Quantifying beauty

Golden section, golden ratio, golden mean, and the golden rectangle pops up a lot. At least four books in my shelf mentions it, but I didn't know that ''The appeal of the divine proportion to the human eye and brain has been scientifically tested. (...) when subjects are presented with a range of rectangles, they invariably pick out as most pleasing ones whose sides are in the golden ratio.''

ASIST IA Summit 2003, Portland Oregon

Going to the ASIST IA Summit 2003 in Portland Oregon? The conference web site is up.

Understanding Information Architecture

Christina pointed to this article in Online Journalism Review.

Most journalists who have made the jump to working online are familiar with the experience of being told by some black-clad San Francisco hipster that they're doing everything wrong. Jesse James Garrett lives in San Francisco, and admits to having a black-only wardrobe. What's more, he is an Information Architect, a member of a discipline that has a reputation for being a preserve of the hipper-than-thou. So it came as a bit of a shock when he told me that he thinks "journalism still has more to teach information architecture than information architecture has to teach journalism."

Is Customer Always Right?

Just stumbled on this Fast Company article "Desire: Connecting With What Customer Want." Some of it sounds very familiar from one of Lou's presentation at least year's summit and little bit of Maslow's Hierarchy of Need. From a marketing standpoint it makes sense, but user researchers out there should still take a look because it could possibly be just as valid for your line of work as well. The article is based on a book by Melinda Davis _Culture of Desire_ (2002).

Questions Information Architects Ask (London, 11/02)

More questions IAs ask from Lou Rosenfeld's tour with NN/g. This set is from his London stop.

Future of Information Architecture

Results from a survey of IAs taken by the Asilomar Institute for Information Architecture in January 2003.

The decisions we make today are influenced by our implicit assumptions about tomorrow. During these turbulent times, all of us can benefit by asking the difficult questions and sharing insights. This survey is part of an effort to identify important trends and possible futures for information architecture. Results will be analyzed during the upcoming Leadership Seminar.

Social Network Analysis Management Tool

Just stumbled onto this tools called Huminity that creates a contacts management web of all the people you know. I thought it would be interesting for folks interested in social networks.

Transmedia convergence

Interesting article in Technology Review about storytelling and the convergence of assets across media to deliver and sell content in multiple markets.

[W]e have entered an era of media convergence that makes the flow of content across multiple media channels almost inevitable.


While the technological infrastructure is ready, the economic prospects sweet, and the audience primed, the media industries haven't done a very good job of collaborating to produce compelling transmedia experiences. Even within the media conglomerates, units compete aggressively rather than collaborate.


Drawing is a hot topic on AIGIA-ED. In a recent discussion Christina pointed to a wonderful resource in Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain for those who want to learn.

Business apps get bad marks in usability

ZDNet reports on research conducted by Forrester that is part of a bigger report the firm is publishing that evaluates software companies that sell enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications.

Forrester has found that even commonplace tasks can take 'inordinate patience' to carry out - and that adds up to big expenses for companies.

Up my street

The Guardian has a good review of the UK site Upmystreet.com, which allows people to seek information/services within a neighborhood by entering a postal code. The site has gone a step further by connecting people in within that locale as well. The ability to mix information seeking and interpersonal interaction seems like an interesting idea. When you consider that mobile devices will can be used to access services like this, new possibilities as well as new concerns are inevitable. Apparently there are some issues of privacy and safety, such as concern over the safety of children using the service. Nevertheless, a cool new way of making connections via locale.

Managing Section 508 testing

William T. Kelly on Builder.com offers tips for managing Section 508 testing.

Project managers, developers, and quality assurance staff who embark on testing the first Section 508-compliant Web development project are often breaking new ground. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 mandates that U.S. government agencies provide people with disabilities access to electronic and information technology. These tips will help you find the right testing methodology to ensure that your Web development project is Section 508 compliant and also meets your client requirements.


John S. Rhodes has started a new site for trading stuff called Trodo. Here's how it works:

Trodo members use credits to request items from each other. If you want a CD from another Trodo member, you need to have a CD credit. If you want a DVD, you need a DVD credit, and so forth. When you make a request, the other member will ship that item to you for free. In turn, when Trodo members ask you for items using their credits, you ship them for free. They ship for free, you ship for free. They use credits, you use credits.

Nice! This is an idea that I've been thinking about for a discussion group I belong to. I looked around for an app that does this sort of thing -- sort of like a book circulation tool -- but didn't find anything. Without even invoking the LazyWeb, a tool that I want appears. :) Anyway, I'm going to start posting computer and design books up there.

We're #5!

Christina pointed to Challis Hodge's informal survey of job titles that returned results on Google. IA is #5.

Adaptive design for weblog software

Matt Webb's blog about adaptive and evolutionary design makes good reading for anyone interested in those concepts as they apply to software architecture and application development. Matt Jones is also linking to the blog.

I posted a short blog about the software ecology of Drupal on the Drop blog -- I've been spending a good deal of time talking to Drupal developers lately. I talk a lot about evolutionary design because I work in the the temple of Unix and C and the software ecology within my organization reflects that. I have learned to respect the wisdom of programmers that have spent decades using very elegant tools that have been refined over time. Webb's vision of the software ecology reflects the same -- small code components and an abstraction layer that are evolved slowly over time. The idea is that applications are developed separately to serve individual functions very well. The ecology is characterized by the slow evolution of software whose features remain shallow. The adaptability comes in the form of interoperability of individual applications across the software landscape.

I think it's good to reflect on this description of software development so that we understand, as contributers to the software selection process, what to consider when choosing software. Vendors of various content and document management solutions sell the concept of a platform that will serve as the panacea for your enterprise knowledge and content management and communication needs, but more important than the pitch is to understand how the platform and component pieces will allow for your solution to grow with your needs. As Gunnar has remarked in the Drupal discussion, the proof is in the pudding -- the pudding being the development team and I might add in the core software functionalities and solutions addressed by your tools.

Dublin Core Conference 2003

Just saw the call for papers for the 2003 Dublin Core Conference(Seattle, WA) that will be held September 29 - October 2, 2003.

The Usability of Open Source Software

David M. Nichols and Michael B. Twidale discuss open source software usability on First Monday.

Open source communities have successfully developed a great deal of software although most computer users only use proprietary applications. The usability of open source software is often regarded as one reason for this limited distribution. In this paper we review the existing evidence of the usability of open source software and discuss how the characteristics of open source development influence usability. We describe how existing human-computer interaction techniques can be used to leverage distributed networked communities, of developers and users, to address issues of usability.

Ubiquitous WiFi

In death of warchalking John S. Rhodes says that warchalking is dead with the inception of the WiFi zone program, backed by the non profit WiFi alliance, which will be marking WiFi Zones with a sticker logo. These logos are to replace the chalk markings that the warchalking folks were chalking on WiFi zones after war walking through neighborhoods looking for internet access on mobile devices.

The interesting part of this discussion has to do with some observations and predictions made by John, who points to an article on Fortune Magazine about Bell Canada using payphones for WiFi access. The article says that the U.S. will probably follow suit. John thinks that people will want and pay for WiFi access everywhere. If base stations start showing up in pay phones, WiFi may be ubiquitous in large cities.

It's pretty close to ubiquitous in heavily trafficked and affluent areas of NYC already. Living in WiFi saturated NYC and usually armed with a PowerBook, I can say that after using my laptop in Starbucks, I agree I want it everywhere. But I don't necessarily want to pay a lot for it. Starbucks' T-Mobile hot zones charge a little much in my opinion. What will be interesting in the development of pay for play WiFi zones is how pricing shakes out. NYC already has some kind of deregulated pay phone structure where multiple companies compete to put pay phones on the street, which makes it possible for some people to hike up prices for pay phone use and others to offer lower charges. But with WiFi, if there are multiple base stations available in an area, I want to go with the one with the lowest rate, so I wonder if this will mean competition over WiFi users and competitive pricing? Who knows. It's not a reality yet for us, but is in the near future in one way or another.

Questions Information Architects Ask (New York, 11/02)

Lou posts the questions he received during th NN/g tour.

Margaret Hanley and I taught yet another round of IA seminars for the Nielsen Norman Group in November, these in New York City and London. As usual, we asked attendees to write down their burning IA questions on index cards. And as usual, we're sharing them with you below. These might be helpful if you're preparing an IA seminar yourself, or, if nothing else, they're an interesting snapshot of what folks were interested in during late 2002.

Evaluating 25 E-Commerce Search Engines

Tom pointed to this new 37signals report, Evaluating 25 E-Commerce Search Engines, a $99 report with 22 Best Practices for E-Commerce Search Engines.