Opensource Rich Internet App server

Laszlo Systems provides a platform to develop Rich Internet Applications, and announced at Web 2.0 that they have open sourced their basic server. That means that there’s an open platform for developing RIAs that doesn’t require any knowledge of Flash itself - just a new markup language similar to XHTML, XUL, etc.

Google Desktop Search

Google has launched their integrated desktop search in public beta. The most interesting thing is that rather than being a desktop application, it simply adds another tab to Google’s search results, and displays indexed desktop content from email, Office documents, etc.

Collection of IA related research

Peter Morville spent some time in the library this summer looking for research related to information architecture. He just published a list of freely available papers, categorized by broad topics like navigation and search. Useful stuff, but heavy reading at times.

Human-information interaction

Donna Maurer has an insightful post comparing the task-orientation of HCI to the iterative information seeking behaviors we see on the web. Trying to apply a task-centric perspective to the problems of looking for unknown information seems to cause a lot of the friction between "old skool" human factors types and more web savvy newcomers.

Social classification - adding users to bottom-up IA

A while ago on the aifia-members list, Gene Smith asked about social classification generated by the informal user tagging in Flickr,, etc. In his reply on the list, Thomas coined the term folksonomy to describe these informal classifications, and Gene’s folksonomy blog post sparked a lot of conversation around the community.

One thing that really strikes me about social classification is that it’s user-centered bottom up classification. Most bottom up classification is document or collection centric. Social classification provides insight not just into content, but into users and context as well.

How much does ROI matter?

UIDesigner points to The Tao of ROI, a must-read article for UX types looking to communicate business value. The key take away for me, something I’ve had a gut feeling for, but never articulated, is that the value of an ROI exercise is in the process, not the result.

This underscores some of the lessons in Adaptive Path’s recent ROI report, where the process and discipline of measurement and accountability are what distinguish one organization from another, rather than simply projected outcomes.

Questions about card sorting effectiveness

UIDesigner has an interesting post questioning the usefulness of cardsorts in developing information architectures.

I’ve asked before: what are alternatives to card sorting that let us go beyond the superficial? I still haven’t heard any definitive answers though.

Enterprise IA Presentations

Gene Smith has collected quite a few presentations on Enterprise Information Architecture. If you can’t get to one of Lou’s EIA seminars, or if you’re wondering if you should go, this is a great place to wrap your head around EIA.

IA Heuristics

Lou Rosenfeld offers up his set of heuristics for information architecture. Much more useful for evaluating findability than Jakob and Rolf’s original usability heuristics that were developed in DOS days.

8 Ways to Improve Site Search

Jeff Veen and Darcy DiNucci recently offered a paid report on search. Jeff sums up lessons learned in the report with his article 8 Quick Ways to Fix Your Search Engine.

Victor Lombardi starts consulting

Smart cookie Victor Lombardi is going solo as a consultant. If your organization is looking for design management thinking, talking with Victor would be an excellent idea.

What to do about data in wireframes

There’s a problem with endless copied and pasted pseudo-data in wireframes - if the numbers in the shopping cart don’t add up, or clients struggle with lorem ipsum, what’s an IA to do? Fake data can distract stakeholders and take valuable time away from examining core functionality. Dan Brown offers a variety of ways to deal with data in wireframes in the latest Boxes and Arrows.

Tips for IA job hunters

Michael Angeles has a boatload of excellent advice for information architects looking for work. If you’re in the market for an IA job, particularly if you’re new in the field, go read it now. Caroline Jarrett’s recent take on how not to get a job in usability has similar themes with some other tips mixed in as well.

Book Review: Digital Ground

Andrew Ottwell’s eloquent commentary on Digital Ground makes me want to buy the book.

Malcolm McCullough’s new book…is a readable and timely contribution to current interaction design. Using ideas drawn from architectural and design theory, cognitive science, and philosophy, McCullough significantly extends current ideas about pervasive computing and so-called experience design, while building on the foundation of traditional task-centered interface design. It’s the best current book on interaction design, and should appeal to both designers and theorists.

Thanks Stewart

Public Broadcasting Metadata Dictionary Project

“The Public Broadcasting Metadata Dictionary Project is a cross-organizational, multi-disciplined effort to establish a standard for all public broadcasting content (radio and television), in order that metadata might be more easily exchanged between colleagues, software systems, institutions, community partners, individual citizens, etc. The Project will be a “touchstone,” a single, streamlined standard to which other database structures, including those of PBS, NPR, major producing stations, and other asset/content management systems will be “mapped.” It can also be used as a guide for the onset of an archival or asset management process at an individual station or institution.”

Innovate and Die?

Gary Feldman at Cheskin shares some insights into why innovation can lead to dead ends. This quote sums up the problem - becoming a "betamax first mover loser". His examples are Tivo (a great innovation) and satellite radio (a paid version of something you already have). The main difference between the two is that Tivo doesn’t integrate into the TV / Cable experience - buying a Tivo requires extra effort - while satellite radio is an option at the dealership.

The key insight for UX is that it’s the integrated experience that matters - not just the one specific product we might be working on.

btw, Cheskin’s company blog is consistently insightful and refreshing.

The Future of Information Architecture, A Retreat

Christina Wodtke and friends (including yours truly) are organizing a retreat to discuss the future of information architecture.

At a glance:

  • Oct. 1-3
  • At Asilomar, in Pacific Grove, CA
  • No cost beyond travel and lodging
  • Only 40 spots, so discussion stays personal.

It’s a great opportunity to mix with other IAs and look at the future of the practice. Hope to see you there.

Enhance Usability by Highlighting Search Terms

A List Apart offers a practical implementation of highlighting terms in the page that were searched for by the user. You can check out their demo search to see the script in action.

Interaction Design Group soft launch

It’s a summer of soft launches as the Interaction Design Group launches their new site. The IxDG (I’m not sure what the x is for, except to say it’s not info design) is modeled along similar lines to AIfIA. Props to those involved, though I think there’s some wheel reinvention going on - with tools, job board, and resource library being carbon copies of AIfIA initiatives.

The duplicate intitiatives (and the spread of UX related organizations in general) point to the fact that we’ll hit organizational fatigue in the UX space and need some consolidation. Right now we have a lot of groups doing some similar things (AIfIA, ASIS&T, UPA, CHI, STC, AIGA ED, HFES, IxDG, possibly some InfoDesign group in the near future…). Picking a professional organization to join or initiative to volunteer for requires travelling a crowded, even claustrophobic, space for the UX practitioner who crosses boundaries between interaction design, IA, info design, etc.

My personal preference is for more interdisciplinary work like UXnet, so I get benefits across the orgs even if I only belong to one or two. And I’m also biased to favor the younger organizations like IxDG and AIfIA - while they don’t have as much infrastructure, they are tailored to today’s practitioner.