jibbajabba's blog

SIGIA-L Search

Woohooo! Seems the SIGIA-L mail archive is now searchable! Thanks to whomever was involved to finally make that happen.

Yahoo! Advice or Google Answers?

InfoToday reports on Yahoo!'s new Yahoo! Advice service, which offers information services by email or phone. Unlike Google Answers, Yahoo!'s model allows its advisors to set fees and does not post answers to its site. The service, managed by LiveAdvice, the firm that handled LookSmart's now defunct information service LookSmart Live! operated under a model similar to Google's current service, but is using the email/phone model based on lessons learned from LookSmart Live!.

Interesting to see this move by Yahoo! in light of the OneStat.com statistics that show Google getting 46% of the search audience, putting Yahoo! second with 20%. Some related articles wondering if Yahoo! will be able to keep up: Why Yahoo Is No Longer Good [Traffick] and Is Yahoo! Losing the Plot? [The Guardian].

Thanks to Lucian for the related links.

A new weblog-related company

Nick Denton is working on a new weblogging venture that will attempt to turn the medium from cult phenomenon to mainstream media without corrupting the form. Apparently it has something to do with weblog indexing and may somehow be related to what Daypop and Blogdex do. His proposition:

    Weblogs are a compelling new form of journalism. Personal web publishing, without the cat pictures, done right this time. For the initiated reader, they are an indispensible part of the web, along with email and search. But for the broader online public, and for advertisers, weblogs are confusing, or simply invisible.

What we need is a slice of Blogdex that will only look at sites we specify -- sites focussing on IA -- and a Daypop that searches only those sites.

A definition of IA

In Martin White's article, "Information Architecture and Usability" appearing in the "Behind The Firewall" column of e Content magazine, the author discusses information architecture in 2 very short paragraphs. He offers his definition of IA and an opinion about implications of IA in intranets. Not too much to read here, so you can just look at this excerpt:

    To me, information architecture is the process of designing the access to information so that users can rely mainly on their intuition to navigate quickly and productively around the site. When you go through the front door of an office building you expect to find a reception area with company literature and helpful staff, rather than walking into a massive warehouse with products listed in a numerical sequence of code numbers. On the evidence of their Web sites, some publishers have very strange office layouts.
Quiver Taxonomy Whitepaper

Quiver, a vendor of taxonomy creation tool QKS Classifier, has released Taxonomy & Content Classification - Market Milestone Report, a white paper prepared for the company by Delphi. The paper explains how categorization software is being adopted and the various technologies available to organize information. Quiver's approach to categorization is also profiled in this white paper. Quiver white papers are vailable for free from the company site.

Instead of a Password, Well-Placed Clicks

The picture password project at Microsoft is interesting. The NY Times and the Register have picked up stories on the research. The system would allow users to click on areas of a detailed image instead of using text characters.

Hearing Text, Not Tunes, on Your MP3 Player

Cool article by David Pogue in the NY Times about software that converts text into speech and encodes as MP3. Pretty cool stuff for accessibility purposes and just for being able to hear dictated text on the go (like books on tape/cd). Maybe this will resurrect the e-book. Even cooler, maybe someone will write a program (hopefully in Perl or PHP) that will read/convert text on the fly for web pages (into mp3 or real audio). Does anyone already do that for regular web browsers? And I don't mean using a conventional screen reader.

B&A: Findability; Slate

Findability: Good Peter expounds upon his meme. Visvocab illustration 2: JJG diagrams the IA of a daily news site.

    The age of findability, by Peter Morville
    It doesnít replace information architecture. And itís really not a school or brand of information architecture. Findability is about recognizing that we live in a multi-dimensional world, and deciding to explore new facets that cut across traditional boundaries.

    Slate: calculated refinement or simple inertia, by Jesse James Garrett
    From an information architecture perspective, a daily web publication presents challenges and possibilities no newspaper editor ever had to face. As one of the longest-running daily publications on the web, Slate has dealt with these issues for years.

The London Underground: A metaphor for explaining IA

I've been meaning to read Jason Hobbs' description of what IA's do using the analogy of the design of wayfinding maps and signage for the London Underground. His nine photo examples are where the metaphor comes to life. Jason draws examples from the design system employed throughout the Underground to illustrate how information architecture should be similarly interested in using design and structure to help users in their journey through information space. Great stuff.

Trial versions of Macromedia MX applications

MX versions of Dreamweaver, Flash, Fireworks, and ColdFusion trial versions are available now. (Huge file warning. Dreamweaver for Mac was 67 MB.) I don't use WYSIWYG editors really, but was very pleased with the Dreamweaver Mac demo. The interface seems much improved over the versions I've tried in the past.

UCD for different project types

IBM Developer Works distills user centered design to its most essential activities in this 2 part series.

Thanks, Thomas

Usability for Senior Citizens

New Useit Alertbox.

    The Internet enriches many seniors' lives, but most websites violate usability guidelines, making the sites difficult for seniors to use. Current websites are twice as hard to use for seniors than for non-seniors.
OmniGraffle experiments -- now with added Google flavor

James Spahr continues his OmniGraffle/AppleScript experiments using the Google API. Very neat stuff.

xblog's pesonas/scenarios resources

xblog has a lengthy compilation of resources on Personas and Scenarios.

Macromedia strategy moves to web services model

The NY Times article, "Macromedia Lays Out Strategy for More Uses for Flash Player", briefly talks about Macromedia's strategy for MX, which I'm only now starting to get. Apparently, they want to ship an MX suite (Dreamweaver, Flash, and server software), that will allow developers to create web applications that pull data from the server, rather than creating static Flash files. Not entirely sure how this differs from using Generator and what the web services model really means in MX, but am interested in seeing how this pans out. Maybe someone will enlighten me with a diagram some day.

New York Times adds email alerting on topics

The New York Times started offering a topic alerting by email service (aka special delivery of information [SDI]) called the "Times News Tracker" to registered users. A tutorial is available. Each story will show index terms that you can use to set up an alert. You can also set up alerts based on free-text searches done in the body, headline or byline of stories.

Thanks, kika

Interview with Vincent Flanders

SitePoint interviewed Vincent Flanders, creator of Web Pages that Suck to find out who this "self-proclaimed 'marketing weasel who likes shiny things'" is and what he knows about web site usability.

A: nothing

Editorial style

I am looking at "Grammar, Punctuation, and Capitalization, A Handbook for Technical Writers and Editors", published by NASA. It's like a Strunk & White Elements of Style for technical writers. (The 1918 publication of Elements of Style is available at Bartleby) Wondering what other guides people follow if they don't have a content/editorial person in their group.

For citing references, I've used the Chicago Manual of Style in the past, although I don't own a copy now, and APA style for research writing.

S R Ranganathan life history

The Indian Statistical Institute, Documentation Research & Training Centre has a nice Tribute to Prof. S R Ranganathan with an extensive telling of his life history, including a list and descriptions of his contributions to library and information science, his publications, honors, and positions held.

Grids

When I was a site developer at Sapient (for a short time), I worked with a graphic designer who designed a music site based on the grid, which heavily influenced me. I began looking at magazines, catalogs, and sites like wallpaper* and one. I'm reading a book on grids at the moment, and today I found a list of links on graphic design grids on about.com that I'm surfing.

Grids, I am learning, can do a lot to help save time and money by providing a modular framework for design. The grid allows one to set up a system for laying out content in a predictable way, and apparently when done in certain ways can mirror proportions found in nature (e.g. Le Corbusier's Modulor, an application of the Golden Section).

For the past couple of years I've kept trying to base a lot of the design aspects of my work on grids, setting up templating systems that use content modules to drop blocks/elements of the UI or of actual content into the page. I'm sure many IA's must work with the same concept. I'm really interested in hearing how people arrive at systems of UI design. Although in most agencies/consultancies, the design is supposed to rest in the hands of the designer not the IA, when we wireframe, we're making decisions about content placement (text and graphics) that can have a lot of implications for the designer. Do you base layout on a design concept arrived at before you wireframe? Do you wireframe and throw it over the wall to the designer to manipulate as she pleases? Just curious.*

*The selfish objective of this blog (for me anyway) is to learn something.

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