow. I was inspired by the level of detail described in the patents as well.

  7. These workflows look promising, but it’d be nice to see them put into play. The mention of case studies above reminded me of one of my daily rants – Google needs a few case studies of there own on some of these patents we hear popping up all the time so they can do a bit of research and get moving on some of these projects. It’d be nice to hear from a patent that sounds so promising outside of SEObythesea… but I digress. Great stuff like always Bill.

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