jibbajabba's blog

Norpath Elements

On SIGIA, Ziya pointed to a new authoring tool for authoring interactive applications called Northpath Elements.

    Norpath Elements Design Studio is a new generation, multi-purpose authoring system ideal for creating a wide range of interactive solutions including learning applications, rich-media presentations, web, interactive kiosks, and simulations. Norpath Elements is a state-of-the-art solution with many powerful and unique features allowing non-programmers to create intelligent, interactive applications without having to write code or learn a scripting language. Design Studio includes a comprehensive suite of easy to use object-based tools including drawing, animation, multimedia, knowledge, interaction, and application logic.
The role of IA in classifying ephemera

I was reading a thread on Drop about classifying/categorizing chat. In the comments, the Shifted Librarian, pointed to John Robb's discussion, The I in K-Logs, in which he talks about the concept of blogging and classifying such things as instant messages, email, etc. for knowledge management purposes. This thread raised some new questions in my mind about the role Information Architecture could play in helping afford access to ephemera within the enterprise.

Robb's discussion got me interested in the concept of classifying ephemera such as chat sessions and wondering where this fits in with Knowledge Management. I read the emails on the K-Log list and see that a lot of people are doing the weblog thing inside the enterprise to narrow-cast their stuff to their department/organization or whatever. In a sense, that is what I do with iaslash as well. The bulk of what I point to is ephemera -- weblog discussion about some topic that someone has posted somewhere, timely newspaper articles about some event or critique of some site. But what becomes of this recorded knowledge if it simply goes into a database and is not organized. Do we trust that search engines will help us in discovering knowledge held in these repositories? Does IA-type organization support learning or facilitate better discovery?

Ephemeral items are a special kind of entity for description. They're sometimes too difficult to catalog (the original creator or publication information may not be known, for example). Often people don't want to expend the effort on cataloguing or classifying them because of their ephemeral nature. But I think there is great value in categorizing these types of material, especially when dealing with documents available via the web.

I learned a good lesson from an experience I once had categorizing ephemera as a grad student. I was involved with a project at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's research library where I had to go through ephemeral printed matter -- newspaper and magazine clippings, photographs, exhibition announcements -- and then categorize them using a system of flat files that organized that ephemera based on access points that could be empirically determined such as artist name, organization name, etc. This seemed to me a rather superficial way to categorize these things. I thought a better method would be to follow a richer model like the The Getty Information Institute's Categories for the Description of Works of Art. The concept for me was that, although the intellectual work of identifying some rich description for ephemera may be difficult, archiving those ephemeral materials is of no consequence if it cannot be retrieved later. This is the library and information science/information retrieval part of me coming to the surface. What I was always interested in, but never privy to, was how frequently this information was used and with what success. It turned out that the collection could only be navigated by someone very familiar with its contents -- an expert.

This brings me back to the role of IA. To me everything is ephemeral and everything could do with some rich description -- at the least using somthing like Dublin Core fields, and hopefully some subject classification scheme. Sure, a good search engine might help you find what you're looking for ... if you know what it is you're looking for. But learning/exploring is best supported, in my opinion, by subject classfication. Maybe auto-classifying applications do some good using applications like Semio and Verity Intelligent Classifier. I don't know. But needless to say, the effectiveness of those tools is measured by the effectiveness of the person administering the searches matched to the taxonomies they've built. For all intents and purposes that person is an IA.

This concept of being able to categorize/classify everything/anything has been on my mind again lately because of the IA-org Library, and because I want to eventually turn this blog into a bibliographic tool like ProCite rather than continue to use it just to blog. There is value, I believe, in the expertise we can bring to information retrieval and discovery applications (web sites, databases, etc.) within the enterprise and on customer sites. Lately I feel like classification is the hammer that I want take to all of these problems, ephemeral or long-lasting.

Olympics Site Not Medal-Worthy

Wired article with Jakob Neilsen's reaction to the Salt Lake 2002 site.

    If the Salt Lake Olympics website were a student in school, it would be of the Bart Simpson variety: a solid-D underachiever.

    That's the opinion, at least, of Jakob Nielsen, an expert on "Web usability" who held forth Friday on the Olympics site during a media luncheon.

    Interface design guru Jakob Nielsen says the official Salt Lake website has a chilling effect on users. Like many 'capitulating' sites in need of revenue, it places ad dollars ahead of sound design.

OmniGraffle wireframe palette

I created an OmniGraffle palette for creating wireframes.

Didn't feel like coughing up the dough for ConceptDraw, although it looks to be quite powerful. Cost cutting seems to be the theme song around my office these days. OmniGraffle is affordably priced and is a servicable alternative for creating user flow diagrams and wire frames on Mac OS X.

Meta Data Repositories: Where We've Been and Where We're Going

This article in DM Review provides a brief history of the use of metadata in computer science / information technology.

    A review of the history of meta data repositories helps to understand their role and highlights the need for companies to manage corporate knowledge.

thanks vanderwal

Flamenco articles

Articles from the Flamenco -- FLexible information Access using MEtadata in Novel COmbinations -- project at Berkeley. The Flamenco project investigates how to effectively incorporate large category hierarchies into information access user interfaces. Available articles and presentations in PDF format:

  • Flexible Search and Browsing using Faceted Metadata
  • Hierarchical Faceted Metadata in Site Search Interfaces
  • Next Generation Web Search: Setting Our Sites
  • Flamenco Image Browser: Using Metadata to Improve Image Search During Architectural Design
  • Designing Information Architecture for Search

thanks ethan

Lift Onsite

Review in Macworld of UsableNet's Lift Onsite, one of a suite of applications for testing HTML files for accessibility.

    UsableNet's Lift Onsite 2.0.1, a diagnostic tool that catalogs the potential usability pitfalls in your Web site, manages to balance pitiless thoroughness with a user-friendly guide on how to correct problems.


    For professional Web-site developers who need section 508 compliance, this tool is invaluable. For Web developers who also act as their own quality assurance department, Lift Onsite is a handy way to check flaws and learn best-practice guidelines. However, for recreational Web heads, this might be overkill.

Sim D'Hertefelt's interaction design articles

Sim D'Hertefelt, an Interaction Designer and Usability professional in Belgium has a bunch of articles that might be of interest on his personal site, Interaction Architect.

Some free icons

Icons to indicate functions associated with links. Do you know of any others that might be useful? I've been interested lately in the style of smallish icons used on sites like International Herald Tribune and kaliber10000.

Trust: it's about good experience over time

This article in Lighthouse on the Web talks about building customer trust.

    Like Bill Gates with his "Trustworthy Computing" memo, Web sites need to have users believe in them. And in the growing literature on site trust, a recipe is indeed emerging.
How to Conduct a Brainstorming Session

In MarketingProfs.com, an article with simple suggestions for conducting a brainstorming session.

    Many brainstorming sessions are not as productive as they could be, typically because they are poorly conceived, planned or managed. Here's a proven way to trigger imaginative solutions. And although we use marketing and advertising examples, this method can work for any creative endeavor.

thanks Xplane, Xblog

Aesthetics and Usability

Aesthetics and Usability, is a paper by Kiana K. Matthews, University of Colorado at Boulder that proposes that Usability professionals should understand aspects of aesthetics. Sounds refreshing doesn't it?

    A well designed artifact is by definition a pleasure to use, an ill-designed one awkward and annoying, a cognitive pea under the mattress, diluting our concentration. Aesthetic connotations, moreover, are inevitable: there is no such thing as 'neutral' design".

    In this paper, I will discuss the relationship between aesthetics and usability with respect to user interface design as well as specific techniques to insure an aesthetically pleasing design. First I will discuss the concept of aesthetics in general and the role it should play in the human-computer interaction (HCI) discipline. Next I will discuss, at length, various components that make up an aesthetic design and the guidelines for using them. These components are color, typography, icons, layout, and economy of visuals. Then, I will evaluate two applications based upon these components and guidelines. One application is software based, the web site for Schwinn Cycling and Fitness, and the other is hardware based, an automatic teller machine (ATM). Finally I will draw conclusions about the role of aesthetics in usability and conclude the paper.

thanks Xplane, Xblog

Scott Ambler's Use Case Modeling articles

Scott W. Ambler, author of The Object Primer has written several articles on use case modeling in IBM Developer Works including this article with Use case modeling tips, which provides tips and techniques for writing better UML use case models.

Google listens to kottke

This is kind of cool. Jason Kottke suggested to Google some changes to make their news headlines a little more readable and they apparently listened. Apparently they are user centered. They even served up the props to kottke on the bottom of the page.

Is the PC desktop really dead?

In the Edge World Questionairre Center, Mark Hurst asks if the PC really dead, mainly it seems in reaction to all of the press that's been given to alternative interfaces like Gelertner's Scopeware.

    I question whether the desktop is really dead in other words, whether the solution really lies in building a better desktop. Instead, I think that the real issue is the increased information, not the interface between it and the user.

    Some technologists are ready to discard the old desktop. ... These programs try to solve the problem of a cluttered desktop by presenting a new metaphor that could become just as cluttered.

Hurst suggests a more practical strategy for getting control of our information that may not lie in just changing the interface metaphor, but in areas such as education.

    We may need a combined strategy of better tools and greater education of users about the nature of a world awash in information. To be effective in coming years, users must assume greater responsibility for their own information management.

    If we could just teach more users to use their tools better, we'd be in far better shape than if we simply churned out yet more complex software.

I wonder what Jef Raskin's reaction would be.

Usability in Hong Kong

John S. Rhodes interviews Daniel Szuc, a usability professional in Hong Kong, to discuss the unique challenges to usability that Szuc faces.

Faceted Classification

The Wiki has a new section on Faceted Classification.


Peterme talks about a demo called FacetMap that was created to illustrate/discuss how one might browse entities indexed using faceted classification. See comments on Peter's site.

    Recently I started to address an apparent discontinuity in IA, which was: How to combine faceted classification, regarded as a "bottom-up" system, with the hierarchical navigation that's typically considered a "top-down" structure, thereby giving (unsuspecting) users much more power over their browsing.
Layout and Content of Popular Sites

This study by Steve Kangas, CTO of NetConversions compares common attributes in 87 sites including use of JavaScript, fixed layout versus liquid, file size, number of images used, and more.

For further comparison of attributes of popular sites, you might also be interested in WDVL's Ten Top Sites Compared, which looks at elements such as fonts used, page width, background color, link location, and more.

thanks LucDesk

Now with mad CSS positioning flava

I got off my lazy ass and did the iaslash layout using CSS. NN4 users, but if you want to see the old tabled version, you can set your account settings to use the "Boxy (NN4)" theme.

Let me know if there are any bugs. -Mike

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