i heart ia

I feel so creatively unchallenged at times that I am compelled to go create something, even if it's really damned cheesy.

i heart iaSo I give you this bit of cheese for a Friday afternoon. Maybe it would make an interesting t-shirt?

The radial diagram was made with James' OmniGraffle script.

Court: Disability law doesn't apply to Web

Anitra Pavka pointed to the follow up article in ComputerWorld on the SouthWest Airlines web site accessiblity case. This is the case that tries to argue that web sites should fall under the aegis of ADA laws. Courts rejected the suit and the plaintiffs plan to appeal. The usual quotes from PR spinners and experts are interesting.

The statement below is most likely true, companies have not focussed on accesiblity. Planning for accessiblity is just cost-effective.

    [B]uilding in accessibility during a Web site's design costs only a quarter of the amount needed to retrofit a site later, said Jennifer Vollmer, a research analyst at Meta Group Inc. Accessibility ... has not just been a priority for companies."
Anitra weighs in on Gerry Santoro's contention that,

    "In general, programmers write for themselves" and are interested in only designing a system that works. "The same is true of Web designers; they tend to design for themselves".
Election UI

webgraphics is discussing the touchscreen interface used in the Georgia elections this week. The UI is simulated on the Georgia site for your clicking pleasure (or pain). James found a related on article on Wired, High-Tech Voting Gets Thumbs Up.

Music Information Retrieval

Anyone interested in music information retrieval? If yes, here's a relevant conference proceeding:

    The proceedings (a book of 327 pages) and tutorial handouts of the ISMIR 2002 3rd International conference on Music Information Retrieval, which was organized by the IRCAM Multimedia Library, can now be ordered online (PDF)
Information Architecture: From Craft to Profession

An excerpt from the first chapter of Earl Morrogh's text book Information Architecture: An Emerging 21st Century Profession appears on B&A in the article, Information Architecture: From Craft to Profession.

I liked his succint definition of IA.

    Information architecture is primarily about the design of information environments and the management of an information environment design process.
Morrogh is a professor at Florida State, Information Studies. The book he has writtin presents IA in an historical context and uses the history of architecture to illustrate the growth of our profession. He discusses the appropriateness of the architecture analogy and how the tradition of craftsmanship may be fitting at some level. However, he adds, our movement away from narrow specialization and towards profession reflects a greater need for a broader scope of knowledge. Based on the table of contents, this looks like an excellent read. Most of the book focusses on the development of information and communication technology innovations, with the final part devoted to the development of our profession. It's nice to see a few books that consider how IA fits into the grand scheme of things.

I've been neglecting the main sources for IA info lately. Thanks, Lou, for reminding me to look. :)

Ontology Building: A Survey of Editing Tools

This article on ontology tools appeared on

    Ontologies, structured depictions or models of known facts, are being built today to make a number of applications more capable of handling complex and disparate information. Michael Denny surveys the tools available for creating and editing ontologies...
A few NYC IA's I know are very interested in ontologies and the semantic web. I've personally kept my reading to a minimum, waiting to be on the middle end of the curve, when applications hit critical mass. It's interesting, because the brother of a friend of mine works with T. Berners Lee on this stuff so I've been hearing a lot about the developer discussions. People involved with these discussions apparently spend a lot of time on philosophical issues and poring over minutiae, which has made development slow, apparently. I guess when you propose something as big as this, you can't expect it to happen overnight. :)

Slablets and hiptops

Adam pointed to this page showing a bunch of photos of the slablet. The tablet, now a hybrid tablet/laptop thing looks a little bit on the bulky side.

On the slightly less bulky side of the new hardware offerings this season is the hiptop, which I got to check out when I met with Mike Lee yesterday. The thing has me drooling with gearlust. It looks like a nicely designed mobile device. Nice form factor. A few simple buttons and a nice jog wheel. The web surfing and IM experience seems to be done right. When a color version is available, I may seriously consider getting one. There is a good review of the hiptop on kuro5hin.

The iceberg diagram

Peter Morville's iceberg diagram -- a model for IA -- on Peterme.

Right column is going away

Some changes.

I have been a little annoyed with how long it takes for the right column to build -- it requires a hit to the DB each time. I surfaced the pings and news feeds in that column because I look at them a lot and wanted people to be able to find them. But, now since you know where they are -- they're aptly labeled Pings and News Feeds in global nav -- you can always find them up there. You can get those blocks (news feeds, pings, subjects) back on the front page in the left if you change your customization options.

B&N browser: Browsing book facets

I blogged the newish B&N book browser earlier today. Can't remember what I said about it. Mainly that it reminds me of Flamenco and FacetMap, I think. Perhaps I said something about facet classification being surfaced on the UIs of big ecommerce sites or some stuff.

B&N Book Browser: Browsing facets that descibe books

I just looked at Barnes & Noble's Book Browser feature, which offers a way to browse books by subject and type of literature. The browser start page shows headings categorized under the different major sections you might find in the book store -- Fiction, Non-Fiction, Business. Each major section has subsections that closely match what I've seen in B&Stores.

I've read in a few places that people don't think that there have been good implementations employing the concepts of Ranganathan. I don't agree with that. This is an example of how the business world is employing the concept of categories for browsing and refining. Are these facets? In a broad sense of the word, yes. Like the Flamenco interface, the Book Browser allows you to see terms surfaced from several facets and then iteratively select terms or drill down until a string is formed that describes the information you find.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0

The W3C has just released draft version 2.0 of their Content Accessibility Guidelines.

Thanks, Column Two: KM/CM blog

Holy humongous tab

Sweet, Jesus. What's with that enormous Amazon tab?

Matt H. pointed this out

The Asilomar Institute for Information Architecture

After about 7 1/2 months in the making, the Asilomar Institute for Information Architecture offcially launches today. The AIfIA was formed as a non-profit organization with the goals of advancing and promoting information architecture. For more information on why the AIfIA was started and what the AIfIA will be doing, please check out the site or view the press release. Lou gives a little background on the name:

    Asilomar is a conference center near Monterey, California; an incredibly stunning (and reasonably priced) place for a weekend retreat to hash over what it means for information architects to organize. And yes, we're calling it an institute rather than a society or association; "institute" seems to carry less baggage.
The phrase "asilo mar" also means something like "refuge by the sea" in Spanish. The conference center was orginally formed as a women's retreat center in a peaceful spot on the Pacific coast -- a place to take refuge by the sea. As we went over the details about why we need to organize our efforts to bring awareness to the value of IA and to promote IA for practitioners, it became obvious that the venue for our first discussions in Asilomar was appropriate. IA offers refuge from the sea of information chaos to bring order and balance, to promote sense making and information use. If you believe this to be true and are interested in getting on board, please get involved if you can.

Context-Aware Computing: The Return of Ranganathan?

Peterme, musing on how we'll make sense of information offered in context-aware mobile devices, discusses facet-based description as a solution. I logged some thoughts of my own on his site because he makes sense to me.

    Our devices will know where we are, and be able to augment our experience in that area in various ways--the ability to write and read notes that others have placed; read the history of the spot you're standing on; find out about any activities of interest occurring nearby, etc. etc. ... I can pretty much guarantee that frustration will be the norm if we develop context-aware computing in the same fashion as we have most of our information-rich internet technologies.
I'm glad there's a Peterme RSS feed now. It's aggregated here. Now we just need a blackbeltjones feed.

Open Source Software and Libraries Bibliography

Interesting to me and maybe to other library types who read this.

    This bibliography has been compiled by Brenda Chawner, School of Information Management, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, as part of her Ph.D. studies. This is the first version, and it includes announcements, journal articles, and web documents that are about open source software development in libraries. It also includes articles that describe specific open source applications used in libraries.
Content, KM tools collaborate

Article in InfoWorld about vendor efforts to capture content at point of creation.

    In an effort to strengthen control over collaborative content inside enterprises, content and knowledge management tools are fortifying integration with e-mail and business applications to capture content at its point of creation.
Map of 12,647 WiFi access points in Manhattan

Julian found this info graphic showing 12,647 WiFi access points in Manhattan. The data was compiled by wardriving every street! Pretty cool. Indicates access points with red dots. Occurence of access points is dense where you might expect -- commercial areas and middle to high income residential areas.

Note that this includes private, secured, private unsecured, commercial open and public open points. It was compiled by the Public Internet Project. Also cool is the WiFi access finder on nycwireless.

Controlled Vocabularies in the Trenches

Victor jots down some thoughts about creating controlled vocabularies within the context of the design of a project he's working on. He discusses some real considerations and dependencies related to the development of a controlled vocabulary and implications for systems design. Here's some of my own thoughts/reactions, based on experience.

I've watched the controlled vocabularies of subject headings and company information grow within my organization (a corporate library services org.) over the last four years. The approach we've taken is sort of like a web services model or much like a vendor service, such as those where data aggregators provide indexed content with their own proprietary controlled vocabulary (e.g. Factiva). This seems to me to be a good model because it centralizes semantic tagging and creation of indexing terms in one place, while enterprise use at different levels of granularity. When following this model, you're still confronted with the issues of knowledge representation when developing your terminology, but the system considerations are separated. The design of IR systems using indexes benefit from documenting scope, domain, documentary units, indexable matter, etc. prior to implementation. I have this great unpublished text by Jim Anderson that serves as a framework for such documentation.

Here's a short description of our approach, which has been top down and bottom up. Our people created our CVs starting with close relationships with business units to develop a set of subject headings and a company authority list. They iterated through these lists using the top down approach, informing the list with their subject area expertise. Then they take the bottom-up approach and add/modify terms that reflect subject headings identified while doing the daily work of indexing (knowledge representation). For my org., this is a daily process since a team of indexers sifts through machine filtered data and applies more granular indexing or alters machine-applied terms. As the telecom landscape changes or as our indexing needs require, terms are added to the vocab's. We have one person who manages/develops them, and a few additonal subject area experts who work on development of new terms in new subject areas. User feedback informs changes along the way. The controlled vocabularies are offered up for use by disparate systems within our company to represent that corpus of indexed data, or slices of it, as desired.

As an IA, I generally work with our taxonomy specialists to create page inventories -- sort of like microscopic content inventories on steroids -- that specify combinations of index terms used to build content modules. As an example, I show a small piece of one of these inventories on my old and dated portfolio. This use of the term content inventory is not typical in our field, I know. What this really is, is a design document showing such things as rubrics of content modules with their associated labels, and database searches that use terms from a controlled vocabulary. Maybe I should present something on this process some day. It's really a hybrid IA and technical document, but it's a format my entire team uses on all data-dense sections of our site.

Incidentally, the taxonomy guys I'm talking about are presenting on this topic at an ARK seminar in NYC in November in case you're interested. They're really smart. Hopefully they will get to network a bit at this thing, because everyone in our group could get pink slips if the cost-cutting winds decide to blow in our direction.

Wireframing on Clickz

Bryan Eisenberg (of FutureNow and GrokDotCom) has a good article in today's edition of ClickZ called Framing the Problem. It's a good, simple introduction to the “why wireframe?” question, and considering ClickZ's audience (marketers, advertisers), it's good to see IA mentioned there, though not explicitly.

At the end, Bryan adds in an Einstein quote (“If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it.”), which reminded me a lot of a similar discussion of wireframes and other deliverables — John Zapolski's Zen and the Art of Deliverables (PDF) presentation at the 2002 IA Summit. To paraphrase John's comments, if someone asks you how long it takes to make a sitemap, tell them it takes five days, even if actually takes two hours. The four and a half days you spend thinking about the information architecture problems make it possible for you to create the sitemap in two hours.

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