AIfIA opens the IA Library

The Asilomar Institute for Information Architecture (AIfIA) is pleased to announce the opening of the Information Architecture Library, an international collection of the best articles, books, blogs, guides, reports, and other resources related to the field of information architecture.

The IA Library was developed by Joanna Markel and Jeff Tang, two graduate students at the University of Michigan’s School of Information. Chiara Fox, Austin Govella, and Peter Morville provided support and served as mentors.

“Jeff and Joanna designed and built a fully-functional user interface and content management system for the Library. That’s quite an accomplishment for a single-semester independent study project!” says AIfIA’s president, Peter Morville.

The IA Library’s collection is still very much under development. We are adding new resources, particularly in languages other than English, to create a more well-rounded collection. In addition, AIfIA is actively seeking a volunteer Library Director to oversee the continued development of this important public service.

If you are interested in volunteering to help with the IA Library, or if you know of a resource we should include, please send your suggestion to

To explore the Information Architecture Library go to:

iaslash upgrade

We just moved iaslash to a new and hopefully semi-permanent webhost and have just upgraded to Drupal 4.4.0. Overall, the server is much more responsive than our last. Thanks to Shane, Austin, et. al for the setting up the new AIfIA web servers.

If you find bugs, please add them in the comments for this page or contact us directly. Thanks!

Issues to be aware of
* Email notification is working once again … sort of. We lost it during our migration to ibiblio, so you may get one big notification email today. There is one problem in the way the module is sending out the URLs in the body of the mail, however, so we’re waiting for Drupal to offer a bug fix/patch. Thanks to Livia for pointing out the bug.

  • The page displaying all of the taxonomy terms for browsing by subject, person, etc. is not yet installed. We’re waiting for an update to that module. You will see a link for it appear in the global nav when it becomes available.
  • Your user profile avatar may have been lost. Please upload your 85px x 85px image again if you wish.


Philadelphia Inquirer | 11/03/2003 | The Job | His work: Watching people use the Web

Here's a zen question from the weird, wired world of the Web: Can there be an architect of something that will never exist in a three-dimensional form?

This is Ben Levin's zone.

His business card says 'User Experience Architect,' and the title isn't something cutesy dreamed up by a human-resource consultant who has been to too many motivational seminars.

In the Web world, this is a common job title in the field of usability - the interaction of humans and computers.

The article gets a few things wrong here and there but it's interesting nonetheless to see how our profession is depicted in lay terms.

Audio Clone: AAI.

Recordings of the voices of the deceased can be sampled, digitized, processed and collated to create a kind of ‘audio artificial intelligence’ based on the original personality of the deceased person.

Timeline have been utilizing archival recordings of world-famous mathematician Albert Einstein to create a working prototype. Although it’s response times are somewhat sluggish, the audio A.I. Albert is capable of responding to questions and engaging in conversation.

The ‘[Audio Clone] A.A.I.’ software is housed within the casing of a modified laptop computer. T.T. are currently looking into the legal issues surrounding a mass-marketable version of the computer, housed within casing manufactured from materials compromising the ashes of the deceased.

Imagine being able to leave an A.A.I. archive of yourself in the event of your death… imagine being able to converse with a deceased loved-one…

This is perhaps T.T.’s most provocative concept to date, and this is not an area of investigation that they will be
entering into lightly.

It’s a wonderful idea but understand the issues involved… to some this may seem kind of disturbing or immoral…

Source: MELOmag Magazine

Using KWIC and KWOC displays on A-Z indexes

Keyword in context (KWIC) and keyword out of context (KWOC) displays might be a useful way to make more of the items in an AZ index findable without necessitating too much human interaction using thesauri. This might benefit organizations that have a CIO handling the site's CMS, for example, but don't have an IA or other dedicated content person to work on creating alternative labels for pages. I haven't noticed IA articles on AZ indexes that discuss the use of keyword in context, so I've posted some notes about some quick modifications my developer did for us to make our AZ index work a little harder.

Survey - Help plan the location of future IA Summits

ASIS&T is running a survey about IA Summit locations and what influences your decision to attend. Speak up if you want more than ping pong between East and West USA with an occasional stop in the middle.

Presentations and handouts from the Fifth Annual ASIS&T Information Architecture Summit

There are lots of handouts and presentations from the 5th IA summit available from their website. Most in power point but also in word and PDF and for example Jared Spools presentation "14 things users want to know" is published as a video presentation in real media format.

Metadata? Thesauri? Taxonomies? Topic Maps! - Making Sense of It All

Lars Garshol, Development Manager at Ontopia posted a fantastic article on the relationships between different classification tools - topic maps, ontologies, taxonomies, and more. Well worth the read, since it's a clear explanation that separates similar concepts that too often get muddled.

Design of Sites - Pattern Browser

The Design of Sites authors have put their patterns in a web based pattern browser. Currently there is a 1 year free offer - I wouldn't pay $30 US for a subscription, but it's a good way to see what value the book offers before buying it. Unfortunately, I'm still not sure where to return to the pattern browser to login in - maybe they missed the "provide a login for existing users on the registration page" pattern ;-) That aside, it's still a great resource.

IA Summit recap at Boxes and Arrows

This year's IA Summit, themed "Breaking New Ground," seemed to have the right mix of new and returning folks, a nice variety of interesting and well-attended pre-conference workshops and several tracks of presentations to suit the IA of every flavor

Thoughts on presentations from Saturday and from Sunday.

Happy Birthday Boxes and Arrows! Congratulations on two amazing years.

Boxes and Arrows turns two, and Christina Wodtke reflects on the past two years, both for the zine and for our profession.

B&A constantly amazes me, and everyone in the UX field is indebted to the long hours put in by authors, editors, and the technical team. Thanks guys! Here's to a long and wonderful future for B&A :)

Morae - Usability video solution from the makers of Camtasia

One of the hassles of usability testing with video is handling all the equipment. Editing the video into something useful is an even bigger challenge. Some professionals have looked at screen recording software as part of the solution.

Now TechSmith, the folks who created Camtasia, have released Morae, an integrated recording and editing solution for usability testing. For $999 USD you get three applications for recording, annotating, and editing usability video. That's pricy compared to consumer screen recorder software, but if it works well and you do a lot of video based testing already it's probably worth it. For people like me that mostly just watch and type notes in a discount testing arrangement, it might be a tool to start using video without the huge time crunch of capturing and editing tape.

Microsoft Application Archetypes - developing guidelines around types of application

Microsoft is working on expanding their user experience guidelines for the next generation of Windows "Longhorn" with a concept called application archetypes.

The one-size-fits-all approach to the Windows user experience is becoming less useful. We're planning a new approach that recognizes a set of different models for "Longhorn" applications. We're calling these models archetypes, meaning "something that serves as the model or pattern for other things of the same type."

Interesting to see the different archetypes they've defined: Document editors, Database apps, Production/development environments, E-commerce, Information/reference, Entertainment apps, Viewer apps, and Utility applications. The most interesting part - the lines between the desktop and the web really seem to blur with some of these, and IAs and others with a web focus will need to embrace and extend to stay relevant.

As well as general guidelines, the team is working on a book of "user experience recipes" for different archetypes - taking design patterns and showing how they integrate together for a particular purpose. The recipes are heavily based on scenarios following a particular user through several tasks (I wonder if they have personas for each application archetype?) You can see the sample recipe for Database apps.

(on an interesting sidenote, check out the graph at the bottom of the article showing how people rated it. One for Widgetopia...)

37Signals boys have been busy - Book and new project management application

This is old, but news to me: 37Signals has released their book Defensive Design for the Web. Congratulations! While "contingency design" might be more accurate, the tie in to defensive driving will help communicate the topic to non-UX geeks.

On another 37Signals note, they've released Basecamp, a web based project management tool that is clean, simple, and effective without all the headaches of Sitespring (Macromedia's discontined foray into the space) or PHPCollab (open source Sitespring attempt). Well done.

IA Summit Redux - Bay Area and Online

For those of you in the Bay Area that couldn't make the Summit or missed sessions, there is a Summit recap happening this week, on Saturday, March 20th. IA Summit presenters from the Bay Area like Brett Lider, Jesse James Garrett, and John Zapolski will share their sessions again. Please RSVP to Peter Merholz: peter AT peterme DOT com.

For those of us not in the Bay Area, there are video clips from the Summit up online, thanks to the hard work of Bob Doyle. Check out the AIfIA CMS Workshop, the Poster presentations, and Jared Spool (evil RealPlayer required). Presenters' slide presentations are also making their way onto the Summit site (look for handout links by presenter names).

Personas & Scenarios in the wild

It's been interesting over the last 6 months to notice personas escaping from the design team out into marketing. Not surprising, since personas largely derive from marketing's user archetypes. Sightings: MSN Personas and IBM print ad (thanks Brett), and the more scenario-focused Macromedia Central Portraits and Vodafone's Future Vision. Vodafone's piece isn't just about marketing - it's scenarios in the sense of prototyping the future. Most of the scenarios involve technology that only exists now as concepts or clunky kludged prototypes, not the polished integration of wearable, mobile communications into everyday life depicted in their scenarios.

One of the challenges of personas being more publicly visible is that clients or other departments may start building up preconceived ideas about how personas work, what they should include, and how they should be used. The marketing scenarios and personas shown above are all valuable, but don't have the level of detail required to make decisions about behavior. I'm not sure how well George Olsen's Persona Toolkit would be accepted by folks who already have set expectations about the deliverable and its usefulnes.

Know of more public personas? Drop a line in the comments...

A roadmap for enterprise weblog services

I recently presented a roadmap for providing enterprise information services related to weblogs (k-logs). This is in the realm of what I think Lou calls "Guerrilla IA" in his Enterprise Information Architecture talks. The presentation, given at Computers in Libraries, is aimed at Library/Information Services organizations in corporations, but is applicable elsewhere. It's really an untested discussion starter that proposes near term goals for supporting individuals doing bottom-up knowledge creation. It also discusses a mode of progress that aims at integration of many types of enterprise information in the long term. I'd be interested in getting feedback on these ideas, especially comments that point out weaknesses.

UCD / UX / IA Salary survey

There's a new salary survey that's open for participation until March 31, 2004 (The official announcement is available here). It's is focused on UCD & HCI but has a number of questions where Information Architecture can be selected, and it's fairly comprehensive in many other respects.

I think that it is beneficial for both practitioners and hiring managers to have accurate, realistic compensation information, and hopefully participating in this survey will help.

FYI, more salary and compensation info is available at the Salary Surveys page on the IAwiki.

Small Business IA & usability

I am thinking of creating some sort of Small Business IA/usability organization to promote the practice in small businesses. I've seen too many small biz websites that have really unusable websites -- since the vast majority of small biz owners have the do-it-yourself mentality (whether that's the best attitude to have is a whole different story) many, if any, do not understand that a site must be usable for it to benefit consumers.

I am not new to the idea of IA and usability, actually found out about the field a few years the past months have I have been starting to actively take a role in it.

I hope a few of you read this blog -- I'm currently looking for any organizations that exist that already fulfill the need I if you are reading, and do, please let me know so I won't duplicate any work or step on any toes.

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