Technology

The THE

Jef Raskin's The Humane Evironment has been making the rounds. Works on OS X. I wonder if anyone has checked it out using CVS and installed. Haven't read anyone's observations yet.

WASPs invade Digital Web

DigitalWeb has 2 articles covering web standards.

In 99.9% of Websites Are Obsolete Jeffrey Zeldman has a terrific rant about the disease of convoluted front-end code and markup and how to heal your sites and make them forward compatible with proper attention to web standards. The points at the end of the article make great elevator pitches if you have to sell web standards to your organization.

Also in this issue, Meryl interviews Steven Champeon and Shirley Kaiser about the education focus of the Web Standards Project (WaSP) Phase II.

Inspiration 7, now OS X compatible

Inspiration 7 is available and now it' also supports OS X. A 30 day demo is available from their site.

I'm actually quite excited about this because I get lazier and lazier as I get older :) and Inspiration produces nice site maps very quickly using the rapidfire feature. I'm still loving the beautiful diagrams that OmniGraffle is producing though.

Spring Desktop

The Matts (Jones and Webb) pointed to the Spring desktop for Mac OS X, an alternative interface for navigating the stuff on/with your computer.

    More Human. Less Machine. The Spring Desktop is concept-centric, not file, folder, site, or brand-centric. It's designed for the way you naturally think.
Ambient Findability

Peter muses on findabilty in the coming era of ambient interfaces/devices employing nanotechnology and wireless Internetworking.

The Semantic Web: Taxonomies vs. ontologies

"The Semantic Web: Differentiating Between Taxonomies and Ontologies." Online. 26 n4 (July/August 2002): 20.

    Computer scientists--along with librarians--are working to solve problems of information retrieval and the exchange of knowledge between user groups. Ontologies or taxonomies are important to a number of computer scientists by facilitating the sharing and reuse of digital information.
Katherine Adams' article in ONLINE (ironically, not available online) talks about the Semantic Web and the subtle difference in the approaches that computer science and library information science have taken toward making information findable using structured hierarchical vocabularies -- ontologies for CS and taxonomies for LIS.

The article generalizes one difference between CS and LIS by saying that "software developers focus on the role ontologies play in the reuse and exchange of data while librarians construct taxonomies to help people locate and interpret information". Both hopefully remain focussed on the end result of making data findable and usable.

    Some of the traditional skills of librarianship--thesaurus construction, metadata design, and information organization--dovetail with this next stage of Web development. Librarians have the skills that computer scientists, entrepreneurs, and others are looking for when trying to envision the Semantic Web. However, fruitful exchange between these various communities depends on communication.
    Commonalities exist--as do differences--between librarians who create taxonomies and computer scientists who build ontologies. Mapping concepts, skills, and jargon between computer scientists and librarians encourages collaboration.
I'm quoting a few large blocks from the article because they're probably important for us to read (fair use!). One of the sections discussess differing views on inheritance and the last discusses topic maps.

    DIFFERENT POINTS OF EMPHASIS: INHERITANCE

    In general, those in computer science (CS) are concerned with how software and associated machines interact with ontologies. Librarians are concerned with how patrons retrieve information with the aid of taxonomies. Software developers and artificial intelligence scholars see hierarchies as logical structures that help machines make decisions, but for library science workers these information structures are about mapping out a topic for the benefit of patrons. For librarians, taxonomies are a way to facilitate certain types of information-seeking behavior. It would be a mistake to overemphasize this point since one can point to usability experts in the CS camp who advocate user-centered Web design or librarians who are fascinated with cataloging theory to the exclusion of flesh-and-blood patrons. Yet, as an overarching generalization, software developers focus on the role ontologies play in the reuse and exchange of data while librarians construct taxonomies to help people locate and interpret information.

    This difference is illustrated by the concept of inheritance. Computer scientists build hierarchies with an eye toward inheritance, one of the most powerful concepts in software development. Machines can correctly understand a number of relationships among entities by assigning properties to top classes and then assuming subclasses inherit these properties. For example, if Ricky Martin is a type of "Pop Star" in a hierarchy marked "Singers," then a software program can make assumptions about Mr. Martin even if the details of his biography are not explicitly known. An ontology may express the rule, "If an entertainer has an agent or a business manager and released an album last year, then assume he or she has a fan club." A program could then readily deduce, for example, that Ricky Martin has a fan club and process information accordingly. Inference rules give ontologies a lot of power. Software doesn't truly understand the meaning of any of this information, but inference rules allow computers to effectively use language in ways that are significant to the human users.

    By contrast, librarians think of inheritance in terms of hierarchical relationships and information retrieval for patrons. Taking the example above, the importance of the taxonomy rests in its ability to educate patrons. Someone who's been tuned out of popular culture might use the Pop Star hierarchy to learn the identities of singers who are currently in vogue. A searcher could also uncover the various types of Pop Stars that exist in mass culture: Singers, Movie Stars, Television Stars, Weight-Loss Gurus, Talk Show Hosts, etc. Finally, a patron could hop from one synonym to another--from "Singer" to "Warbler" to "Vocalist"--and discover associative relationships that exist within this category.

    TOPIC MAPS AS NEW WEB INFRASTRUCTURE

    Topic maps are closely related to the Semantic Web and point the way to the next stage of the Web's development. Topic maps hold out the promise of extending nimble-fingered distinctions to large collections of data. Topic maps are navigational aids that stand apart from the documents themselves. While topic maps do not include intelligent agents, other aspects of this technology--metadata, vocabularies, and hierarchies--fit well within the Semantic Web framework. According to Steve Pepper, senior information architect for Infostream in Oslo, Norway, in "The TAO of Topic Maps: Find the Way in the Age of Infoglut", his presentation at IDEAlliance's XML Europe 2000 conference, topic maps are important because they represent a new international standard (ISO 13250). Topic maps function as a super-sophisticated system of taxonomies, defining a group of subjects and then providing hypertext links to texts about these topics. Topic maps lay out a structured voca bulary and then point to documents about those topics. Even OCLC is looking to topic maps to help its project of organizing the Web by subject.

    An important advantage of topic maps is that Web documents do not have to be amended with metadata. While HTML metatags are embedded in the documents described, topic maps are information structures that stand apart from information resources. Topic maps can, therefore, be reused and shared between various organizations or user groups and hold great promise for digital libraries and enhanced knowledge navigation among diverse electronic information sources.

Other articles mentioned:
Tim Berners Lee, "The Semantic Web," Scientific American, May 200.

Natalya Fridman Noy and Deborah L. McGuinness. "Ontology Development 101: A Guide to Creating Your First Ontology," Knowledge Systems Laboratory Stanford University, March 2001.

Tom Gruber, "What is an Ontology," [September 2001].

Steve Pepper, "The TAO of Topic Maps: Find the Way in the Age of Infoglut," XML Europe 2000.

Blogs as disruptive technology in the CMS industry

Was looking at News Blogging Software Roundup on the Microcontent News site. The article breaks weblogging applications into categories based on the type of publishing environment (weblog publishing or weblog community) and based on installation requirements. The page led to the Web Crimson white paper, Blogs as Disruptive Tech, which is an interesting piece that calls weblog publishing systems as disruptive to commercial content management systems as the PC was disruptive to the mainframe computer. Makes some interesting insights based on the ideas in Clayton Christensen book, "The Innovator's Dilemma".

The dilemma is this. Should CMS companies look at the current state of weblogging applications as a threat? It appears that the feedback from consumers is that weblogging applications are viable for many smaller publishing needs and are getting better at also meeting middle-range publishing and community communication needs. So much better that they may someday nip at the heels of mid-level CMS vendors and drive them out of business because of the free (or GPL) to really cheap pricing model that most follow. The improvement of simple web publishing CMSes and community tools such as the one used here has been very impressive considering the short life-time for this breed of software. I would think that CMS vendors make the same kind of calculations in their heads that mainframe salespersons made when they hear that there is a seemingly trivial application that customers are considering as alternatives to their large and very expensive systems. But is there an opportunity to generate revenue, however small, by offering lighter and much cheaper sytems as a reaction to the use of blogging tools in place of CMSes? I guess that's the innovators dilemma, do you heed or ignore the warning foretold in some consumer behavior.

Thanks Tom for the link to the Roundup article.

IA, usability, controlled vocabularies, findability and more.

Digital Web Magazine interviews Jeffrey Veen and Jesse James Garrett of Adaptive Path and Christina Wodtke writes about using controlled vocabularies to improve findability in Mind your phraseology!

Why Web Standards Matter

Carrie Bickner, web developer for the New York Public Libraries, has an article in Library Journal, Summer2002 Net Connect, that discusses how using W3C XHTML and CSS standards will ensure the accessibility of your data and may possibly save your organization time and money in future development and redesign.

    You've just launched your library's new web site when the calls start: "I just downloaded the latest version of Netscape, and your whole top navigation is invisible"; "I am using a screen reader, and your site reads like gibberish. I can't find a thing"; "I am calling on behalf of the board of tri-county library consortium; we appreciate all the hard work that you have done, but we have a few questions about the design of the new site."

    The site--despite months of work, the best software, and exhaustive quality assurance testing--has problems. What went wrong? How do you remedy the situation while insuring you don't make the same mistakes again? The key may be found in adhering to a set of well-established, internationally recognized web standards.

XHTML 2.0 and the nl element

XHTML working draft 2.0 is here.

Hmmm. Am curious to see how w3c envisions the new navigation list (nl, same family as ul) element to work. Perhaps browsers will make the nl element collapsible/expandable like aqtree.

OWL Web Ontology Language Working Drafts Published

From W3C news releases:

    The Web Ontology Working Group has released three first Working Drafts. The Feature Synopsis, Abstract Syntax and Language Reference describe the OWL Web Ontology Language 1.0 and its subset OWL Lite. Automated tools can use common sets of terms called ontologies to power services such as more accurate Web search, intelligent software agents, and knowledge management. OWL is used to publish and share ontologies on the Web. Read about the W3C Semantic Web Activity.
Net culture in Korea, and how the real killer app is people.

In its latest issue, Wired magazine has a great article about Korea and how they use the Internet as groups. It draws some interesting conclusions, but I wish it would go further in discussing how the US isn't really that different: we're just going at it from a different angle.

For information architects, this is an important issue: if the Internet is at its heart a place for people to interact with one another, perhaps we need to consider that in our discipline. Maybe it's not mainly about data retrieval and shopping? Maybe those things are peripheral, red herrings for our fiercely individualistic culture?

Rather than spamming iaslash, if you want to see my other thoughts about it, check it out at memekitchen.

Amazon Light

Amazon Light is a Googlesque search interface using Amazon Web Services. Nice.

Thanks, Matt

MacWorld NYC: Jakob look-alikes, Jaguar, Six degrees, Omni

Went to MacWorld, New York. Was not too exciting. Lots of the Windows Switch ads around town. The most amusing thing was that I saw Andy Ihnatko chatting with someone, sporting a leather cowboy hat. Funny. When I first spotted him quickly, I thought to myself, "Is that Jakob Nielsen". Then when I got closer I realized it was Ihnatko and thought again, "No, that's just what Jakob Nielsen would look like if he were a tad cooler."

Anyway back to the Mac. The Jaguar OS X was very nice. Don't want to regurgitate what you probably already know or can easily learn from Apple's OS X page. From an interface perspective I was pleased with Sherlock, which brings some of Watson's functionality into the core OS, and with new features of the finder. A search box is now built into the finder, spring loaded folders are back, and I saw someone demo a Find/Replace feature that I think was doing batchrenaming of files. Can't confirm that one.

Also saw a demo of Creo's Six Degrees, an application which is supposed to help you search through email, files and contacts to find related data. It looked promising, but I'm not sure it delivers the power to really connect related data. Have to play with it some more to verify. It sounds great for navigating project data on your machine.

Lastly I saw Omni Group's little table and watched someone demo OmniGraffle for kicks. Was amused when the demoer was scrolling through the palettes, saw "Garret IA" and said, "I have no idea what that is." I thought to myself, of course you don't, why would you. So I let him know that it was a shape library for Information Architecture diagramming. "Oh, OK," he replied and kept demoing. He probably still has no idea what it's for.

Quick and Dirty Topic Mapping with Perl

I'm just bookmarking this article for later reading. Jon Udell's script proposes a way of generating topic maps by parsing text files. Not sure what this does exactly, but the title was intriguing.

Marti Hearst on Information Visualization

Peterme interviews Marti Hearst, professor in the School of Information Management Systems at UC Berkeley, on the topic of Information Visualization. They discuss the success and future of the field pointing out specific examples of applications that have and have not worked and why.

All The Web vs. Google

Webreference covers All The Web's announcement that their search engine index has surpassed Google's. Fast Search & Transfer (FAST), the company that provides All The Web says they aren't challenging Google, but just promoting their product. In the article, the company shows off All The Web can be better at returning relevant results than Google in some cases.

Pure CSS Amazon

I've been following the discussion on Webgraphics about these table-less full CSS versions of Amazon and Yahoo!. Interesting if you do any front-end development. My opinion is that the Amazon rendering in CSS is excellent -- cuts necessary markup in half -- and I don't see any reason not to do a site this way if you can sniff out the browser/platform before hand. The Yahoo layout needs more work, though.

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