jess mcmullin's blog

Sliders are the key

At dinner a couple weeks ago when I was in SF, David Weinberger and Peter Merholz came up with the silver bullet of interaction design: Sliders! All interaction that is a selection should be a slider! Amazon is on the same wavelength, their new AJAX diamond search is sliderlicious heaven! [update: this is all in fun, sliders do have issues, see comments for more.]

Seriously, it's a great AJAX example. Still seriously, there's issues (like showing active options that don't actually exist - set the price to $100-$1000, and the next slider, for carats, doesn't show you what the carat range is that intersects with the 'under a thousand dollar' price. Greying out the inapplicable options, and moving the slider to the top of the actual carat range of sub-$1000 rocks would be good).

A classification blog, where's the IAs?

There's a new blog on tagging - that disturbingly has just one IA on board. It's a symptom of a more general trend - as classification and personal information achitecture become more pressing, more and more people are talking about IA, but who aren't aware of IA. More to the point, IAs aren't really getting involved in the conversation either...either through indifference or inability to adapt to emergent methods from our foundation in traditional classification methods.

Update: Don Turnbull is an IA stalwart from UT Austin's Info School. Sadly, 1/8 isn't great (though Dave Weinberger is producing the smartest writing on emergent classification, but Dave's not doing implementation, in-the-trenches IA work).

Update #2: Reinforcements arrive! Gene Smith and Peter Merholz are now added to the fray at tagsonomy. Thanks to Jon Lebowsky and the rest of the Tagsonomy crew for being so welcoming. I'm glad to see some IAs stepping up to contribute to the conversation...

Lou Rosenfeld updates his Enterprise IA Roadmap

Lou Rosenfeld shares his Enterprise Information Architecture Roadmap. This update reflects the insights Lou's gained after using it in consulting and teaching it in his EIA seminars across the US. Great stuff - I think that there's definitely an enterprise imperative for effective IA, but that we need to co-opt or cooperate with other enterprise architecture efforts.

37 Signals launches Backpack

37 Signals publicly launched Backpack today - an online personal info manager that's part wiki, part to-do list, part file storage. The best thing so far is being able to use email to add content to pages (each page gets a unique email address). You can even set up a to-do list with email, or add files to pages simply by attaching them to an email and sending to the specific page. There's a free version, and plans from $5-$19/month.

Lots of interesting thinking - I hope that the email-back-into-the-system feature gets implemented in Basecamp soon.

So wrong

The New School of Ontologies is just so off the mark. Not that social classification isn't valuable, but a folksonomy is *not* an ontology. And goodness. The article reads like a jumble of classification buzzwords stirred once and regurgitated.

Ontologies are semantically-connected nodes - there's meaningful types of relationships between terms (has-a, is-a, requires, and lots lots more). Free tagging doesn't generate any semantic relationship at all.

It's interesting as the folksonomy meme drives more people to talk about IA issues how little many people know about IA concepts...

Information Design meets the Food Pyramid

The USDA did an anemic job of redesigning the food pyramid; Slate asked four design firms to come up with something better. The official Canadian redesign is worth a look, too. Of course, the food guide in both countries represents a political process as much as a nutritional educational process, something not tackled by even the best information design.

IA in Chile

Congratulations to Javier Velasco and everyone else who created the IA Chile site! (Spanish only, but gorgeous even if you have to muddle through the content via Google Translate).

Coveo: Decent search engine, free for less than 5000 documents

Coveo is a site search engine from the makers of Copernic desktop search. Looks comparable to others in the entry-to-mid market, but is currently free for 5000 documents or less. I'm digging into the technical docs right now to look for things like synonym control and best bets, but haven't found them yet. Runs on Windows. Anyone tried it out? Thanks Ben Skelton

Adobe buys Macromedia for $3.4 billion

Wow. After rumors of a Microsoft takeover last year, Macromedia goes over to Adobe? (currently Slashdotted, here's the mirrordot link). I'm skeptical that they can merge their cultures...Adobe seems to have a very hard time grokking the web (witness the merger FAQ in PDF).

DUX 2005 site up!

The site for DUX 2005 is up! The conference will run November 3-5 in San Francisco at Fort Mascon (a venue with character). Submissions for case studies, etc. is June 15th. Congrats to Zap, Richard, and the rest of the conference committee. Looking forward to it.

Collection of articles on the value of design

The IDSA has collected articles about the value of design. I enjoy reading articles like this, and there are some now-classic articles, like the BusinessWeek cover from last May on the Power of Design. But sadly, many of the articles only deal with the aesthetic - Michael Graves redesigning toilet brushes, instead of redesigning process, experience, or organizations. Nussbaum's Empathy Economy piece gets there, but doesn't bring a lot new to the conversation...perhaps more an indication of how slow it is to change perceptions of design by business and practitioners than anything else. Favorite article of the ones I've had a chance to read now or previously: Humanizing by Design (nytimes, may break soon) about making healthcare experiences better.

Flickr Related Tag Browser

Felix Turner of Airtight built a fun browser to view Flickr tags, including the tags related to the current tag, plus thumbnails of photos for the current tag. Thanks Matt

Search engine pulls answers to common questions - better than Ask Jeeves? Google?

Brainboost, a new search engine, offers answers to regular questions - like What is information architecture? It extracts text snippets from a wide variety of sources that help answer the question - though I think we've got a way to go in defining the damn thing.

The Brainboost algorithm is useful, but sometimes lacking, pulling sentences that contain "...information architecture is..." even when the sentence is about something else. I don't think Google has much to fear, but the approach is helpful for basic questions. Thanks metacool

Free Tagging on, Peterme quoted

The Flickr acquisition not only raises the profile for rich apps, but also for tagging, getting significant coverage on about tags as a possible new approach to web search. Of course, the article is kind of silly - tagging won't overturn search, it just makes metadata less of a chore...valuable, but not something that will make Google obsolete. Tags are much more interesting when they complement other retrieval tools...and Peter Merholz touches on that in his soundbites in the article.

Content Genres - Peterme

Peterme is talking about content genres right now. In a nutshell - in print, genres are things like textbook, guidebook, or map. On the web, genres include things like academic papers, FAQs, Testimonials, etc (yes, there's a lot of overlap). Genres help set expectations about how to use the content, and what kind of information you will find there.

One of the implications of genre is that content can't be easily repurposed across channels - a genre like a "real estate tour" just won't work in print, over the phone, or on a mobile phone if users are expecting a rich media panoramic experience. Instead of convergence, we get "meaningful divergence, with the right content to the right device".

I think that there's a lot of useful applications for the ideas...and there's similar work happening with Microsoft's application archetypes At the same time, I'm skeptical that the web is mature enough to really develop a robust collection of genres or archetypes. However, genres don't have to be complete, or fixed - like design patterns, use what's useful, and don't try to boil the ocean in creating an exhaustive list of genres.

Links from Peter
Collection of Papers
Andrew Dillon's Publications
Book: Tracing Genres Through Organizations

Books on Persuasion

BJ Fogg gave an excellent keynote this morning - really outstanding, and my favorite in the 3 years I've been at the Summit. His book Persuasive Technology is currently the best collection on using technology to change attitudes and behaviors. You should really consider buying it (and no, there's no Amazon referrer code there).

During the Q&A, I mentioned another book on persuasion, the classic Influence by Robert Cialdini. Interesting Cialdini interview here, too.

Parlez vous IA?

The IA Summit is underway in Montreal! I'm sitting in the IA Institute Leadership precon listening to Lou Rosenfeld and a group of smart folks look at the different components that go into enterprise information architecture. Right now, we're talking about creating organizational change...

Find out more about the conference as it unwinds at the conference blog.

The Information Architecture Institute is public

The Asilomar Institute for Information Architecture has renamed to simply The Information Architecture Institute. Sometimes, simpler is better, especially when we're promoting IA to people outside the user experience community. Congratulations to all who worked on this, especially James Spahr and Michael Angeles...much appreciated. There's still a few hiccups getting the domain moved over, etc., but I'm really pleased with having a simpler brand to carry IA forward.

Intranet Teams Survey closes March 11th

From James Robertson of Step Two:

Some very commonly asked questions about intranet teams are:

* Where in organisations are intranet teams located?
* How big are intranet teams?
* What skills do they have?

This Intranet Teams Survey aims to answer these questions:

It will take just 5 minutes to answer the small number of questions, and the full results will be publicly shared.

Other issues explored include:

* Are websites and intranets managed by the one team, or separate teams?
* How large are intranets?
* What tools are used to publish intranets?

Ajax - Rich Apps in the Browser

Jesse James Garrett writes about the new generation of rich web apps that *don't* use Flash, like Google suggest, Oddpost, etc. It's an interesting take on alternatives to Flash RIAs, using Asynchronous JavaScript + XML (hence Ajax).

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