The Information Architecture Institute is public

The Asilomar Institute for Information Architecture has renamed to simply The Information Architecture Institute. Sometimes, simpler is better, especially when we're promoting IA to people outside the user experience community. Congratulations to all who worked on this, especially James Spahr and Michael Angeles...much appreciated. There's still a few hiccups getting the domain moved over, etc., but I'm really pleased with having a simpler brand to carry IA forward.

Intranet Teams Survey closes March 11th

From James Robertson of Step Two:

Some very commonly asked questions about intranet teams are:

* Where in organisations are intranet teams located?
* How big are intranet teams?
* What skills do they have?

This Intranet Teams Survey aims to answer these questions:

It will take just 5 minutes to answer the small number of questions, and the full results will be publicly shared.

Other issues explored include:

* Are websites and intranets managed by the one team, or separate teams?
* How large are intranets?
* What tools are used to publish intranets?

Ajax - Rich Apps in the Browser

Jesse James Garrett writes about the new generation of rich web apps that *don't* use Flash, like Google suggest, Oddpost, etc. It's an interesting take on alternatives to Flash RIAs, using Asynchronous JavaScript + XML (hence Ajax).

IA and Analytics

On the IA Institute's member mailing list Jeff Lash pointed out three interesting articles from Hurol Inan:

Interesting intersection of IA with analytics - though I'm not sure about where Inan is coming from practicing IA.

Thanks Jeff.

IA Summit Registration Hiccups

If you've registered for the IA Summit in the last couple weeks, your registration may not have been completed.

>From Dick Hill, ASIS&T Executive Director:
We have had some corruption in the PGP keys which allow receiving secure registrations. A fix is in the works, but not yet complete.

If you registered this week or last, please send an e-mail to chaynes [at] asis [dot] org confirming who registered, for what. (We need a count on the pre-cons.)

Please include a phone number. If we have no record of the transaction, we will give you a call for details, payment information, etc. If we do have a record, we will confirm via e-mail.

Again, only the last week or two are affected by this, we believe.

Also note, there is no security risk with the registration hiccup - as far as I know, the issue is just that some registrations stay encrypted instead of decrypting in the ASIS&T offices.

If you haven't registered, and are thinking about it, it will be a great, educational, high value. You can go register now. Hope to see you in Montreal.

AIfIA Preconference at IA Summit

The early registration deadline for the AIfIA Leadership Seminar is January 28th. Sign up now to get a significant discount for this awesome star-studded event! The 1 ½ day Seminar “Advanced IA: Topics for 2005 and Beyond” will be on March 3rd and 4th, prior to the 2005 Information Architecture Summit in Montreal. This highly interactive forum will connect leaders and provide an invaluable way to learn from others across a variety of disciplines. The sessions and speakers include:

  • “Managing Up: The Business Strategy of Information Architecture”
    Christina Wodtke and Scott Hirsch
  • “The Enterprise IA Roadmap”
    Louis Rosenfeld
  • ”Homeland Security and IA”
    Lee S. Strickland, JD
  • “Practical Application of the Semantic Web”
    Paul Ford
  • “The State of Global IA”
    Livia Labate, Peter Van Dijck, Jorge Arango
  • “Hands-On Scenario Planning: Looking to the Future to Shape Decisions Today”
    Jess McMullin

For more information about the seminar, please check the AIfIA website at or to register for both the Seminar and the IA Summit, go to

New Knowledge Base Editor's Digest

The Knowledge Base Editor's Digest is a free new monthly alert about information productivity and integration in:

  • print, Web, and database publishing processes
  • tabular data and textual information
  • internal and external business intelligence
  • content consumption and production
  • enterprise, workgroup, and personal knowledge management

Articles often present a unique or even contrarian perspective that will appeal to people who need to think beyond their professional and functional boundaries. Navigation and access tools include an A - Z index, site search, and RSS news feed.

The Digest contains annotated links to articles and Web sites, many of which are available on the public Web. New items are added monthly and cover a wide range of editorial, research, management, and technical topics.

Technorati's new folksonomy

Technorati engages in a bit of folksonomy with it's newly-launched tags.

Bloggers can place a link to the tags page, and Technorati will include it in its count.

User research on folksonomy use: a mini-ethnography

This is the first study I know of where the author actually observed and interviewed folksonomy users (a good reminder that most of the conversation to date has been by folks who don't actually build social categorization tools).

UX Salary Survey

2004 UX professionals salary survey has interesting data , though since most respondents were from the US, information on other countries is limited.

Google Suggest does type-ahead for Google Index in near real-time

Go try Google Suggest now, if you haven't. Google Suggest shows the feasibility of using type ahead with very large collections of terms, like tags in a folksonomy.

Now, one of the drawbacks of using ad hoc tags in social classification is the lack of vocabulary control - people use different tags to mean the same thing. This is fine for organizing personal information architectures, but the lack of consistency, while reducing the cognitive cost of classification, actually increases effort in finding information.

To deal with the issue, there needs to be a feedback loop. Flickr has the most popular tags float to the top, 43 Things and others use type size to show more popular tags. There's an argument for that kind of subtle feedback. However, to really bridge between levels of classification, to move from a distributed folksonomy to a controlled vocabulary and then to a formal thesaurus, we need more than implicit incentive in using a particular tag. Using type ahead to show other tags is one way of doing that, as James Spahr illustrates so well. But I've always wondered about how scalable this approach would be with a massive tagset. With Google Suggest, instead of wondering how type ahead would scale, I'm wondering how we can implement a similar scale system for tags...

Speaking of Cross-Training - Free online book Evolutionary Architecture

John Frazer's Evolutionary Architecture examines architecture as evolution, and architects as shaping the process. Interesting lessons for information architects abound in the brief look through that I've had. Frazer's site at Autotectonica shows an ambition to generalize his thinking into general systems design and design education, but is sadly just an under construction placeholder.

Thanks Caterina

Products that interaction design and information architecture methods address

I like Dan Saffer's diagram looking at interaction design and information architecture (PDF) through the lens of what kind of products each practice addresses. It's concrete, instead of the hand-waving turf war some people enjoy. It reminds me of Marti Hearst's quadrant from CHI2001 panel on measuring IA (requires IE, see slide #2 'A Simple Taxonomy'). The axes for the quadrant were complexity of content and complexity of applications...

A research agenda for Information Architecture

Peter van Dijck expresses frustration with the slow pace of new thinking in his information architecture research agenda. Lots of good response on SIGIA and the aifia-members lists that Peter sums up on his blog.

In particular, the question of whether we need more research, or whether we need more innovation is important. While basic research is valuable, many of Peter's points revolve around cross-training with other disciplines like business management or ethnography...often a quicker win for practitioners.

The problem of a slower flow of new ideas is also from maturing practice - our current tools are good enough to get by, so we aren't as motivated to find new tools, even though they might be better.

A-Z Indexes for Web Sites: Usage and Implementation

What’s the level of interest among information architects and web developers in implementing A-Z indexes on their sites?

Why don’t we see more indexes? I attempted to answer this question in a posting an essay to IA-WIKI Web Site Indexes, although I have not yet received any comments there.

My sense is that even if information architects are interested in implementing A-Z indexes, they do not have the time, inclination, or skills to do it themselves (unless they are former librarians who had taken a course in indexing). Indexing is similar, yet distinct enough from category or taxonomy development to require specific training or study from a course or book. Yet information architects might not even know where to find contract indexers.

As indexing is a very established profession, it is probably easier for people who create web sites to look up indexers, than for indexers to try to target people creating web sites. Most indexers belong to the professional associations of their country, which maintain searchable online directories of subscribing members and contract job posting bulletins.

Personal Information Architectures

Gene has an interesting post about personal information architectures, something he spoke about at the recent Future of IA Retreat. While the recent interest in social classification and folksonomy is a large reason to talk about personal info. architecture, I think that Thomas Vanderwal has also been talking about the issue for a few years as the Personal Info Cloud.

Personas drive business strategy at Best Buy (or vice versa)

Earlier in the spring I blogged about Best Buy using personas. It’s interesting to me to see how those personas have started to permeate Best Buy culture - with customers being labeled with the name of the persona, as discussed in this Wall Street Journal article.

Store clerks receive hours of training in identifying desirable customers according to their shopping preferences and behavior. High-income men, referred to internally as Barrys, tend to be enthusiasts of action movies and cameras. Suburban moms, called Jills, are busy but usually willing to talk about helping their families. Male technology enthusiasts, nicknamed Buzzes, are early adopters, interested in buying and showing off the latest gadgets.

Some thoughts and works on taxonomy, search and "folksonomy"

An interesting (though week-old) discussion going on over at OK/Cancel regarding searching vs. sorting vs. browsing.

That also lead me to the ESP Game which uses a game-like format to develop a taxonomy for categorizing images based on user input — a folksonomy of sorts developed from head-to-head competition.

Google launches SMS search

In addition to its desktop search. Google also released a beta Short Message Service search. You can conduct a (rudimentary) search from your mobile phone.

Just a reminder to us all that there is a ton of Internet activity that doesn’t take place in front of a beige box (or a shiny metal one if you’ve got a G5 :-) ).