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Signal vs. Noise
There's a new blog on tagging - tagsnomony.com that disturbingly has just one IA on board. It's a symptom of a more general trend - as classification and personal information achitecture become more pressing, more and more people are talking about IA, but who aren't aware of IA. More to the point, IAs aren't really getting involved in the conversation either...either through indifference or inability to adapt to emergent methods from our foundation in traditional classification methods.
Update: Don Turnbull is an IA stalwart from UT Austin's Info School. Sadly, 1/8 isn't great (though Dave Weinberger is producing the smartest writing on emergent classification, but Dave's not doing implementation, in-the-trenches IA work).
Update #2: Reinforcements arrive! Gene Smith and Peter Merholz are now added to the fray at tagsonomy. Thanks to Jon Lebowsky and the rest of the Tagsonomy crew for being so welcoming. I'm glad to see some IAs stepping up to contribute to the conversation...
Lou Rosenfeld shares his Enterprise Information Architecture Roadmap. This update reflects the insights Lou's gained after using it in consulting and teaching it in his EIA seminars across the US. Great stuff - I think that there's definitely an enterprise imperative for effective IA, but that we need to co-opt or cooperate with other enterprise architecture efforts.
Last week, an article in the NY Times named poor user experience as a barrier to engaging with several exhibits that are part of the Boston CyberArts Festival. The article focused more on how deeply frustrating the User Experiences were, rather than the quality of the artwork. I made a trip to see the exhibits this weekend; here's a summary of the article, photos of the exhibits, and a recap.
37 Signals publicly launched Backpack today - an online personal info manager that's part wiki, part to-do list, part file storage. The best thing so far is being able to use email to add content to pages (each page gets a unique email address). You can even set up a to-do list with email, or add files to pages simply by attaching them to an email and sending to the specific page. There's a free version, and plans from $5-$19/month.
Lots of interesting thinking - I hope that the email-back-into-the-system feature gets implemented in Basecamp soon.
The New School of Ontologies is just so off the mark. Not that social classification isn't valuable, but a folksonomy is *not* an ontology. And facets...my goodness. The article reads like a jumble of classification buzzwords stirred once and regurgitated.
Ontologies are semantically-connected nodes - there's meaningful types of relationships between terms (has-a, is-a, requires, and lots lots more). Free tagging doesn't generate any semantic relationship at all.
It's interesting as the folksonomy meme drives more people to talk about IA issues how little many people know about IA concepts...
The USDA did an anemic job of redesigning the food pyramid; Slate asked four design firms to come up with something better. The official Canadian redesign is worth a look, too. Of course, the food guide in both countries represents a political process as much as a nutritional educational process, something not tackled by even the best information design.
Congratulations to Javier Velasco and everyone else who created the IA Chile site! (Spanish only, but gorgeous even if you have to muddle through the content via Google Translate).
Coveo is a site search engine from the makers of Copernic desktop search. Looks comparable to others in the entry-to-mid market, but is currently free for 5000 documents or less. I'm digging into the technical docs right now to look for things like synonym control and best bets, but haven't found them yet. Runs on Windows. Anyone tried it out? Thanks Ben Skelton
Wow. After rumors of a Microsoft takeover last year, Macromedia goes over to Adobe? (currently Slashdotted, here's the mirrordot link). I'm skeptical that they can merge their cultures...Adobe seems to have a very hard time grokking the web (witness the merger FAQ in PDF).
The site for DUX 2005 is up! The conference will run November 3-5 in San Francisco at Fort Mascon (a venue with character). Submissions for case studies, etc. is June 15th. Congrats to Zap, Richard, and the rest of the conference committee. Looking forward to it.
The IDSA has collected articles about the value of design. I enjoy reading articles like this, and there are some now-classic articles, like the BusinessWeek cover from last May on the Power of Design. But sadly, many of the articles only deal with the aesthetic - Michael Graves redesigning toilet brushes, instead of redesigning process, experience, or organizations. Nussbaum's Empathy Economy piece gets there, but doesn't bring a lot new to the conversation...perhaps more an indication of how slow it is to change perceptions of design by business and practitioners than anything else. Favorite article of the ones I've had a chance to read now or previously: Humanizing by Design (nytimes, may break soon) about making healthcare experiences better.
An Op-Ed column in the NY Times sheds light on the ways that qualitative research yields strategic insight.
Brainboost, a new search engine, offers answers to regular questions - like What is information architecture? It extracts text snippets from a wide variety of sources that help answer the question - though I think we've got a way to go in defining the damn thing.
The Brainboost algorithm is useful, but sometimes lacking, pulling sentences that contain "...information architecture is..." even when the sentence is about something else. I don't think Google has much to fear, but the approach is helpful for basic questions. Thanks metacool
Metadata based on standards such as Dublin Core are a key component of information environments from scientific repositories to corporate intranets and from business and publishing to education and e-government.
DC-2005 to be held in Madrid at University Carlos III (September 2005, 12-15) will examine the practicalities of maintaining and using controlled sets of terms ("vocabularies") in the context of the Web.
DC-2005 aims at bringing together several distinct communities of vocabulary users:
* Users of metadata standards such as Dublin Core and Learning Object Metadata (LOM), with their sets of descriptive "elements" and "properties"
* The W3C Semantic Web Activity, which has formalized the notion of "ontologies"
* Users of Knowledge Organization Systems, which encompass value-space structures such as "thesauri" and "subject classifications"
* The world of corporate intranets, which use "taxonomies"
These diverse communities share common problems, from the the use of identifiers for terms to practices for developing, maintaining, versioning, translating, and adapting standard vocabularies for specific local needs.
Then, let's discuss about in DC-2005 Conference
The Flickr acquisition not only raises the profile for rich apps, but also for tagging, getting significant coverage on News.com about tags as a possible new approach to web search. Of course, the article is kind of silly - tagging won't overturn search, it just makes metadata less of a chore...valuable, but not something that will make Google obsolete. Tags are much more interesting when they complement other retrieval tools...and Peter Merholz touches on that in his soundbites in the article.
I recorded some notes from the UXnet panel on UX disciplines held in New York City last night. Lou Rosenfeld led the discussion and on the panel were Whitney Quesenbery, Marilyn Tremaine, Conor Brady, Mark Hurst, Josh Seiden and James Spahr. The requisite issue of defining UX pervaded the discussion, although many people were also interested in how we might identify and bridge gaps in our understanding of the processes of the many disciplines under the UX umbrella. There was also some interest in identifying what disciplines are not currently included in our UX world that should be.
Peterme is talking about content genres right now. In a nutshell - in print, genres are things like textbook, guidebook, or map. On the web, genres include things like academic papers, FAQs, Testimonials, etc (yes, there's a lot of overlap). Genres help set expectations about how to use the content, and what kind of information you will find there.
One of the implications of genre is that content can't be easily repurposed across channels - a genre like a "real estate tour" just won't work in print, over the phone, or on a mobile phone if users are expecting a rich media panoramic experience. Instead of convergence, we get "meaningful divergence, with the right content to the right device".
I think that there's a lot of useful applications for the ideas...and there's similar work happening with Microsoft's application archetypes At the same time, I'm skeptical that the web is mature enough to really develop a robust collection of genres or archetypes. However, genres don't have to be complete, or fixed - like design patterns, use what's useful, and don't try to boil the ocean in creating an exhaustive list of genres.
BJ Fogg gave an excellent keynote this morning - really outstanding, and my favorite in the 3 years I've been at the Summit. His book Persuasive Technology is currently the best collection on using technology to change attitudes and behaviors. You should really consider buying it (and no, there's no Amazon referrer code there).
The IA Summit is underway in Montreal! I'm sitting in the IA Institute Leadership precon listening to Lou Rosenfeld and a group of smart folks look at the different components that go into enterprise information architecture. Right now, we're talking about creating organizational change...
Find out more about the conference as it unwinds at the conference blog.