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Facet analysis and IA

I found Louise Gruenberg's session on facet analysis at the ASIS&T IA Summit eye opening. The discussion began with a look at Ranganathan's PMEST concept for classifying/codifying compound subjects using 5 facets which could apply to all human knowledge and earthly entities. This concept is supported by the colon classification system, which links together associative terms to create unique subjects. We quickly moved on to Louise Spiteri's articles -- Spiteri is Assistant Professor at the Dalhousie University School of Library & Information Science -- which translate Ranganathan into usable terms.

The Spiteri articles are the seminal work for understanding how to practically apply Ranganathan to information work. She defines in certain terms the vocabulary of facets and their use. The loose understanding of facets and application of facet analysis has lead to some confusion in the IA world about what facets are. Spiteri's definitions might help:

    Facets. The broad categories into which the subject area is divided. A facet consists "of a group of terms that represents one, and only one, characteristic of division of a subject field ... no two facets may contain terms that could represent the same concepts". (Italics added for emphasis)

I found this definition to be enlightening given how loosely the concept of facet analysis has been understood and applied with regard to the web. But perhaps taking the flexible approach is the best way to approach facets. The granularity and subdivision that you choose to reduce your facets to really depends on the application, audience and use. It may be difficult to impossible to arrive at an implementation that approaches Ranganathan's ambitious concept. I think it is still possible, however, to come up with servicable systems that use facets as a starting point for classification. They can be simple implementations like the epicurious.com advanced search feature. They can be more complex, like the MLA Bibliography's contextual indexing and faceted taxonomic access system (CIFT) system. I've even come up with a system of my own to approach facets of art objects.

The term facet analysis nags me the way the term business taxonomy does. I was glad that Gruenberg and Amy J. Warner talked about both of these respectively at the IA Summit because they're apparently going to be floating around the IA ether for some time. But, hell, I'm more at home with those terms than with the term UML. So all is well with me.

Matt Jones' BBCi Search Presentation

Matt's Power Point Presentation from ASIS&T IA Summit 2002 is available on blackbeltjones.

The Social Life of Paper

In the New Yorker, Macolm Gladwell looks at the life of paper in helping us make sense of our daily tasks.

    In the tasks that face modern knowledge workers, paper is most useful out in the open, where it can be shuffled and sorted and annotated and spread out. The mark of the contemporary office is not the file. It's the pile.

At long last, I can feel justified in the mess that is my desk. The passage discussing Apple Computer's research into paper piling behavior for sensemaking and information retrieval is of particular interest.

    But why do we pile documents instead of filing them? Because piles represent the process of active, ongoing thinking. The psychologist Alison Kidd, whose research Sellen and Harper refer to extensively, argues that "knowledge workers" use the physical space of the desktop to hold "ideas which they cannot yet categorize or even decide how they might use." ... What we see when we look at the piles on our desks is, in a sense, the contents of our brains.

In speaking of paper as an instrument to control information the article goes on to make the requisite references to Melvil Dewey and Vannevar Bush. In library school I recall also reading an IR paper about how college professors organize their desks into piles. Does anyone recall that author or title?

Thanks, Shifted Librarian

How to Win Business with Proposal Infographics

In MarketingProfs.com, Cliff Atkinson discusses how to leverage proposal graphics to win the customer.

    If a picture is worth a thousand words, that explains why savvy marketers are beginning to pay much more attention to the graphical presentation of their business proposals.

Thanks, Xplane, Xblog

Montague Institute's Thesaurus administration interface

I came across this screenshot of the Montague Institute's thesaurus administration interface while reading their Managing taxonomies strategically article. Thought it might interest someone. I get more impressed with how they present their indexes each time I use them.

Interviewing to create database schema

In WebmasterBase, Chris Canal discusses how to interview clients to gather data for database schema creation. Although his article focusses on the gathering process for database creation, it might hold some tasks in common with the gathering of information for a content audit/inventory.

What’s in a name? Or, what exactly do we call ourselves?

Adam Greenfield and George Olsen in Boxes and Arrows.

    Defining the audience for Boxes and Arrows sparked the same kind of heated discussion as the community-at-large about what exactly do we call ourselves? Here’s two views, we’re sure there are more…
Intranet Design Annual: The Ten Best Intranets of 2001

Jeff Lash in Boxes and Arrows.

    The Nielsen Normal Group report “Intranet Design Annual: The Ten Best Intranets of 2001” is a worthwhile look into successful intranets that would otherwise not be available to the general public. It is a valuable guide for anyone (not just specialists) involved in intranet design and development.
The making of a discipline: the making of a title

Nathan Shedroff in Boxes and Arrows.

    Many people who work within the design field have had a hard time assimilating the full scope of Experience Design—and a harder time accepting their niches within it. The reasons for this resistance uncover much about the state of design as well as the state of identity.
CEOs are from Mars...

Alma Derricks in Boxes and Arrows.

    With a creative background and an M.B.A., I’ve been a professional half-breed over the past 20 years. What I’ve learned is that the antagonism, hostility and resentment often felt on both sides of the equation is the outgrowth of a basic failure to understand what makes the other side tick.
Learning from the “Powers of Ten”

Erin Malone in Boxes and Arrows.

    To most designers, the Eames name brings to mind rows and rows of molded plywood chairs and Herman Miller furniture of the 1950s. But the Eameses were more than just designers of furniture; they were masters of exploration and experimentation into the realm of experience.
Got usability? Talking with Jakob Nielsen

Chad Thornton in Boxes and Arrows.

    Jakob Nielsen has brought usability to the attention of the general public, but within the user experience community he’s been criticized by those who say he emphasizes a view that excludes other dimensions of user experience. So is he the defender of ease-of-use or the enemy of creativity?
Making emotional connections through participatory design

Marty Gage and Preetham Kolari in Boxes and Arrows.

    Most of the people we talk to believe that the desired end result of experience design is an emotional connection between a person and her experience with a product or service. When a company is able to make them, such connections can have a positive impact on the company’s brand.
Yahoo! Mail: Simplicity holds up over time

Jesse James Garrett in Boxes and Arrows.

    It should come as little surprise that the basic flow of Yahoo! Mail has hardly changed at all since the portal first acquired the RocketMail service in 1997. But rather than offering an outdated solution to the web-based email problem, Yahoo! Mail demonstrates the lasting effectiveness of a simple approach.
When the show must go on, it’s time to collaborate or die

Whitney Quesenbery in Boxes and Arrows.

    Lighting design has a utilitarian role: to put enough light on the stage so that the audience can see the actors. But the lighting also helps shape the performance by providing the color and overtones that add meaning and layers and depth. The same mix of art and technology, craft and discipline exists in user interface design.
Cross-cultural IA

Adam Greenfield in Boxes and Arrows.

    Ever since I started working formally as an information architect, I’ve clung to the belief that there’s a universal set of conditions that we’re trying to achieve. But what I’ve slowly begun to believe over my time working here in Japan is that there is simply no such thing as a universal good.
Bringing your personas to life in real life

Elan Freydenson in Boxes and Arrows.

    The way you communicate the personas and present your deliverables is key to ensuring consistency of vision. Without that consistency, you’ll spend far too much time arguing with your colleagues about who your users are rather than how to meet their needs.
The evolving homepage: The growth of three booksellers

Victor Lombardi in Boxes and Arrows.

    What lessons have we learned about how design improves the interface between customers and companies? Perhaps we can start by asking how websites have actually changed over time, and from that we can learn how websites should change in the future.
Getting into government consulting

Jess McMullen in Boxes and Arrows.

    From Washington, D.C. to Olympia, Washington, there’s a rich potential for user experience consultants of all flavors to provide services to government. In this article I’ll share some thoughts directed toward you, the independent consultant or small firm that would like to work with government.
What’s in a name? Or, what exactly do we call ourselves?

Adam Greenfield and George Olsen in Boxes and Arrows.

    Defining the audience for Boxes and Arrows sparked the same kind of heated discussion as the community-at-large about what exactly do we call ourselves? Here’s two views, we’re sure there are more…
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