Sense-making in information retrieval

There is a lively discussion on SIG-IA on the topic of "meaning" as it relates to information seeking and information organization. I thought it might be relevant to post references to an article on the topic. James Kalbach's article in Internetworking (3.3), Designing for Information Foragers: A Behavioral Model for Information Seeking on the World Wide Web, discusses a behavioral model for understanding how people look for information on the Web. His article is supported by and based on many of the seminal Information Retrieval articles on the topic of information seeking behavior. If you are interested in exploring this area of IR, all of the articles listed in the references are an excellent place to start.

Usability of the academic library Web site: Implications for design

By L. McGillis and EG Toms. College and Research Libraries V62, 4, JUL, 2001, p355-367 Today's savvy library users are starting to equate the library Web site with the physical library. As they accomplish, virtually, many personal activities such as online shopping, banking, and news reading, they transfer those experiences to other activities in their lives. This increases their expectations about the functionality of a library Web site and how one interacts with it. The purpose of this study was twofold: to assess the usability of an academic library Web site and to better understand how faculty and students complete typical tasks using one. Thirty-three typical users successfully completed 75 percent of a set of typical tasks in about two minutes per task and were satisfied with the clarity and organization of the site. Despite their success in completing the tasks, however, they experienced difficulties in knowing where to start and with the site's information architecture-in particular, with interpreting the categories and their labels. The authors concluded that library Web sites fail to take into account how people approach the information problem and often reflect traditional library structures.

Informing and evaluating a metadata initiative: Usability and metadata studies in Minnesota's Foundations Project

By Eileen Quam. Government Information Quarterly V18, 3, 2001, p181-194 Minnesota's Foundations Project is a multiagency collaboration to improve access to environmental and natural resources information. The Project chose the Dublin Core metadata standard for web resources. Three studies were conducted: needs assessment, Bridges web site user interface, and usability of controlled vocabulary in Dublin Core metadata. Based on these findings and information architecture, the Project published best practice guidelines. Controlled vocabulary is important to facilitate access. This is relevant to the third study on Dublin Core metadata, which tested keyword searches of web pages to determine the effectiveness of controlled vocabulary in the Dublin Core subject tag. Central to the Best Practice Guidelines is the User Guide to Dublin Core, which offers an element-by-element understanding of the metadata schema. Current bibliographies and reports show further background work that informed the decision-making process for such important choices as metadata schema, thesaurus and thesaurus management software, search engine, and RDF/XML standards.

IE6: For consumers, may not be worth the upgrade

The conclusion that ZDNet makes about IE6 for consumers is this, "Unless you really need the privacy features, don't bother with this upgrade." For developers, this little bit of information might be of interest, however: IE 6 lagged behind both its predecessor and Netscape 6.1 in the nested table tests. Considering that nested tables make up many of today's Web page layouts, this kind of slow performance is a big no-no.

Request Predictor Speeds Web Surfing - Researcher

This article about Ernst-Georg Haffner's Request Predictor application appeared in Factiva's Newsbytes. A researcher in Germany has developed mathematical-based probability system that he says can help predict in advance which Web pages a person will seek and, therefore, cut down waiting time and speed up Web surfing. ... The system, which could be turned into a software program for Web servers, also can be used for data servers, especially internal servers at large corporations or institutions. ... Haffner's model, which has similarities to his institute's "Smart Data Server," is based on two parts. The first is probability, with his system helping to determine the probability that certain data (or Web pages) would be collected by the same user during a session, he said. "It's relative probability based on relative frequency".

n_Gen Design Machine

Whoa. EH and Antenna logged n_Gen, the algorithmic design machine from Move Design. At first I thought, "What a fun toy. But, now anyone can steal these design styles and the joke will be that the imitation will be more blatant." But I ended up spending so much time playing with it and started thinking, "Hmmm. This might be interesting if you could insert your own styles and see what the algorithms produce. Here's the scoop from the site: The n_Gen Design Machine is a rapid prototyping graphic design engine that generates savable graphic files from the user's own text content filtered through n_Gen's Design Modules. ... n_Gen is a parody of the 'rampant design thievery' and mimicry of celebrity design currently in vogue. The selection of aesthetic flavors in n_Gen is based on our observation of current popular design styles we see flooding the media. It's kind of an in-joke for designers who will recognize the work of their heroes, and we're poking fun, but our hope is that people will get the joke and see this not as plagiarism, but as a kind of homage.

Do you want to see pointers to relevant articles that are not published on the web?

I get a lot of alerts/SDI's (Selected Dissemination of Information) about articles that have been published on various subjects. I have SDI's set up on Information Architecture, HCI, and Usability topics, but have refrained from posting references to published articles that are not publicly available on the Web. Do you think it would be useful to be alerted via ia/ when relevant articles become available in these non-Web sources (mostly professional journals)? You would then have to find them in your library or using some database source like Factiva/Dow Jones or Dialog. I will make the decision based on votes to a poll.

Results of wireframe poll

As of today, the results for the short run of the poll "What tool do you use to make page wireframes / scaffolds / blueprints" shows that of 65 users who voted, Illustrator and Visio are the most popular, with each getting 22 votes (33.85%). Other votes: Freehand 4.62 % (3), Pencil and paper 7.69 % (5), Other 6.15 % (4). The rest of voters preferred a thin slate and a blunt object -- Neanderthals.

SMS entertainment architecture case study

I have just posted a case study of our interaction design work on an entertainment based SMS messaging system. intranet organization and management

Someone from the intranet-user-experience Yahoo! gorup posted the link to iorg, which has a number of white papers, presentations and an online book on intranet organization, in response to a thread on Intranet best practices.


This paper by Cory Doctorow talks about the promise of metadata utopia and the reality of metacrap. If everyone would subscribe to a standardized metadata system and create good metadata for the purposes of describing their goods, services and information, it would be a trivial matter to search the Internet for highly qualified, context-sensitive results: a fan could find all the downloadable music in a given genre, a manufacturer could efficiently discover suppliers, travelers could easily choose a hotel room for an upcoming trip. ... A world of exhaustive, reliable metadata would be a utopia. It's also a pipe-dream, founded on self-delusion, nerd hubris and hysterically inflated market opportunities. thanks xblog

Adobe 'Approval' Automates Form Filing

Adobe announces Acrobat Approval. This Internet Week article explains why you might want to use the product. Adobe Systems on Monday, Aug. 27, brought out a stripped-down version of Adobe Acrobat 5.0 as a way for organizations to use electronic forms based on its popular Portable Document Format. ... Called Acrobat Approval 5.0, the $39 product allows companies to create, fill in, spell check and digitally sign electronic forms of their own composition. Acrobat is typically priced at $249 for single-unit copies.

How it works: Information graphics on Technology Review

Technology Review has a section of information graphics (Flash animations) that help you visualize how various technologies work, including: Zinc-Air Batteries, Functional MRI, The Telecom System, Holographic Memory, MP3 Software, Digital Movie Projection, and DNA Chips.

3-D visualization software guides surgeons through the anatomy of individual patients

Technology Review has an article about startups using visualization tools to aid doctors in complex tasks like sinus surgery. You can view and enlarged photo showing the video interface.

Forecasts of an E-Book Era Were, It Seems, Premature.

NY Times on the state of the E-Book. The main advantage of electronic books appears to be that they gather no dust. Almost no one is buying. Publishers and online bookstores say only the very few best-selling electronic editions have sold more than a thousand copies, and most sell far fewer. Only a handful have generated enough revenue to cover the few hundred dollars it costs to convert their texts to digital formats. ... The tepid demand comes as no surprise to some bibliophiles, since printed books still work just fine. "If e-books were the only thing to buy in a `bookstore,' I would buy a lot fewer books," said Starling Lawrence, editor in chief of the publisher W. W. Norton & Company. "I am glad I will be dead by the time they take over the business."

The Nature of Information

A poem by Edward M. Housman. Here's a few choice lines from the first verse: Information is the substance that passes between us when I tell you something. Information persists for a time, then fades back into chaos. Information cannot move without making noise. Laughter is information dancing. Information occupies space. And time. It takes energy to move information. Information is necessary for life, for any organized activity. Information is form without substance, substance without form. Both. Information, like light, has weight; a gigabyte weighs less than a fingerprint.

People Change Once They Go Broadband - Survey

Broadband, it turns out, changes folks. Or, at the very least, it changes the way they act once they get online, according to a new Nielsen/NetRatings survey. ... The Web-audience measurement firm today released data showing that people in the U.S. who recently have switched to broadband Internet services like digital subscriber lines (DSL) or cable modems wind up spending more time online, viewing many more Web pages, and parking themselves in front of their computer monitors more often.

Core Decisions

Tog on good designs for badly specified applications, using Dish Netowork's 501 product as an example of what not to do. Interaction design goes to the very core of a product or service. When user experience people are not intimately involved with every aspect of a project, from the most formative meetings to the end, the project is likely to go seriously awry.

Apply Usability Methodologies in Intranet Information Architecture in a Real World Context

Intranet Journal article on IA. This is the second in a series of five articles on the implementation of usability methodologies in the development of an intranet's information architecture. The series is based on a project developed for an educational institution.

Ethnicities Buying Online

According to Bizreport, a 2001 study from Cultural Access Group, a division of Access Worldwide, finds that 31% of online African Americans and 32% of online Hispanics in the US have made online purchases. These totals compare to 69% of the general US market that has made a purchase online. Cultural Access finds that overall, internet users prefer to research product information online. This last sentence about researching over buying echoes other reports blogged here lately.