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Signal vs. Noise
John S. Rhodes has started a new site for trading stuff called Trodo. Here's how it works:
Trodo members use credits to request items from each other. If you want a CD from another Trodo member, you need to have a CD credit. If you want a DVD, you need a DVD credit, and so forth. When you make a request, the other member will ship that item to you for free. In turn, when Trodo members ask you for items using their credits, you ship them for free. They ship for free, you ship for free. They use credits, you use credits.
Nice! This is an idea that I've been thinking about for a discussion group I belong to. I looked around for an app that does this sort of thing -- sort of like a book circulation tool -- but didn't find anything. Without even invoking the LazyWeb, a tool that I want appears. :) Anyway, I'm going to start posting computer and design books up there.
Matt Webb's blog about adaptive and evolutionary design makes good reading for anyone interested in those concepts as they apply to software architecture and application development. Matt Jones is also linking to the blog.
I posted a short blog about the software ecology of Drupal on the Drop blog -- I've been spending a good deal of time talking to Drupal developers lately. I talk a lot about evolutionary design because I work in the the temple of Unix and C and the software ecology within my organization reflects that. I have learned to respect the wisdom of programmers that have spent decades using very elegant tools that have been refined over time. Webb's vision of the software ecology reflects the same -- small code components and an abstraction layer that are evolved slowly over time. The idea is that applications are developed separately to serve individual functions very well. The ecology is characterized by the slow evolution of software whose features remain shallow. The adaptability comes in the form of interoperability of individual applications across the software landscape.
I think it's good to reflect on this description of software development so that we understand, as contributers to the software selection process, what to consider when choosing software. Vendors of various content and document management solutions sell the concept of a platform that will serve as the panacea for your enterprise knowledge and content management and communication needs, but more important than the pitch is to understand how the platform and component pieces will allow for your solution to grow with your needs. As Gunnar has remarked in the Drupal discussion, the proof is in the pudding -- the pudding being the development team and I might add in the core software functionalities and solutions addressed by your tools.
David M. Nichols and Michael B. Twidale discuss open source software usability on First Monday.
Open source communities have successfully developed a great deal of software although most computer users only use proprietary applications. The usability of open source software is often regarded as one reason for this limited distribution. In this paper we review the existing evidence of the usability of open source software and discuss how the characteristics of open source development influence usability. We describe how existing human-computer interaction techniques can be used to leverage distributed networked communities, of developers and users, to address issues of usability.
In death of warchalking John S. Rhodes says that warchalking is dead with the inception of the WiFi zone program, backed by the non profit WiFi alliance, which will be marking WiFi Zones with a sticker logo. These logos are to replace the chalk markings that the warchalking folks were chalking on WiFi zones after war walking through neighborhoods looking for internet access on mobile devices.
The interesting part of this discussion has to do with some observations and predictions made by John, who points to an article on Fortune Magazine about Bell Canada using payphones for WiFi access. The article says that the U.S. will probably follow suit. John thinks that people will want and pay for WiFi access everywhere. If base stations start showing up in pay phones, WiFi may be ubiquitous in large cities.
It's pretty close to ubiquitous in heavily trafficked and affluent areas of NYC already. Living in WiFi saturated NYC and usually armed with a PowerBook, I can say that after using my laptop in Starbucks, I agree I want it everywhere. But I don't necessarily want to pay a lot for it. Starbucks' T-Mobile hot zones charge a little much in my opinion. What will be interesting in the development of pay for play WiFi zones is how pricing shakes out. NYC already has some kind of deregulated pay phone structure where multiple companies compete to put pay phones on the street, which makes it possible for some people to hike up prices for pay phone use and others to offer lower charges. But with WiFi, if there are multiple base stations available in an area, I want to go with the one with the lowest rate, so I wonder if this will mean competition over WiFi users and competitive pricing? Who knows. It's not a reality yet for us, but is in the near future in one way or another.
Lou posts the questions he received during th NN/g tour.
Margaret Hanley and I taught yet another round of IA seminars for the Nielsen Norman Group in November, these in New York City and London. As usual, we asked attendees to write down their burning IA questions on index cards. And as usual, we're sharing them with you below. These might be helpful if you're preparing an IA seminar yourself, or, if nothing else, they're an interesting snapshot of what folks were interested in during late 2002.
Charles Mauro of Taskz will be publishing the white paper, "Professional Usability Testing and ROI For Web-based Products and Services." on Taskz.com soon and has subjected the paper to informal peer review. The paper explores, in detail, on-line and traditional lab-based testing methods and their impact on ROI for mission-critical web development projects. If you would like to send feedback to Charles, please contact me and I will forward his email address to you or you can post comments here as well.
Julie Stanford writes about using HTML for prototyping in Boxes and Arrows.
Mention the use of HTML for wireframing or prototyping, and some information architects and interaction designers frantically look for the nearest exit. In some circles, HTML has acquired the reputation of being a time-consuming, difficult undertaking best left to developers. This is very far from the truth.
Prognostication Digitalis: Boxes and Arrows authors make predictions for 2003. I refrained from making any. Well, maybe there's this one from me: Apple will continue to get cooler and Miscrosoft will continue to be more unfriendly.
We stand poised to dive into the new year. What will 2003 hold for the profession known as ìwhat we doî and its children, information architecture, usability, interaction design, interface design, and graphic design? We asked our authors to hazard a guess.
New Alertbox on ROI.
Development projects should spend 10% of their budget on usability. Following a usability redesign, websites increase usability by 135% on average; intranets improve slightly less.
Glenn Gow talks about ROI in this two part series on Marketing Profs.
Many technology companies have developed Return on Investment (ROI) tools for their sales organizations. But while many have developed some type of ROI tool, very few would claim that they are winning significant business as a result. Here's why most approaches to ROI-based selling don't work, and provides a seven-step process to make it work in your company.
Wow. Apple has developed a web browser for OS X. Safari is available as a public beta at the moment. It has the same feel as the other iTools. Coolest feature for me is spell checking in form fields. Right click on words see correct spelling. Can underline in red words that spelled miscorrectly. Yippee! I just hope they implement tabbed browsing like Mozilla browsers. I hate having to open new windows.
Will post links to reviews as I find them in the news aggregator. Currently being discussed at:
Lou pointed to this paper about WebSort, a web-based application developed at Brigham Young University for card-sorting like IBM's EZSort.
We have devloped a web-based interface which allows designers to do electronic "card sort" studies. With it, designers can provide descriptions of features for which they'd like users to provide labels and to "sort" into categories. The results can be used to organize information and services access for "interface" design.
On the AIfIA Members list, Christina pointed to this report by Consumer WebWatch that presents the results of a study on Web site credibility. The report finds that information structure is the second most important aspect of a site for determining credibility following design.
A very badly written article in ElectricNews.ne covers this research project at the University of Caterbury, NZ, which is proposing a temporal model for back button browsing. The paper, Pushing Back: Evaluating a New Behaviour for the Back and Forward Buttons in Web Browsers (PDF), which is explained succinctly here on Slashdot.
A free chapter of Earl Morrogh's new book, "Information Architecture: An Emerging 21st Century Profession" is available on the Asilomar Institute for Information Architecture site. The chapter titled, Educating Information Architects is available in PDF format.
Sweet. Matt Jones has published a document detailing the design process undergone by BBCi to redesign the BBC home page.