Computer Networks

Today I am going to get to grips with Netowrks, and to make sure that I've learned everything that I was supposed to, I'll write a summary of the chapters I read in books as I go along, starting with A.S Tanenbaum, Computer Networks.

How to Make a Faceted Classification and Put It On the Web

William Denton has released a well written paper on faceted classification for the web, created for the Faculty of Information Studies at the University of Toronto. Here's a bit about what you might expect to learn:

This paper will attempt to bridge the gap by giving procedures and advice on all the steps involved in making a faceted classification and putting it on the web. Web people will benefit by having a rigorous seven-step process to follow for creating faceted classifications, and librarians will benefit by understanding how to store such a classification on a computer and make it available on the web. The paper is meant for both webmasters and information architects who do not know a lot about library and information science, and librarians who do not know a lot about building databases and web sites. The classifications are meant for small or medium-sized sets of things, meant to go on public or private web sites, when there is a need to organize items for which no existing classification will do.


A new challenge at a new university. I'd better keep up that resolution of documenting everything accurately, so here is week 1 of my PhD Blog.

This week has been one of those annoying setting up weeks where I have drowned in paperwork and said 'hello' to a whole buch of people. None of which I can remember names for.

My PhD is going to be about the integration of Danger Theory ( a novel immunological concept ) into something useful for the improvement of network intrusion detection. The two people I am working with on this project (immediately) are Jamie Twycross and Uwe Aickelin (supervisor). We are working on this project as part of an EPSRC Adventure Fund Project, in collaboration with several other people at UCL (Peter Bentley and Jung Won Kim), Immunologists based at UWE (Bristol) and HPLabs, Bristol. Should be fun.

For starters I have read through a fair volume of papers relevant to the immunology theory (mostly provided by Polly Matzinger) and more specifically I am currently examining the potential role of dendritic cells in the process of planned and unplanned cell death. Next weeks work entials getting to grips with Networking and Network Security and the associated issues.

Social Circles: Mailing list social visualization

On Rhizome, Marcos Weskamp points to "Social Circles" (requires Flash), a mailing list social visualization tool. Not sure if it's art or a serious attempt at creating visualization software, but the product is interesting. It interacts with mailing list archives, plotting messages as they happen by linking people to threads and showing, I think, either frequency of referrals to a user's original postings or frequency of postings by that user by enlarging the size of that user's representation on the diagram. Use the drop down menu in the upper left corner to pick a different list -- Flashcoders seems to be pretty active. Then press the "Play" button to watch the recent posts get plotted. Would be nice to see better filtering options in this application, e.g. ability to focus on related nodes either by thread or by starting with specific users, linking to/viewing messages. It's hard to understand the context of the relationships here. The "Display object" function shows subject headings, but the text is illegible when superimposed on over other nodes. Interesting nonetheless.

User Experience Books from 2003

Every year there are more user experience books than I have time to read. This list includes both books I've read, and books I hope to. If I missed a book (published in 2003) that you think I should include, drop a line in the comments and I'll add it.

  • Universal Principles of Design

    Condensed design wisdom for capital 'D' Design. Outstanding.

  • Funology: From Usability to Enjoyment (pricy)

    Seminal collection of HCI/Engagement thinking. The academic reference for peeps who want more than "good experience needs to be engaging" platitudes.

  • Emotional Design

    In May 2002, Don Norman posted to CHI-WEB looking for beautiful and usable designs. A year and half later, this book brings together his thinking about the importance of emotion in design. Destined to be a classic, and hopefully help drag the old skool "ugly boxes everywhere - but it works" HCI crowd into the 21st century.

  • Information Architecture for Designers

    I like Peter's book. It's visual in a way that other IA books aren't, and that connects to a certain crowd in a way that another chapter on facets just won't. Recommended for quick illustrations of IA to others.

  • About Face 2.0: The Essentials of Interaction Design

    Alan Cooper enlisted Robert Reimann's help with this sequel. It's a good overview of Cooper's process, but leaves out a lot of detail that I wished was there, particularly about persona creation. Still very useful as an introduction to interaction design, and a reference for particular situations. Most of the examples focus on application development. If you've read About Face 1.0, you'll find some repetition, but there's enough new material, and updated past material to make it worth the money.

  • Paper Prototyping

    Carolyn Snyder takes her years of experience with paper prototyping, and makes them available here. Very cool. I'm still not convinced that the effort to make complicated paper widgets to simulate interaction is worth it for most web sites. Where paper prototyping rocks is in managing expectations - seeing polished mockups or even clickable wireframes can give the illusion that the project is farther along than it is. If you deal with people thinking the project is ready to launch after seeing a design comp, paper prototyping is just the ticket.

  • Observing the User Experience

    Adaptive Path's Mike Kuniavsky brings together a lot of thinking on user research, with a lot of attention to usability testing, rounded out with other common techniques, from focus groups to ethnography. Solid how-to advice can provide a platform for actually going out and actually studying users.

  • Design Research : Methods and Perspectives

    Brenda Laurel brings together a stellar cast to cover a wide range of design research methods and issues. With any edited volume, the quality varies with each chapter - but overall it's very very good.

  • Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do

    This book is important. Credibility and persuasion are going to become increasingly recognized issues in developing interactive products, and user experience people will be on the front lines of the debate.

Forrester on design personas

Forrester's market report, "The Power Of Design Personas", helps businesses understand the use and potential for integrating personas in software/technology development. To quote the report:

Though increasingly popular, personas remain widely misunderstood. Successful efforts key off of actual user behaviors, read like a story about a real person, and get used by everyone.

Market research plays a big role in communicating important processes and methodologies to business users. In my organization, market reports are among the most used information assets we serve. Seeing UX issues arise in market research literature is a good thing for our disciplines.

Process flow meets the London Underground

Harry Beck's 1933 London Underground map is an info design classic (thanks Erin). Martin Kay has used the tube map's visual language for flow diagrams. The results are luscious and engaging in a way that vanilla boxes and arrows can't rival. More than just sample deliverables, Martin offers a short explanation, a 7 page guide on creating your own, and a PowerPoint template of map components. (thanks pencil & paper)

Of course, with any deliverable, there's usually the tradeoff between making it quickly and making it pretty. For the most part, I prefer fast diagrams over pretty. That works great for internal team communication, or for clients who are directly engaged in the process as team members. Reserve the effort of pretty deliverables for final versions or other things that need to do a sales job within the organization. The selling power of a large format color diagram shouldn't be overlooked, even if the pencil sketch version tells the same story.

Christina Wodtke on building common vision

Building a Vision of Design Success - A common view of vision is that it's something handed down by a leader to the troops. When a redesign goes awry, the troops complain, “There was no vision.” But the problem goes deeper than either scenario; the problem is that there was no shared vision. [Boxes and Arrows]

Revisiting the Visual Vocabulary

The Visual Vocabulary Three Years Later: An Interview with Jesse James Garrett - In October 2000, Jesse James Garrett introduced a site architecture documentation standard called the Visual Vocabulary. Since then, it has become widely adopted among information architects and user experience professionals. B&A chats with Jesse about the vocabulary and thoughts on IA standards and tools. [Boxes and Arrows]


Widgetopia - Over time, Christina has pulled together a heap o' widgets... interesting... a blog being used as a notebook... ...

link [Other Blog (Tom Smith)]

Explicitly creating copyright free networks

Copyright Doesn't Cover This Site - As debate over the legality of online file trading rages on, a University of Maine department takes a contrarian approach to copyright protection, creating a network where content is open to all. By Michelle Delio. [Wired]

I wonder how wireless, ad hoc networks would negotiate similar issues.

PowerPoint Makes You Dumb

The New York Times enters into the Tufte-Byrne War, not surprisingly on Tufte's side by way of Clive Thompson's article "PowerPoint Makes You Dumb."

This year, Edward Tufte -- the famous theorist of information presentation -- made precisely that argument in a blistering screed called The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint. In his slim 28-page pamphlet, Tufte claimed that Microsoft's ubiquitous software forces people to mutilate data beyond comprehension. For example, the low resolution of a PowerPoint slide means that it usually contains only about 40 words, or barely eight seconds of reading. PowerPoint also encourages users to rely on bulleted lists, a ''faux analytical'' technique, Tufte wrote, that dodges the speaker's responsibility to tie his information together. And perhaps worst of all is how PowerPoint renders charts. Charts in newspapers like The Wall Street Journal contain up to 120 elements on average, allowing readers to compare large groupings of data. But, as Tufte found, PowerPoint users typically produce charts with only 12 elements. Ultimately, Tufte concluded, PowerPoint is infused with ''an attitude of commercialism that turns everything into a sales pitch."

visual communities are difficult to work on, there is no simple web community to work on

i have studied some visual communities but unitl now i have not found a web community with simle interface every on I have searched including this one you need to read and try again and again untill you can work things out in my resaerch these communities are supposed tp be as easy as possile so there are NO NEED FOR A" HELP" LINK ON THE WEBSITE, but on the other hand i do not deny the search in these communities is good except when the user posts a comment or a question it is really difficult for the user when comes back to see the response to find it
anyone who wants to comment on that?????

Boxes and Arrows for November 25, 2003

Yet another great new issue of Boxes and Arrows is out. This time we get a Summary of the 2003 Dublin Core Conference from Madonnalisa Gonzales-Chan and Sarah Rice. Next we have John Zapolski and Jared Braiterman telling us about Designing Customer-Centered Organizations and lastly Alex Kirtland writes about Executive Dashboards.

K-Collector v. 1.0

evectors announces k-collector version 1.0, an RSS aggregator aimed at the enterprise market. If you haven't seen k-collector in action, it's worth checking out. The aggregator organizes weblog entries on four dimensions: what (subject/topic), who (as subject or author), where (events, geographic location) and when (date of publication). More about k-collector from their "About" page:

k-collector is an enterprise news aggregator that leverages the power of shared topics to present new ways of finding and combining the real knowledge in your organisation.

Weblogs are most commonly published by individuals and organised chronologically. This presents a challenge when considering weblogging in the context of business groups which might expect information to be organised in more meaningful categories. The k-collector architecture, and applications based upon it, deliver an interface targetted at business users.

The k-collector archicture combines clients for leading weblogging software with a server based aggregator and web application. WWWW is the first such application and is aimed at small business groups.

An author can associate posts with relevant topics such as project names, people, etc.. The server automatically shares each newly created topic with every other user allowing them to use those topics themselves. News topics are created in one of four intuitive categories: Who, What, When, and Where. The server then uses these categories and topics to provide an effective interface for navigating posts.

iaslash password re-set requirement

The updated the Drupal system running is now using a different form of password encryption which will require a one time change from registered users. You will only have to do this once for the lifetime of your account. If you faked or removed your email address you will not be able to retrieve a temporary password. In these cases, you will need to create a new account or contact us to re-establish your account with a valid email address. We're sorry for the inconvenience.

Here's what to do to re-set your password:

1) Go to:
2) Enter either a) your username or email address.
3) Retrieve the temporary system-generated password from your email address.
4) Return to and enter your username and temporary password.
5) You can now modify your password to one of your choosing by accessing "Edit user information" link at

Thank you. If you encounter problems or have questions, please contact me.

iaslash is back

After a few weeks of struggling to get our domain released from a very bad registrar, iaslash is finally back up again. We’re now being hosted by ibiblio. Thank you ibiblio! We are also running the current version of Drupal (4.3.0). A few announcements regarding the Drupal upgrade:

  • Email alerts are suspended temporarily. Drupal is still re-coding this module. Sorry.
  • The XML feed has a new URL: Please change your readers/aggregators accordingly.
  • URL format for entries have been changed to be more search engine friendly. Old URLs that looked like now look like

If you need further assistance, feel free to contact us.

The Promise and Pitfalls of Social Networking

While I'm not the most well read on the topic of social networking applications, I agree with Stowe Boyd's assessment in Darwin Magazine of social networking software and it's viability in business applications. While investment capital continues to be thrown into commercial services that provide social networking, he believes that the real movers will be those that make the social network visualization and analysis happen for business users "here" inside the applications they find themselves in all the time, rather than requiring users to go view their social network in an external enviroment like a web site.

About Web Critica

New usability shop in town.

About Web Critica

"We've been designing and critiquing computer-based interfaces since before there was a World Wide Web. We've designed interactive kiosks, exhibits, CD-ROM's, and, of course, a lot of websites. We understand what users want and what they need so they can successfully interact with websites. We design information systems, but we're more than just information architects, we're also users who love the Web and its range of expressions. Unlike many of our competitors, we're not trying to sell you our design services -- we don't offer any. Our goal is to honestly and thoroughly examine, evaluate, and offer recommendations so you can improve your site."

There's a nice top ten usability tips list on the site which is also available in .PDF format.

New Interaction Design Site, Symposium

Molly Steenson has put up a new site at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea. The Interaction Design HUB offers categorized links and a blog. Excellent collection, and it will be good to hear more on the web from Ivrea folks.

Also of note - HUB launched as part of the Symposium On Foundations of Interaction Design, a small invite only conference with luminaries like Tom Erickson and Don Norman that runs Nov 12-13. Fortunately for us, there's a live video feed [Windows Media] (though the Italian timezone means you'll have to wake up early on the west side of the Atlantic). Papers will be linked up later.

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