jibbajabba's blog

Digital library usage and usability

This might interest people who work in/with digital libraries.

The Digital Library Federation (DLF) undertook a survey of its members from November 2000 to February 2001. The study, "Usage and Usability Assessment: Library Practices and Concerns" by Denise Troll Covey surveys the methods being deployed at leading digital libraries to assess the use and usability of their online collections and services. Covey conducted interviews with library professionals who are engaged in assessment.

The report describes the methodologies used by libraries to assess usage and usabilty, including: Surveys (Questionnaires), Focus Groups, User Protocols, Discount Usability Research Methods, and Transaction Log Analysis. The report includes an extensive bibliography on more detailed methodological information.

Interview with Samantha Bailey; Automating Visio

2 new articles on B&A, one by yours, truly.

Unraveling the mysteries of metadata and taxonomies, by Christina Wodtke

    Recently Boxes and Arrows caught up with Samantha Bailey, formerly at Argus and current lead IA for Wachovia Corporation's Wachovia.com website. She talks about the transition from being a consultant to an "innie" IA, unravels the mysteries of metadata and taxonomies and shares her vision of the future of IA.

Automating diagrams with Visio, by Michael Angeles

    By doing the demanding intellectual work first and then forcing the tools to succumb to need to produce seemingly speedy deliverables, you can get around the difficulty of choosing between "Good, Fast and Cheap." Here's one approach using Excel and Visio.
A unified theory of software evolution

Matt Jones pointed to this Salon article about software evolution. In it, the idea of a theory of software evolution is discussed -- a theory that would allow computer scientists to figure out how to control feedback loops in a development life cycle in order to "stave off crippling over-complexity for longer periods of time".

I find the article fascinating because one of the issues with evolutionary design that Frederick Brooks points out is that "the entropy of a system increases with time unless specific work is executed to maintain or reduce it." At the core of evolutionary design is the drive to update software in pieces over time, which means a good deal of maintenance of code. As pieces and patches are added, they affect other aspects of the application down the line. CS folks are part of a young field that is looking for a theory that will provide them some predictable cues to look for in order to control software entropy.

This fascinates me. CS people are trying to apply hard science to reduce data about the software development cycle to a theory that controls break down due to over-complication or over-growth. Science is fascinating. The work we deal with as managers of information is so soft, so fuzzy. We rely on best practices to develop content delivery strategies that will hopefully scale, and that will undoubtedly require maintenance. I like Meir Lehman's software laws. Where are our rules of information management or organization? Can anyone point to any overarching hypotheses of information management/provision with a set of laws. I would like to see that one day. Or is the stuff we do too soft to apply any science to?

Interface design bad practices

In Anti-Simplification - How to Make Life Harder for Users, SAP Design Guild shows some examples of unnecessarily complicated, careless, and incomplete designs in order to illustrate the kind of mistakes to avoid in UI design.

Thanks, CrocoLyle


Teoma comes out of beta to offer a different kind of search using what they call "Subject-Specific Popularity", which ranks a site based on the number of same-subject pages that reference it rather than on general popularity alone to determine authority. InfoToday covers the release, with a quote from Lou Rosenfeld, who discusses the value of clustered search results.

Taxonomy's Role in Content Management

Good article in eContent discussing the role of taxonomies for classifying content in a CMS. Defines taxonomies in the context of CMS, describes the current offerings, offers caveats, and presents 2 case studies.

Interesting observations about what makes a good taxonomy:

    A good taxonomy, according to Weinstein, is one in which content is distributed evenly across the classification scheme. "The depth of the taxonomy should be relatively uniform," he said. When some categories have too much or too little information, "it usually means that the people didn't understand the nature of the content they were classifying, or they believe that they had more or less than they actually did."

    A good taxonomy also is one in which "everything has a place and only one place." Weinstein says. "The sum total of the taxonomy is mutually exclusive of all of the content, and it's collectively exhaustive as well." Also, "the terms used in the taxonomy should be native terms to the user community. They have to be terms that the users will understand instantly, intuitively, and clearly."

Goes on to talk about the short-sightedness of many corporations of not seeing the obvious pool of resources in the corporate library staff that could support classification functions in the CMS. This is all too true.

    "No matter what taxonomy product you look at, it's not going to be a turnkey solution," cautions Rasmus at Giga. "Most of the systems, when you do automatic taxonomy generation, there still is quite a bit of manual effort involved to go back and change the names. The systems just come up with what they think a concept should be called. It's a machine name. It may be just a string of characters that are put together. So you have to go back and give it a real name that means something in the context of your business."

    Exacerbating that problem is the fact that "a lot of organizations have dropped off the corporate librarians and other people who have the skills for organizing content. I recommend to companies that they keep their librarians, and they may want to hire knowledge engineers even if they're using automated tools because the tools are really black boxes you throw content in. You read a document and put it into a training algorithm and say, 'Now every time I throw content at you, classify any documents that are like this one in this category.'

Enterprise information portal vendors

Computer Weekly put together a nice list of the EIP vendors and the system requirements and features for each package.

OmniGraffle wireframe palette

I updated my wireframe palette for OmniGraffle. Now includes an x'd out box, label boxes, and a horizontal rule.

Omnigraffle 2.0

Omni Group announced that OmniGraffle 2.0 was released with a free upgrade for licensed 1.x users. This is the version that ships with JJG's visvocab.

Search technology advances

Fedral Computer Week talks with Verity and Inktomi about advances in search technology that are aiming to provide better results for corporate portals and intranets. The main areas of development these days are in personalization/social networks (relying on social profiling), federated search (across networks and databases) and possibly peer-to-peer search.

Mental maps of information

Do you have mental maps? In the InfoToday, Searcher article, "Mapping the Information Landscape", Marylaine Block tells you why information maps are important, using her mental maps of a library collection as a guide to help you design or expand yours.

    They're kind of like those anatomy illustrations in an encyclopedia, with multiple see-through plastic overlays that one can superimpose on the outline of the human form. Which map we use will be determined by the kind of questions we're answering.

    Why is it worth identifying our mental maps and thinking about them? To remind ourselves when we get bogged down in a question, that we can reorient ourselves to a different map and a different strategy for finding answers.

More of Marylaine's maps on her site.

Ten Tips for Deploying A Successful Virtual Assistant

eGain, an e-services software provider, provides tips for rolling out virtual assistants, the software-based assistants that are meant to replace call centers and help desks.

Design versus IA

Some Christinas pointed to the article, Reduced to a look and a feel by Paul Brooks in FT.com. EM reminds us of the related us versus them article that appeared in CommArts last December. Check the Elegant Hack entry for EM and a suspicious monkeyman's great comments on the articles.

Companies' plans for content management systems in 2002

A new Forrester Brief (subscription required) surveys 874 senior executives at North American companies about their IT plans. When asked if considering purchaing a CMS this year, 34% of respondents said yes. Their choices?Interwoven topped the list at 28%, Vignette, Documentum and Microsoft made up the middle at around 14-15%, and IBM and Broadvision took the bottom around 8-9%. Is surprising to see IBM and Microsoft on those lists, eclipsing Broadvision and probably gathering speed on the middle feeders.

Cooper Interaction Design Launches 'Cooper U' Training

Cooper is opening its proprietary methodology to product planning professionals according to this press release.

    Cooper Interaction Design, Silicon Valley's leading strategic design firm for software products and online services, today unveiled the "Cooper U Interaction Design Practicum," a training program based on the firm's Goal-Directed design methodology. Previously available only to corporate clients through Cooper's consulting services, the proprietary methodology has helped blue chip firms build world-class technology products and services. The news heralds the first time Cooper's industry leading techniques have been integrated into this specialized training for teams that create hardware, software and customized solutions connecting people with technology.
The secret of Google's success is revealed

It's not about algorithms at all. It's about smart fowl.

Zoomable User Interfaces

Benjamin B. Bederson's extensive reading list on the topic of Zoomable User Interfaces (ZUIs) includes summaries/analysis by students in this course at the University of Maryland.

Thanks, WebWord

Preparing printable pages

NuBlog writes about how you can prepare a better printable page. Offers some adivce for preparing the printable version of your web pages in terms of what to include and not include on the page, how (not) to style the page, and what additional information provide to help users identify where the page was printed from.

Thanks, crocolyle

Search tool crash and burn

Sigh. My little search tool experiment is feeling growing pains already. The search indexes grew to over 230MB and it seems I am klogging my server memory or something. I added a few more heavy sites that people requested and the URL database stopped building.

Anyway, I tried crawling SIGIA-L only and got "Rejected: URL not in the limits!" errors. I may have to work on this more before it's ready for use. Will keep you updated. I tried another perl-based search tool which also can't find the links on archive's index.php file. Ugh. I don't have the patience for dealing with this. I thought it was working, alas it is nearly dead. I successfully indexed March for the time being.

Apologies for prematurely announcing.

I wish Google would index this url daily already: http://info-arch.org/lists/sigia-l/

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