jibbajabba's blog

Zeldman Lectures on Standards

Zeldman on standards compliant web design.

The best way to begin working with web standards is to author your pages in valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional and design them with valid Cascading Style Sheets. In this way you can support present and future browsers and devices (as well as most older browsers) and prepare your work for a smooth transition to XML in the future.

The Business Benefits of Searching Through Social Networks (PDF)

Report by Geoffrey E. Bock, and Patricia B. Seybold, Patricia Seybold Group (PDF) made available via Verity.

We believe that searching through social networks represents a core capability for discovering critical content in the digital age... Searching through social networks is about understanding the relationships among people, their actions, the documents and information they use, and the communities they form. In doing so, we are tapping into the knowledge and experience within an enterprise to distribute insights through information discovery.

Smart Context: Raising the Bar for Intelligent Classification

Delphi Group report (PDF) made available from Verity.

So, what is the next step for innovative firms? We maintain that at a minimum, the tools of intelligent classification—the subject of this paper—must be added to the search environment we know today… In K2 Enterprise, Verity is providing a collection of functionality geared to the challenges of creating classification and presentation schemas that help match information displays with the interests, questions, or business context of individuals or groups of business users.


LIS News is pointing to an LLRX (Law Library Resource Xchange) review of SurfWax, a new search tool for organizing online information and research. Not sure if the results are particularly great. Most interesting, is that after you do an initial search with a term that is in their thesaurus, you can click the "Focus" button to see the thesaural entry for the term with links to broader and narrower index terms. I'm not sure why you can't do this from the home page, but would seem like some researchers would want to be able to do that. For that matter, why not offer a way to browse all index terms alphanumerically to start your search?

Internet World: Deconstructing Orbitz.com

Terry Swack crits Orbitz.com.

The site that offers all this and delivers an understandable, pleasurable, and personable experience will win. Five leading airlines got together and created this new brand to "serve people better" and offer "the most Web-only airfares."


This is my find for the day since I'm playing with flash animation lately. A friend of mine sent me to findsounds.com, a search engine for sound effects and samples. If you keep your searches relatively simple, the results are quite good. For an idea of the types of sounds you can find, look at this partial list.

CSS Positioning

Brainjar article on CSS positioning.


Kblogs is a Yahoo group dedicated to the discussion of Weblogs for Knowledge Management and collaborative groupware within corporations and non-profit organizations.

Ethics For IA's

New section on IAWiki covering Ethics for IA's

As professionals who are the interface between the client and the users, we may sometimes be asked to do some things by the client (and be handsomely paid to do so), but which are not entirely good for the users. Sometimes we might be asked to do something for the users which they don't want, but is in fact good for them.

What are the drivers for our ethics - is it truth, love, or beauty? Do no harm?

An interface only a mother could love

New in IBM DeveloperWorks. In the 21st Century, bad user interface design is an endemic problem. And, when it comes to cell phone interfaces, neither text-based nor interactive voice menu systems are immune to the disease. Quite the opposite, in fact!

Page Templates Fall Short As Design Guidelines

New Forrester Brief (requires subscription).

Companies use page templates to standardize look and feel across business units. But consistency alone doesn't guarantee even a mediocre user experience -- let alone excellence. Corporate design initiatives should supply principles, decision logic, and a hotline.

Conducting a web site evaluation

In Kathy Gill's TFM, some suggestions for conducting a web site evaluation using heuristics.

Heuristic evaluation is one way to quickly and inexpensively evaluate a user interface. The process requires that a small set of testers (or "evaluators") examine the interface and judge its compliance with recognized usability principles (the "heuristics"). The purpose is to identify any usability issues so that they can be addressed as part of an iterative design process.

Interactive sketches

Once in a while I come across an idea that's fun for it's combination of simplicity and power. The most recent was the notion of interactive sketches. Seems obvious now that someone showed it to me.

Marc Retig is doing interactive sketches -- like interactive paper prototypes -- using scanned sketches and dreamweaver. Also pointed to this Chris Edwards interactive sketch (Shockwave). Reminded me of Tomoko Takahashi's Word Perhect (Flash) project, which is a humorous interactive sketch interface of a faux word processing application.

Interface design primer

WebWord is pointing to Joe Gilespie's very basic primer on designing web interfaces.

A good graphical user interface communicates its purpose right away. You shouldn't have to mouse-over elements to see if they do something or not. If the user has to play 'hunt the thimble', it is an annoying waste of time.

Navigational elements are like road signs. When did you last see a road sign where you had to lift a flap or push a button to see it?

Rather than creating a whole new set of rules from scratch, you can adopt rules that have already been established. That's what you do when you play football, golf or poker. It doesn't make them any less enjoyable. The visual 'metaphor' takes a set of rules from a real life environment and applies them to a computer interface.

Investing in Requirements Analysis

In TaskZ Viewpointz, an article by Deborah J. Mayhew about investing time and money on requirements analysis as part of the usability life cycle.

Even if you have all the right functionality and data, an interface that does not directly support the unique requirements of the application is not usable. Finding out prior to design what the unique requirements are, and designing to support them, is much more cost-effective in the long run than finding out after launch that your design does not meet requirements.

thanks WebWord

IT-Director: Interview: Jakob Nielsen

Jakob Nielsen on usability and Intranets. And it makes an enormous difference - so you need people that know how to get a message across effectively, people that can write headlines, people that can convey information. You need professional content developers. They are essential.

thanks Tomalak's Realm

Deam Kamen's Ginger

This is what everyone was waiting for? I hate to be the one that gets told, "I told you so", but I fail to see how this thing is going to change my life. I expected a big announcement like teleportation technology being possible. This does not impress me.

CSS Table Formatting - The Way Forward

CSS table formatting article on evolt CSS for table formatting is not widely used yet despite some strong arguments for it. Here we take a brief look at how it could help both static and dynamic site builders and viewers.

Duh-sign of the Times

Effective Web design is not about creating flashy graphics and piling on the features. The best sites appreciate the value of simplicity.

Inc. Article discussing 3 usable sites (selected by Inc. magazine) and interviews with William Drenttel of Jessica Helfand-William Drenttel, Clement Mok of Sapient, and Bill Hill of MetaDesign discussing web design today.

3 sites mentioned in the article:

The rest of the winners of Inc's Web Awards are listed in this article.

Taxonomies on business blogs

On drop.org, Kika pointed to Doug Kaye's blog entry which talks about the use of taxonomies on business blogs. He states that Library science is inadequate for the range of knowledge and thought [that] are encountered with weblogs. Kaye writes a blog about business blogs called "Blog the Organization". He also had this to say about the use of taxonomies.

    At the very least people will spend a whole lot of time debating and complaining about the taxonomy. And people will find another person's taxonomy frustrating and will avoid using it.

He makes some observations that are correct -- requiring users to apply metadata may be a deterrant, taxonomies are subjective and require great effort to maintain. Kaye says that Library Science is not up to the task when it comes to blogs. I think what he is really saying is that taxonomies in general cannot serve every perspective. And he is right. I think there is a great misconception in the business world lately that taxonomies are the key to controlling your data. But they are just one piece of the information retrieval solution.

If you build it will they tag it?
I don't disagree with what Kay had to say about the added steps of applying metatags being a possible deterrent to use. I believe that this is really an interface usability issue. I do disagree strongly with what he has to say about the usefulness and relevance of taxonomies in business weblogs.

Business blogs and those with narrow subject scopes are perfectly apt candidates for the use of a taxonomy. But the onus of metatagging documents should lie in a select few individuals who maintain the indexing of the blog who are steeped in the blog's subject scope.

Kaye is right in suggesting that keeping up with the application of metadata is a daunting task. This is a human resources issue. If you don't have qualified resources to do your indexing, then human-maintained taxonomies are probably not for you. But if you do have the resources, taxonomies may provide substantial value in retrieving relevant documents with a high level of specificity. Want to know how? First I'll tell you what I've seen and then tell you what I propose for iaslash using Drupal.

The value of metadata
Is Kaye correct in saying that taxonomies are too problematic to be useful for business blogs? I don't think so. I think they are just one piece of the information retrieval solution that includes automated and human indexing and the creation and maintainance of a controlled vocabulary of index terms. These pieces coexist to support a classification scheme that attempts to support browsing or learning types of information seeking behaviors. These are not panaceas for satisfying all information seeking activities. They are tools which attempt to support some information seeking behaviors -- namely, those of browsers or learners who are not looking for a known item.

Classification systems (Dewey, UDC, Library of Congress) are not the end-all solution for all innformation seeking; they are problematic for several reasons. Success in retrieving documents based on a pre-determined set of categories and subcategories is related to your understanding of that system of categorization (this is also referred to as knowledge representation in the library and information science field). The success of retrieving relevant documents also depends on matching your description (your representation of that knowledge) during an information search with the description the indexer gave to it (the indexer's representation). This is made more problematic because the way in which we describe ideas changes over time even within one person.

I think anyone who maintains a system for controlling data for information retrieval will tell you that the task of maintaining that system (taxonomy, controlled vocabulary) is constant and that you will probably find that the success of that system in helping users find data is also directly proportional to the amount of effort expended on building and mantaining it.

That said, is there really no point in maintaining a system of classification? Well, actually there still is. Even the best attempts at automated classification fail to work without the help of a human intermediary. Such is the case with tools like Verity's intelligent classifier or Semio. And even using social networks, as Google does, relevancy of retrieved documents is not always excellent. The point is that, within any field of knowledge, computer algorithms simply cannot yet understand all of the complex concepts in human languages as a human steeped in a the language and subject matter of the field can.

[A good article related to the topic of automated classification is "Extracting Value from Automated Classification Tools", by Kat Hagedorn]

Human indexing of documents using a controlled vocabulary is one method to increase relevancy of retrieval. In the organization I work for, we maintain a narrowly focused controlled vocabulary (CV) for indexing all of the data we house -- internal documents, vendor data. That CV is used to support various taxonomies in use within the company.

I have some ideas that I'm going to experiment with using Drupal. In Drupal terms, think of index terms of the CV as "attributes" and the taxonomy as the "meta tags".

What I am planning to do is to decide on a set of facets under which I will create index terms for each document I blog. For example the facets might be: Subject matter, Names of persons (individuals and groups), Names of places, Names of events. I will then at some point decide to develop a 2-3 level taxonomy using terms under the subject matter facet.

How I am going to apply this will be somewhat experimental for me. A while ago, I wrote a paper on indexing images. One of the concepts I liked at the time was using facetted analysis and specifically using the Modern Language Association's contextual indexing and faceted taxonomic access system (CIFT). The CIFT method is a post-coordinate method for displaying faceted descriptors. This method takes the terms which indexers have extracted to represent the subject matter facet and arranges them into an ordered string. Each term is shown in the index (paper or electronic) at the lead position in the string, and the connected/additional terms are shown . Each term gets shifted to the front of the string, depending on the term the user used in their search.

For more on the CIFT approach see:

I hope to try some things with Drupal using the above approach and may ask the Drupal community what they think. I think the approach may prove valuable to teach me a bit about the practical application of faceted analysis. Altough, I fear the approach might be a bit ambitious.

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