October 6, 2004
IA Summit 2005Call for Papers
This is very much a fun small conference, where the gabbing between sessions (and late at night as Christina notes) is nearly as valuable as the sessions themselves.
The proposal process is really pretty simple, so if you think you have something worthwhile toshare with IAs and their friends, do consider submitting a proposal. The deadline is October 25th for sessions and December 5th for posters.
July 28, 2004
Announcing UXnet: What Lou said...
I've been waiting for Lou to go first, and he has:
Besides a minor quibble (it was UPA and DUX that were scheduled at the same time), Lou has really said this wonderfully. Please read the whole post and not just the part I've shamelessly stolen. Or visit the UXnet site and become part of the community. As Lou says:
But there's so much promise in this concept; what we right need now is support, encouragement and, perhaps, a little courage. And soon, volunteers.
Oh, and we're working on the $$ issue too :).
July 27, 2004
CFP: STC Annual Conference, Seattle, May 8-11, 2005
Do you have something to share about information architecture, usability, or information design? Then STC, the Society for Technical Communication, would like to hear from you! We're currently accepting proposals for our next annual conference.
"That's a tech writers conference." you say. Well, yes, there are many tech writers who attend. But STC is home to several thousand members who belong to its usability, information design, online, and indexing special interest groups, and our conferences attract many outside the "traditional" realm of writing and editing.
Here's just a sampling from last year's conference in Baltimore:
You can also see more sessions from last year.
Speakers receive a discount on an otherwise value-priced conference. We also welcome speakers from all levels, as our conference attracts those who are new to the field as well as those who have been in the field for decades. And Seattle is a *wonderful* conference city, with the conference is located in the heart of downtown.
To see the full Call or to submit a proposal, please visit the STC CFP site soon.
The deadline for proposals is 12 noon ET, August 12, 2004.
June 2, 2004
Karen Schriver on document design
Karen Schriver was across the pond recently, where she presented a session on The Changing Face of Document Design and Technical Communication at the STIC symposium in the Netherlands. I'd love a more annotated PowerPoint, but I found some of the slides interesting nonetheless...it's worth the ~1Mb download to review her trends and implications. One slide that caught my eye was her trends in professional development, which she mapped as follows:
Those of you who hate the what's in a name kind of discussions may not be interested, but I certainly appreciate the effort. I'd love to quibble with Karen over the doc design/info design/info architecture borders, but hey, I love to quibble :).
Thanks to InfoDesign for the pointer.
May 20, 2004
Peter Bogaards on IA and ID
Gee, I'd thought Peter was so busy with the fab informationdesign.org that I hadn't realized how much he'd updated his own site, BogieLand. I particularly like his ID and IA FAQs. Of course, that's because I hold very similar views about the differences between ID and IA (a long-time hobby that is not shared by everybody :).
Coming from the tech comm world, I'd like to think that there are other typical deliverables, but you can't do an IA/ID discussion without a modicum of quibbling (or more :).
May 4, 2004
Digital libraries and museums
The latest issue of First Monday is out. IAs and UX types should be interested in some of the articles which are selected from the recent Web-Wise 2004 conference on Libraries and Museums in the Digital World.
As a Yinzer (you can take the girl out of Pittsburgh, but you can't take Pittsburgh out of the girl), I'm looking forward to reading the Imaging Pittsburgh paper and surfing the Historic Pittsburgh website.
April 20, 2004
The US Army goes IA
After reading this entry from Keith Robinson, I am going to restrain myself from titling this entry "And the kids shall lead them..."
March 16, 2004
Looking for a great conference to go to that's value-priced? Then I'd check out STC's annual conference in Baltimore. I'll stump more for this in the future (closer to the early registration date in late April), but here's are some highlights for the early birds.
and a whole lot more. Check out the full list of usability and information design sessions. And if you haven't been (or think Baltimore is just what you saw on Homicide), let me assure you that Baltimore is a *fab* conference city. Lots of fun for the whole family, or for the single visitor. (Or for the John Waters fan...one of my fave stops is the Papermoon Diner).
For more info, check out the registration page. Hope to see you there!
March 9, 2004
AARP and the page paradigm
Oh dear. I normally tend to stay relatively mum about my work life here, but Mark Hurst's 3/8 issue of Good Experience, Debating the Page Paradigm, is compelling me to respond publicly. (If you aren't familiar with Mark's Page Paradigm, you should check the 2/19 issue and peterme's response to get current first.)
Among other comments and responses to the comments in Mark's recent email was this criticism by peterme:
For those of you managing sites of more than 50 pages, heed Mark's suggestions at your own risk. It's been a while since I've worked on a site that had less than 1000 pages, and such sites require clear, coherent, and consistent navigation systems. Largely because this notion of "the Goal" doesn't apply -- many users have many different goals, and those goals will shift over time.
To which Mark responded:
(I invite Peter to count the pages of our clients' websites... AARP.com, AMD.com, WashingtonPost.com, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Travelocity, and the others listed on the Creative Good clients page..)
First, to be technically correct, it's AARP.org. While you might not think so given the recent Medicare press, AARP is actually a non-profit. We do serve AARP.com entries (actually, we redirect 'em to AARP.org), but externally we are AARP.org.
But that's a minor quibble. I realize that Mark's point is that Creative Good does work with clients that have large websites. And in fact, they did some listening labs for us just last Thursday. I think Creative Good is great (we must, we've done several projects with them and hope to do more).
I respectfully suggest that the original Page Paradigm email contained some language that could either be mis-interpreted and/or construed as contradictory. A colleague and I in AARP's web group found that we needed to correct a well-meaning content provider who happily emailed her staff that Mark Hurst said that users don't care where they are in the website, and so we should stop worrying about where content should live. It's not hard to see how she came up with this, as Mark had written:
For the record, at the listening labs I mentioned, most of our 8 participants followed Mark's page paradigm, where they either 1) clicked something that appeared to take them closer to the fulfillment of their goal, or 2) clicked the Back button on their Web browser.
But my point is that visitors may not care where they are in the website, but where content "lives" (essentially is linked to) has a considerable amount to do with whether they are able to click on something that will take them closer to the fulfillment of their goal. Similarly, once they are on a page relative to their goal, they are amenable to related navigation and promotional links. Shades of Jared Spool's seducible moment, which seems to be supported by the success of Google's AdSense program.
In the 3/8 issue responding to criticism from IAs, Mark wrote:
I said that for years I have observed users paying all their attention to completing their goal and no attention (outside of that) to navigation elements, which information architects fret over endlessly ...
But how do you separate the importance of navigation elements that help users complete their goal and the emphasis on navigation outside of that? And isn't it worth it to provide another alternative if someone's landed on a deep page besides going back to the home page?
I agree with the two-step Page Paradigm. Web visitors will either click something that looks like it takes them to their goal or go back (and in our case, it is with the Back button). But there's been language in the last two newsletters that has caused me just a bit of angst. I'm not sure if that's because Mark's doing a bit of Jakob-like rhetoric or just because this kind of communication is inherently difficult--or because even though we've come a long way baby, we're still dealing with some conceptually challenging issues.
If we have a foe in developing good user experiences, I don't think it's the endlessly fretting IAs--the West Coast ones or the polar bear ones :). For the record, AARP (or at least the people who I work with in the web group) IS committed to the use of a good IA and useful navigation to getting visitors closer to their (frankly very scary number of) goals.
March 2, 2004
Severe Weather Alert? Not!
What's up with the National Weather Service? Lately some of their Severe Weather Alerts (which I see on weather.com) have been questionable. I realize I live in DC (where I joke that people start having accidents when the humidity goes above 80%), but last week we got a severe weather alert for light rain, and this week it's for nuisance winds:
Severe Weather Alert from the National Weather Service
Winds that "may be enough to cause nuisance problems...but should not cause any major problems" do not justify a severe weather alert. I think the NWS can use some help from some IAs to deal with categorizing and labeling!
February 26, 2004
IA Summit blog
If you're like me and couldn't make the IA Summit this year (rats!), you may be able to live vicariously throught the IA Summit blog. See also Mike Lee's moblog. Since he's a thousand or two miles away from home, we'll see lots of IA faces instead of Mike's lovely daughter Cianna!
December 21, 2003
Happy holidays, Boxes and Arrows!
Evan ("Blogger") Williams commented on this interesting application of PayPal technology: using it to pay for your web hosting (see right). The advantage? You can:
rest assured that your donation will only be used to pay for this site's hosting fees. The site owner won't be able to run off and spend your donation on DVDs, fine steak dinners, or anything else completely unrelated to their web hosting bill!
Since the site that is experimenting with this is Boxes and Arrows, I decided to forget how far behind I am with my Christmas shopping for friends and family and get into the giving spirit by helping out for one of the best resources around for fans of IA, ID, UX, ED, or whatever related TLA (three-letter acronym) you can come up with. Congrats to them for their continued success!
December 4, 2003
Blogging the semantic web
I was going to write up an entry on Lou Rosenfeld's and Peter Van Dijck's responses to Clay Shirky's latest on the semantic web. But then I saw that Carrie had beaten me to it over on paper & pencil. Never mind!
October 25, 2003
Practices in web design
The site has been developed by Heidi Adkisson (an "interactive architect" ... oy!) in order to make her masters thesis (an MS in Technical Communication...yes!) more accessible. In it, she reveals the results of surveying 75 leading e-commerce sites...how they handled web design essentials such as global navigation, breadcrumbs, search, and link colors. As she notes, common practice doesn't equal best practice, but knowing what is common can help inform your own design decisions.
Heidi has recently launched a new weblog, called IA THINK, which looks at "Interactive architecture, writing, and design." One of her recent entries is about Geoffrey Moore's Crossing the Chasm which I'm reading for class (after having read The Tipping Point just for fun...my masters thesis used diffusion of innovation theory as its framework). Looks like another feed to add to the aggregator!
September 29, 2003
So many associations, so little time
The interaction design folk have released the results of their first survey to gauge the needs of their membership. I'm peripherally following this, as I'm still interested in the big picture that might unite all these separate specific organizations.
Anyways, questions like "Do you feel there is a need for a new professional home for interaction designers either within an existing organization or as a new stand alone organization?" got the responses you'd expect. Lots of folks who wanted a new home and lots of folks who wanted to work with an existing organization (particularly since it is very pricy to belong to a bunch).
Here's the breakdown of organizations that survey respondents belonged to:
Slightly more interesting was the relative proportion of AIfIA members to SIGCHI members. I'm surprised there were so many more of the latter compared to the former. I'm not sure if there is really that big of a difference between your garden variety interaction designer and your West Coast information architect. Alas, labels come back to haunt again. Since the hard-core HCI-oriented interaction designers have so little in common with the polar bear-oriented information architects, trying to find a middle ground would seem challenging.
There may be more hope for a collaboration with the UPA folks, especially if UPA and SIGCHI might join forces on providing a place for these folks--each bringing their own assets to the partnership.
September 22, 2003
CFP: IA Summit 2004
Keeping with my practice of attending every other IA Summit, I sure hope to attend in 2004 in Austin (did Boston and Baltimore, missed San Fran and Portland). The call for papers has been posted. Here's a bit o' promo:
Some of us in the IA field are solidifying the IA foundation, digging deeper, while others are pushing the boundaries working with other fields and platforms. In both cases, we are breaking new ground. The ASIS&T IA Summit 2004 is seeking submissions from information architecture practitioners and researchers that support this theme.
If you haven't been, Austin is a fab conference town. Alas, it may be too early for the bats, but I'm sure it will be a good time of year for hanging out at a place like the Oasis, one of the more infamous bars/restaurants overlooking Lake Travis. Austin is green and hilly (reminded me of Pennsylvania), and has a great music scene. Other than our little May event in Baltimore (also a great city), I think it will be one of the hot conference destinations!
Oh, and I bet the conference will be good too :).
September 14, 2003
Facets in MT
Note to self...not sure if I will use pixelcharmer's note on the faceted Moveable Type (which appeared on the blog scene a month ago), but I should bookmark it just in case. I looked it up as I'd like to add a booklist feature to IDblog, and haven't exactly seen a good way to do this.
Over on Asterisk*, Keith discusses how he's approaching this. Seems closer, but looks like a heck more hacking than I'd like to do. Given this, I'm actually thinking an easier way to do something close to what I'd like is creating a second weblog and then just using a version of IDblog's templates! Then I can have categories that map to my existing categories, with the entries for each corresponding to a single book (which makes it easy to support comments for each book, so other folks can share their two cents about the titles).
The only real question is whether I can refer to IDblog's category or date archives (your standard right-nav fodder) from this second blog using MT, or whether I have to hard-code 'em. Another question (that isn't as important) is whether it's worth using the MTAmazon plug-in. Stay tuned!
September 1, 2003
Umm, not exactly?
I suppose it's me, but it seems to me that MIT is confused about information architecture and information design:
Information design can be defined as the art and science of structuring and classifying web sites and intranets to help people find and manage information. Information Architecture is the process or organizing and labeling content in a way your audience will understand.
I still haven't got past the (to me, compelling) idea that IA is about finding information in a site or info product and ID is about using information once it is found.
August 4, 2003
Yet another UX/ED organization?
Well, well, well. So what is one to think of the Nielsen/Norman Group's Bruce "Tog" Tognazzini's column Why We Get No Respect? In it, he notes that:
We've been complaining bitterly, these last 25 years, that we get no respect, that we are thought of as nothing more than decorators, if we are thought of at all. Guess what? We have no one to blame but ourselves. We have sat on the sidelines, perpetually powerless, whining, instead of changing up the game so we can win.
Who, pray tell, could he be talking about? Graphic designers? Information designers? IAs? Usability specialists? Tech writers? The list of folks who feel undervalued and invisible (and nervous in this economic climate) is not a short one, and according to Tog, we need to add interaction designers to the list too.
His solution? We need a new title for the role of the "software designers, or interaction engineers, or human interface folks, or whatever we who create the interaction model for our products." Tog suggests interaction architect for the title, and he also suggests a new association to promote this new brand, the Interaction Architect's Association.
All I can say is, anyone remember the story of the Tower of Babel :).
Hmmm, perhaps it is time for the Order of the Elephant, whose logo can be based on the diagram that Lou Rosenfeld and Jess McMullin created a while back (see right, here for a large version). What's nice about this as an overarching organization is that it acknowleges the majority of those who have been making claims to either small or large parts of the UX/ED/IA/ID/etc space over the last few years.
Of course, since it is based on the fable, we're currently limited to only six distinct disciplines, which will likely be a problem down the road.
Seriously, I don't begrudge Tog and the interaction designers their need to find their own space--though it now looks like we may need a round-robin match in order to determine the owner of the overarching discipline :). I'm also amused that some IAs (that's information architects, not interaction architects), are seemingly unhappy with Tog's effort, when it was only a couple years ago that they rebuffed welcomes from organizations like AIGA and ASIS&T for the apparently desirous environment of their own organization.
BTW, the one point that I do fault (albeit in a friendly sort of way) in Tog's call is his distate for the label design. I think this is a red herring. Brands are re-positioned all the time, and buying the argument that design is undervalued or disrespected need not imply that it always needs to be that way, or that a new term is needed. This is what marketing is good at. And there are groups like the Corporate Design Foundation, the Design Management Institute, and the Design Council whose are doing the work of selling design to business through education and outreach and, if supported, might lead to the elimination of the "wimp" connotation of design in our field(s).
But that's just a disgression to the real issue, which is a potential new organization that will be added to the fold. Heck, what's one more :). Assuming Tog deals with AIfIA the same way he has with HFES and CHI (and given his emphasis on labels and brand, I suspect the answer will be "thanks, but no thanks"), it will be most interesting to see this play out. The IAs are so strong online, with their lists, and weblogs, and raw volunteer power. But while the IAs have their share of best-selling luminaries, Tog would seem to have more access to corporate America (and their attention and their dollars).
July 24, 2003
Lou updates too!
July 22, 2003
Veen on web design
Nick (of Digital Web Magazine fame) pointed out that Jeffrey Veen had posted his presentation from WebVisions 2003: Beyond Usability (PDF; 6.1M). I don't know if that title does it justice, but I'm certainly adding it to my list of interesting slide-based presentations.
There are a few slides that obviously need the related commentary (like the kitchen slide at the end--perhaps an example of great experience design?), but the bulk of it works quite nicely as a standalone. And I really enjoyed the example of the USDA's HayNet with it's simple "Need Hay" / "Have Hay" links on the home page.
July 21, 2003
Search engine for global poor
How cool. From the July 16 Edupage:
MIT DEVELOPING SEARCH ENGINE FOR GLOBAL POOR
June 5, 2003
Here's some good news. Eric Scheid (of Sydney, Australia) has resolved the myriad hardware problems that have kept the IAwiki offline recently. Big yay! I think wikis are fabulous, and this one is my favorite. If you've not checked it out, then please do!
May 14, 2003
Warning! More what's in a name!
Okay, you've been warned! If these IA versus ID versus whatever discussions make your blood pressure rise, then just say no to the next link :). But I cannot keep myself from pointing out that Dirk and I have been continuing our what's in a name discussion from three weeks ago. I'm quite enjoying it myself!
April 30, 2003
STC's annual conferences
Tomorrow is the last day to sign up for STC's 50th annual conference, which is being held May 18th to 21st in Dallas. If you've been meaning to register and are a procrastinator like me, then hurry up and register!
But if Dallas isn't your thing, by all means do consider submitting a proposal to present at next year's conference in fabulous Baltimore, Maryland, May 9-12, 2004. The stem manager for the usability and design stem is Caroline Jarrett, who some of you may know from her stint on the first NNgroup world tour. Yours truly is going to be managing the post-conference stem. The PC sessions are half- or full-day tutorials for which a moderate stipend is paid (assuming registrations warrant).
April 23, 2003
What's in a name?
Hmmm, maybe there are three things in life that are certain: death, taxes, and a periodic re-hashing of the "what's the difference between information design and information architecture?" question. I hosted one such discussion a couple years back in a feature called What's In A Name? for the ID SIG newsletter. I had some great responses from some great IA and ID luminaries (and I still like, in a perverse way, that Richard Saul Wurman called this question "academic and pointless" ... hell, he responded, didn't he :).
Here's my commentary. One, I do happen to like Jesse James Garrett's focus on cognition (IA) and perception (ID) which he happened to make here. I used to refer to that as focus on structure versus presentation. Yep, there's overlap, but I also liked the idea that the IA helped you find a page and the ID helped you make use of the page.
Two, I disagree with Clark about where IA and IDs come from. He writes:
Information architects come from a variety of backgrounds, but I sense that a majority of them display an orientation toward language. Information designers, on the other hand, tend to be oriented toward the visual arts. As a result, the majority of information designers come from exactly one discipline: graphic design.
For me, both of these statements are a bit awkward. My major issue is with the categorization of IDs. That's certainly true historically, especially since for many folks, information graphics are the only products of information designers. (Tho I think the jury is still out on whether Richard Saul Wurman is "really" an IA or an ID. Here are some of his comments related to the subject: here and here.)
But if you talk about the web (isn't that what today's IA is really interested in?), the page is as much if not more about text as it is about graphics, and thus explains the interest of those of us who come out of a language focus. Part of the problem is that some text-oriented folks spent a lot of time doing this kind of work except they called it document design. Karen Schriver (who wrote Dynamics in document design and Ginny Redish (who founded the Document Design Center at the American Institutes for Research in 1979...alas, no longer in business) are both examples of people out of a writing/language field who looked at the issues of usable design. Their work included considerations of color, type size, hierarchy (on the page and in the document), line length, and so forth.
What Tufte and Wurman talk about is fine when you're talking a one page graph or poster. But hello? Do we think that there's no need for paying attention to issues of design once the content starts spanning multiple pages? I think not! For me, information design is what happens when you take the visual world of the graphic designer and integrate it with the textual world of the tech writer. Go figure. Like Wurman says, you make the complex clear.
So, yes Virginia, I happen to think that there's a difference between IA and ID. And for now, I like the idea of cognition/perception as a differentiator...unless, of course, you are talking about big IA or ID or UX which tends to have far more overlap due to its strategic (rather than tactical) focus. But I guess that's a whole other can o' worms :)
April 8, 2003
STC on IA
STC has made their cover story for the April issue of Intercom, Mir Haynes' IA: You do it, you just don't know it, available to the general public on their website. I'm not sure the title is a good one for the article, which actually doesn't imply that tech writers are doing IA work and they don't know it. Rather, it's that tech writers and others in the tech comm field have the focus on the user and their needs that make for good IAs. The closing sentence is more apt: "You already have a strong foundation on which to build" -- but I guess that'd be a lousy title :).
As Lou notes, the more awareness of IA (and related disciplines), the better. I think the article is a nice intro to IA (and UX) for a group which has a lot to offer the field. It won't end the perpetual "what is IA?" discussion over on SIGIA, but heck, what would?
Finally, I didn't think to ask, but I suspect the "face" in the article (see the PDF version) is stock art. Not sure if he's supposed to be more polar bear or west coast IA :).
April 1, 2003
The conference weblog wasn't what it might have been (despite some valiant efforts), but the following are worth checking out: the speakers page, which the nice folks at ASIS have been updating with speaker presentations, and the conference summaries at Boxes and Arrows (see part 1 and part 2).
Speaking of IA, if you're into the subject of IA and education, you may want to sign up for the aifia-education mailing list. What's a little more email :)
March 29, 2003
Trends in information formats
A work colleague sent the pointer to this one: Five-Year Information Format Trends , a report from the Online Computer Learning Center. At nearly a meg, it's a hefty PDF download, and it's also geared towards libraries, but I suspect that many IAs, IDs, etc., might find some of their stats and analysis interesting. The report is chunked into four sections: popular materials, scholarly materials, digitization projects, and web resources.
BTW, kudos to OCLC for giving visitors the option to register or not. Nice choice!
March 26, 2003
I've gone ahead and added some conference links at the bottom of the right-nav column. Enjoy!
March 23, 2003
IA Summit: the international perspective
Only 12 European visitors and more than 225 American and Canadian visitors join the conference. This really amazes me. Of course, ASIS&T is an American organization, but shouldn't these conferences be places to talk to and learn from people all over the world? If Europeans don't join, the focus will automatically stay on American trends and situations.
Look for her detailed report on InfoDesign shortly.
BTW, I hope we'll see more folks from across the ponds at DUX2003, which I am hearing is going to be this year's hot conference ticket.
March 21, 2003
IA Summit envy
Rats. I'm here in DC, and all sorts of fun folks are in Portland. Well, at least they were nice enough to set up the IA Summit Blog so that I can live vicariously through them!
March 17, 2003
Nelson on categorizations
There is nothing wrong with categorization. It is, however, by its nature transient: category systems have a half-life, and categorizations beging to look fairly stupid after a few years. ... The army designation of "Pong Balls, Ping" has a certain universal character to it.
Interesting to read this text (and not just the above snippet) 20 years later.
March 16, 2003
I'm a hippie?
I logged on this AM to get the map to Jeepers (gotta love the web), and found out from Gerry McGovern's latest that not only am I a hippie, but that "the hippie period of the web is over." That's one thing. But this is another:
Consultants try to make content and information architecture
complicated. That helps them feel special and charge more. I
hear talk that because information architecture is so difficult,
it's almost an art form. There is a view that no two information
architects can have the same opinion on any given problem.
Ouch! This one ought to get folks going on the SIGIA list. Or perhaps maybe they'll disregard it as an example of the (in)famous Nielsen-style hyperbole that seems to have inspired it. (Hey, it worked for Nielsen.)
As a programmer turned tech writer turned web developer, I'm certainly happy that there is someone out there who is raising some visibility about the importance of content. This is not something that is top-of-mind for my IA or graphic design friends. But there are some of us content folks who have been around since the mid-90s who actually want to work with our IA and graphic design peers. Criticizing their efforts (while acknowledging the immaturity of the discipline) wouldn't be my choice for how to do this.
March 10, 2003
Jess McMullin has done a great job of summarizing recent discussions on the SIGIA list. This reminds me that I had had chatted with George Olsen at last year's IA Summit in Baltimore about how it would be cool for Boxes and Arrows to provide summaries of the various lists (like CHI-WEB, SIGIA, InfoDesign-Cafe, AIGA-Experience Design and so on). I can't make this year's summit in Portland, so maybe I'll bump into him at DUX2003 and chat about it some more. I subscribe to all these lists, but I'd sure love to know that someone was reading 'em carefully enough to alert me to the interesting discussions!
February 25, 2003
Notes to self. Lou will be in the DC area on April 30th doing a seminar on Enterprise IA.
February 17, 2003
Tilting at power laws
(Three entries in an hour? Gee, someone's getting tired of being snow-bound.)
Over on the AIfIA list, Christina asked if anyone has tried to change the curve inherent in a power law and/or whether it was worth doing. In response, Eric Scheid (host of the fabulous IAwiki) submitted some useful links on the wiki, along with this one from Nature on language and power laws.
I suspect that most efforts to "change" the power law (e.g., this one) are really only effective at moving individual objects up or down the curve...they don't really change the shape of the curve itself. But if I make my brain hurt (and dust off the old college math), I'll study this and see if I can understand it better.
One thing I do think is that the effort, unless futile, is valuable. This may be true for weblogs, but I think it is even more true for wealth. The latest issue of UUWorld (alas, is not online yet) has an interesting story about Chuck Collins and his United for a Fair Economy. Collins is a grandson of Oscar Meyer, and he practices what he preaches; he donated a $500K trust fund to charity in his mid-twenties. He is working with Bill Gates' father on an effort to stop the repeal of the estate tax. Interesting stuff.
January 18, 2003
IA Summit in Portland
Looking for a good conference? If you want to know what's going on in the world of information architecture or if you're in a peripheral field but close to Portland, Oregon, then be sure to check out IA Summit 2003: Making Connections.
What's fabulous is that the good folks at ASIST are again giving the member registration rate to members of the STC Information Design SIG, AIFIA, UPA, AIGA, and SIG CHI. Be sure to check it out!
January 14, 2003
Fun with stats
January 1, 2003
What's in a name, revisited
Wow...there's one heck of an interesting discussion going on over on Christina's weblog regarding differences between ED, IA, and ID. I had to point out a similar discussion that we did for the ID SIG (see What's In a Name?") back in April 2001. I actually understand why there's a theory that IA and ID are the same. Maybe in principle they should be. But when I look at what the folks who call themselves IAs do versus what those who call themselves IDs do (and apparently Nathan and I know different IDs), we're focused on the differences rather than the similarities.
December 18, 2002
Computers and common sense
Courtesy of my day job, I got a chance to talk with Walter Bender today. He's the executive director of the MIT Media Lab, and one of the projects he talked to us about was something called OpenMind, which is:
an attempt to make computers smarter by making it easy and fun for people all over the world to work together to give computers the millions of pieces of ordinary knowledge that constitute "common-sense", all those aspects of the world that we all understand so well we take them for granted.
All I want to know is how did it know how to ask such a relevant question when I gave it so little information :). My first teaching opportunity:
November 27, 2002
Tufte and IA
Dan Brown has done a nice article over on Boxes and Arrows titled Three Lessons from Tufte. Because he's talking about documentation (specifically IA deliverables), this is a good read for tech writers and info designers as well.
November 26, 2002
Sean's comment (on Monday...can't link to the entry itself) about the high cost of entry to AIGA got me to 1) comment and then 2) update the following list, which was originally posted to the old IDblog a year or so ago.
This new version adds in AIfIA and updates each listing with the association's student membership rate and policy.
November 25, 2002
Big versus little
Christina asks is big IA dead? Of course, I can't resist the opportunity to comment, using the opportunity to once again bring up the film director metaphor. I do resist pointing out that the AIfIA has a Sisyphean task ahead of them trying to claim this "big" space.
November 22, 2002
Ouch! It's getting hot...
Everyone's blogging Adam Greenfield's interview with Nathan Shedroff on IA and UX. I'd describe Adam as a "big IA" sort in web design and development; Nathan wrote the book Experience Design. Makes IA quite the hotbed of sorts (what with the recent spate of heated posts on the SIGIA list).
November 21, 2002
IA is not usability?
Hmmm...Jeff Lash has done a piece for Digital Web to let us know that IA is not usability (thanks Peter). Maybe it's me, but I guess I didn't realize that folks were confusing IA or usability. Or maybe at least little IA and usability.
For the record, let me say that while I'm very interested in what my IA and usability friends are doing, I don't place myself in the center of either circle. I'm predominantly interested in how words and pictures go together to help people make use of the data/information they are viewing. So my perspective is a bit peripheral. That said, I was a bit surprised at some of Jeff's comments. For example, he writes:
Usability is a detailed subject, taking into account things like font size, colors, visual proximity, usage context, search, error messages, navigation, form design, and labeling.
Huh? I think my usability friends, while interested in things like these, are also interested in many more big picture items. In fact, UPA's recent effort to determine if they wanted to go forward with certification was far more about the entire user-centered design process than it was about "little" usability issues (like font size) that users might get tripped up by.
Then again, a hard-core usability guy like John Rhodes didn't seem to find fault with this (instead, he simply linked to Adam Greenfield's what lies beneath (i.e., IA and the business model) and did very little commentary.
For my money, I don't think most people have issues with the differences between IA, ID, usability, graphic design, etc., at the "little" (or tactical) level. The IA doesn't want to specify fonts, the usability specialist doesn't want to specify taxonomies, and the ID doesn't want to do any ethnographic studies. Unless they are paid big bucks to do so :).
To me, it seems that those who want to play at the macro/strategic/big level are the ones whose interests or scope may well overlap. If you're talking "big picture," I think it's far harder to differentiate the IA from the usability specialist. Fodder for another column, methinks!
November 6, 2002
Surely they jest?
I just bought a new car this past weekend. Sometime after I got home, maybe the next day, I picked up my owner's manual and started to skim. How's this for amusing...on page 4 of a 320-page manual, you find the instructions:
Before you start to drive this vehicle, read this manual.
Umm, yeah sure. This would make perfect fodder for a Dilbert comic featuring Tina the Tech Writer. "You can't be serious." "No, the lawyers say this covers our butts."
Speaking of tech writers, there's been a furious discussion going on on TECHWR-L. It started innocently enough about the possible parallels of figure skating judging to technical communication judging (talking about technical vs artistic scores), and wound up being a flame fest about the importance of content compared to design...with just a little bit of signal and a whole lot of noise. IMO, some of the signal came from Michael Shea and Eric Dunn. Sigh, the truth is obviously in the middle ground. Both accuracy and presentation are important, but I guess that's no fun, huh?
Meanwhile, over in the IA world, there's been a far less heated conversation between fans of the new AIfIA (like me) and those in the IT and design communities who are wondering what the fuss is all about. One of the interesting comments is from Rory Ewins, who distilled AIfIA's 25 theses into 10...saving about 500 words in the process:
Ah, does a tech writer's heart good :). Thanks to Peter for the pointer.
November 4, 2002
Refuge from the sea
The new IA org, Asilomar Institute for Information Architecture has had its formal launch. Is it just me, or is the acronym AIFIA a wee bit long? (Its peers are AIGA, CHI, ASIS, UPA and STC). The reason that's minimally important is that, at least for now when the org is new, it's not a no-brainer to just pull the website address out of the air (oy, it s*cks to get old). Well, nevermind, I've added it to IDblog's right nav area under groups, so I no longer have to remember it :).
According to the About AIfIA page on their site:
The word Asilomar is Spanish for "refuge from the sea"; it is our intention to provide a refuge from the sea of information chaos.
I'm guessing that this sea metaphor is meant to tie in to Richard Saul Wurman's tsunami of data, as RSW is generally acknowleged as the originator of the term "information architect."
I remain curious to see how RSW's IA (which has been heavily graphic design/presentation/print oriented) will mesh with this new IA, which AIfIA describes as the "structural design of shared information environments" and the "art and science of organizing and labeling web sites."
Here's a hint. I think there is still room for those interested in information design to make a contribution!
October 31, 2002
A new IA organization!
AIfIA is a non-profit volunteer organization that serves as a resource for organizations and individuals seeking to learn more about information architecture and its benefits, and assists information architects who wish to promote the field. Information architecture, the art and science of structuring and classifying information on web sites and intranets, is a growing field that is becoming increasingly important in the modern information age.
Well, for $60 for two years, just call me a charter member.
October 24, 2002
Interview with Lou and Peter
Yikes...four days since the last entry. Busy with school work I guess. But since I'm sitting here glued to CNN (hint, I'm a metro DC resident), I thought I'd at least point folks to this interview with Lou and Peter over one John Rhodes' WebWord. As the parents of the IA bible (also known as the polar bear book), Lou and Peter are the accepted authorities on the subject!
October 18, 2002
Happy birthday, IAwiki
Wikis seem to be an acquired taste, but IMO, this one has really hit the mark. Congrats to Eric Scheid, who has nurtured it from the start.
September 29, 2002
Goodies from Lou!
In return for a very reasonable level of self-PR, Lou has made his presentations available on his website.
BTW, I went in search of a pithy Edward Tufte comment on Powerpoint, and instead found yet another example of why there is a future in information architecture. What a less-than-useful sort for that list of questions!
September 17, 2002
One of my pet projects is to keep up the IA conferences list on the IAwiki. This fabulous wiki, lovingly maintained by Eric Scheid, is now a year old. It's a great complement to the other major IA web activities. If you haven't been in a while, go take a peek. If you know about a conference or seminar that should be on the list, by all means please add it!
September 15, 2002
The importance of labels
Depending on the context (print or web), how we label things could be as much of a traditional ID task as it is an IA task. However, once you move over to full-blown web sites (particularly in the e-commerce world), this is really the strong suit of the information architect.
Consider my recent experience. As mentioned yesterday, my old boom box is not doing so well pulling in my regular radio station in my new inside office. So I'm now on the lookout for a radio that can. After doing sneakernet to both Radio Shack and Best Buy today, I decided to see what I could find on the Internet. After being less than successful at Sharper Image and Brookstone, I decided to surf buy.com.
Since the search "FM radio digital tuner" returned results in buy.com's categories of computers, software, and books (beside electronics), I decided to browse instead, and clicked on electronics in their pseudo-tab interface. I figured that the ideal candidate for a work radio would be a clock radio ... I didn't need an expensive boombox that would walk away from my office, nor did I need a Walkman-like portable. I wanted something with a decent digital tuner and amp that could pick up the desired station. Let me cut to the chase. Portable Audio was not my first choice, Home Audio was. Good thing I'm a patient surfer, for of course, clock radios are considered to be portable by the folks at buy.com. (Yes Virginia, I know they are portable ... but the only time my clock radio moves is when I pack up my entire apartment!). It seems to me that redundancy would be an asset here ... why not list clock radios under both home and portable audio? Alas, the real bummer is that even after I found the right category, I didn't find a suitable radio.
All of this is why Lou Rosenfeld and Peter Morville should do amazingly well with the 2nd edition of the Polar Bear book, Information Architecture for the World Wide Web. I've got my copy, and once I can devote some time to it, will share more soon. In the meantime, if you have more free time than me and think that Polar Bear IA is for you, then by all means, get yours and then use Peter's amazing syllabus as a tool for working thru the volume.
IDblog is Beth Mazur tilting at power law windmills. A little bit Internet, a little bit technology, a little bit society, and a lot about designing useful information products. Send your cards and letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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