A List Apart
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Guide to ease
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Noise Between Stations
Off the top
Signal vs. Noise
FIND/SVP, Empire Media and Triplehop Technologies launched www.Find.com, a search egnine for business professionals that aggregates results from several major search engines and hand-picked business-related sites.
A results sidebar shows you found topics that can be used for filtering by ANDing one or many terms to your search input. You have to re-submit the form to see your results. It takes a bit of figuring out at first, but functionally, it allows you to select multiple terms (I assume clusters your intial term fell into) before refining (re-executing) your search. This interaction could be improved quite a bit, I think. Sidebar tabs allow you to also filter by format, sites and source.
Probably most interesting is that they have a “Research” search tab that allows you to find results from premium research sources including Find’s research, Frost and Sullivan, and more. Other tabs include Directory (open directory listings) and News. I’ve been finding that their beta release is also not withouts its DHTML bugs (using Firefox). It looks like it might become a business user search alternative to watch, however.
37signals recently turned down a big job because the client wouldn’t agree that ownership depended on payment (details in the link). Saying no, even when it means losing revenues, is much, much better than having a difficult client. Good thoughts for everyone who does contract work.
Not all metadata are created equal as I learned last year when I attended the Wilshire Metadata & DAMA International Conference in Orlando, FL. However, when I sat in their meetings and learned this new aspect of metadata I discovered that there are some similarlities of concern, basically information organization, management, access, and retrievable.
If you come from the database modeling/administration world, I hear this is their equivalent to the IA Summit or CHI. The 2004 just concluded in Los Angeles. Their trip report is very informative, with enough information to get you to dig into new ways of thinking about information management.
The NY Times profiles John Maeda’s new mantra at MIT - Simplicity (Free Login Req’d). I tracked down Maeda’s page at MIT, and that led me to the Simplicity program site. Interesting folks doing important things. Principles from the project so far (thanks SvN)
Peter’s new meme is explicit design. Peterme’s Guruhood must lie only a few dogmatic stances beyond ;-)
Seriously, the notion of explicit design is extremely valuable. Quoth Peterme: "Through my work, what I’ve observed is that the web is all about managing expectations. Setting expectations, and then fulfilling them. That’s it."
I mostly agree - in fact, I’ve been talking with clients about expectations, instead of mental models, for the last couple years. Expectation forms the foundation of my Experience Cycle model (created when I needed The Elements of the User’s Experience to explain what a good experience involves). And here’s a snippet from a 2001 presentation on the experience gap - the gap between expectations and actual experience. Take a look at the first slide for thoughts on what actually goes into creating expectations.
Like all models, these are simplifications, but I believe that the notion of user experience practice as understanding, managing, and supporting expectations will help us gain traction with decision makers. We’ll see if Peter’s label for it catches on. Having a great tag for a simple concept can help spread the meme - let’s hope we see more awareness about user experience practice from this.
WebFeat, a provider of federated search technology has compiled a list of the five most commonly repeated misconceptions about federated searching, published in Information Today.
Peter Morville has launched Findability.org with the goal of "placing findability on a par with usability". The site is part Usable Web topical resources, and part Userati-style listing of, well, Finderati. Congratulations on the launch!
While its stated purpose is to be an advocacy site, it strikes me as yet another IA resource, like the IA Library, or Wiki. But maybe that’s just my warped perspective from reading too many IA resources. I wonder though - Who is the audience? Business folks? Other UX disciplines that have yet to acknowledge findability? We’ll see how this works out, though I think it might need to change to reach a business audience.
One other interesting snippet from the FAQ - Peter is writing a new O’Reilly Book on findability.
IDEO’s work with Kaiser, a U.S. healthcare provider makes Business Week cover. As much as I love Design getting mainstream press, I’m disappointed that the article is so dumbed down - the level of insights discussed are significantly shallower than insights in conversations I’ve personally had with health care professionals in Canada. Karl apparently agrees. And Steve Portigal’s comment that the article overlooks the amazing contributions of plenty of others doing original work prior to IDEO is spot on. Chalk it up to IDEO’s amazing PR machine, and we’ll have to be satisfied by the thought that a rising tide raises all boats. Thanks Christina
Electronics giant Best Buy is using personas to focus its stores on particular customer segments -
From USA Today:
Best Buy’s plan is to revamp its stores according to the types of customers they serve, a strategy it calls customer centricity. The company came up with five prototypical customers, all of whom have been given names: “Jill,” a busy suburban mom; “Buzz,” a focused, active younger male; “Ray,” a family man who likes his technology practical; “BB4B” (short for Best Buy for Business), a small employer; and “Barry,” an affluent professional male who’s likely to drop tens of thousands of dollars on a home theater system.
Over the next few years, each of Best Buy’s 608 stores will focus on one or two of the five segments…
It’s interesting that they are focusing stores on just one or two segments - that there is a primary persona for a retail location. While we know that each primary persona needs an interface tailored for them, creating a new interface usually doesn’t take the same capital costs as opening a store. What does a store’s focus on soccer mom Jill mean for the Best Buy customer who is more like Buzz, the young active geek? Thanks IDBlog
This article by CW Holsapple and KD Joshi describes an ontology for knowledge management. The abstract below is taken from the JASIST TOC for Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology V55, 7, MAY, 2004, p593-612.
This article describes a collaboratively engineered general-purpose knowledge management (KM) ontology that can be used by practitioners, researchers, and educators. The ontology is formally characterized in terms of nearly one hundred definitions and axioms that evolved from a Delphi-like process involving a diverse panel of over 30 KM practitioners and researchers. The ontology identifies and relates knowledge manipulation activities that an entity (e.g., an organization) can perform to operate on knowledge resources. It introduces a taxonomy for these resources, which indicates classes of knowledge that may be stored, embedded, and/or represented in an entity. It recognizes factors that influence the conduct of KM both within and across KM episodes. The Delphi panelists judge the ontology favorably overall: its ability to unify KM concepts, its comprehensiveness, and utility. Moreover, various implications of the ontology for the KM field are examined as indicators of its utility for practitioners, educators, and researchers.
Jibbajabba’s post of ‘They Rule’ made me think about Visualization and after a bit of poking around and some help from a friend (thanks Mikey) I found a couple more Visualization that really did it for me.
One of the nicest applications of The Brain style, mind mapy type things is Visual Thesaurus. In fact it impressed me so much I subscribed within about 10 minutes of having seen it. Since then I have used it no less then 12 times. Not bad for 3 days.
Michael Zelter also pointed me at Music Plasma, which seems great not only as an information source of discogrpahy but also to find similar and related artists. Trace the links from some of your favorate artists to someone you haven’t heard before.
Finally I found a flash artist by the name of Marcos Weskamp, he is of recent fame for newsmap a Flash apps which presents a visualization of Google news. His project which caught my eye was Synapsis which renders network traffic visually. I just love the ‘auto-centering’ of this visualization it is both smooth and non-confusing, keep the users attension on the appropriate piece of the visualisation. Very nice indeed.
They Rule is an interesting demonstration of how to visualize the connections between powerful corporate officers. This is the kind of thing that Anacubis does really well with different database vendor sources.
They Rule allows you to create maps of the interlocking directories of the top companies in the US in 2004. The data was collected from their websites and SEC filings in early 2004, so it may not be completely accurate - companies merge and disappear and directors shift boards.
Behind the scenes, Adaptive Path and Stopdesign collaborated on the new functionality and look. Folks at Blogger share some of the new features that position the service to bring blogs to the masses. For web geeks, the fact that a handful of the best designers in the medium created new templates is pretty cool too - and it’s interesting to see how many of those templates take the CSS Zen Garden approach and simply restyle the same codebase.
Using search engines to compile a list - like the top 50 greatest blues guitarists by record sales, say - involves a lot of drudge work because you have to visit many web pages to gather the data you need. But the next step in search engine technology could make creating such lists possible with a single mouse click.
KnowItAll, a search engine under development at the University of Washington, Seattle, trawls the web for data and then collates it in the form of a list. The approach is unique, says its developer, Oren Etzioni, because it generates information that probably does not exist on any single web page.
The US Department of Defense’s research arm, DARPA, and Google, are so impressed that they are providing funding for the project.
Information Architecture and Findability is Peter Morville’s contribution to the UX roadshow circuit. Boston, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. will all be Fall stops - $695 US for the day for early registration (reasonable compared to IA Summit workshops, still spendy for students and folks out of work).
Of course, with PeterMo findability comes to the fore: "The biggest problem on today’s web sites and intranets is findability". That’s true more often than not, and the workshop looks like it provides good groundwork for up-and-coming findability specialists.
One of the challenges for people offering workshops is balancing depth with broad appeal. I’d be interested to hear any thoughts from workshop alumni for Adaptive Path, Rosenfeld & Krug, or others…was the workshop too general? Or was it too specialized or over the heads of attendees?
In the May issue of EContent Tony Byrne discusses Enterprise Information Architecture. He begins to ask two questions: “Why do Enterprise Content Management (ECM) projects take so long to implement? And why do they fail with such alarming frequency?” He quotes both Louis Rosenfeld and Peter Morville and stresses in his own words:”…there are no textbooks for practicing IA in large, decentralized environments made up of content silos” and “There is a bit of a tendency in the IA community to over-invest precious energy in KM-esque intellectual debates about ontologies and topic maps, when thought and research could better be applied to more pressing issues, like how to build compelling business cases for a corporate EIA team”.
There is still a possibility to attend one of the Information Architetcture seminars with Steve Krug and Louis Rosenfeld held in Washingthon, DC and Seattle. Louis is talking about enterprise IA and Krug about usability problems and “how to make low-cost/no-cost testing an everyday part of your company’s design process”. More details at Louisrosenfeld.com