OmniGraffle wireframe palette: minor updates

I made some minor updates to my OmniGraffle wireframe palette to include a title box, some added box outlines, and note shapes.

Luke Wroblewski On The Pursuit of Simplicity

Luke Wroblewski, author of the book "Site-Seeing: A Visual Approach to Web Usability", offers some approaches when trying to design easy to use web sites unencumbered by complex features. Comes down to knowing your audience, understanding your medium (being aware of patterns and conventions), communicating concisely and well, reducing feature complexity.

Thanks, Erin

Ten Best Intranets of 2002

Jakob's article promotes their annual Intranet report, which is perhaps most interesting to people who want to benchmark their intranet against some best of class intranets out there. There appear to be some good general observations about how corporations approach intranet re-designs and buy in.

Spring Desktop

The Matts (Jones and Webb) pointed to the Spring desktop for Mac OS X, an alternative interface for navigating the stuff on/with your computer.

    More Human. Less Machine. The Spring Desktop is concept-centric, not file, folder, site, or brand-centric. It's designed for the way you naturally think.
BBC RSS feeds

Matt pointed to some RSS feeds available from the BBC.

Information architecture: learning how to classify

You won't really learn anything about how to classify content by reading this Gerry McGovern article. I will disagree with this point:

    2. Design classification like it will be 'written in stone.'
    You don't want to be changing your classification every
    six months. This will mean a lot of work and will create
    confusion.
You can attempt to do that, but when times change, terms will change. The term "Primitive art" was once accepted by the art community as a major rubric for referring to arts of Africa, Oceania, etc. Now that term is considered by some to be patently offensive. The Library of Congress Subject Headings are constantly becoming outdated as the English language changes and as new concepts arrive and older concepts evolve. The organization of knowledge also shifts with time. Change is inevitable. You just have to allow for it in terms of time and resources.

UPA Voice. Volume 4 Issue 3 (Sept 2002)

New issue of the UPA newsletter is out with these articles.

  • Common Principles: A Usable Interface Design Primer. By Rick Oppedisano
  • Using Usability Testing to Determine "Related Links" in An Online Brokerage Web Site. By Ioannis Vasmatzidis, Eliot Jablonka, and Hsin Eu
  • New Friends of Usability Certificates Promote Usability by Saying "Thank You": A new UPA Outreach program you can use… By Whitney Quesenbery
Labels on buildings

If you're into wayfinding, design, and labels then Public Lettering: a walk through central London is an charming tour through typography in public spaces.

cfp IA "Making Connections" Portland, OR: 2003 March 21-23

After last night's random chat, I looked up IA meetings in Portland, OR, and found

Information Architecture "Making Connections"
March 21-23 Portland, OR

The 2003 summit on Information Architecture will explore the many elements that go into creating excellent information architecture, both from within the discipline and without.

The Summit seeks proposals for Case Studies, Presentations that demonstrate innovative and effectiveinformation architecture practices and Posters.

We are open to contributions from people with solid and relevant ideas, including areas that may be considered ancillary or outside of Information Architecture. If selected, we simply ask that you put in the time required to create a solid and professional presentation for the conference attendees.

Case studies are requested to specify

type of site (e.g., entertainment, portal, intranet)

I guess people would be surprised if I submitted an architecturefor navigating a farmer's market [.mov file].

Official CFP at http://www.asis.org/Conferences/IA03/cfp.html .

ps, I need to find a more efficient way of formatting Drupal posts than manually HTML-ing tr td width etc. Maybe need to preview the teaser, too.

Ambient Findability

Peter muses on findabilty in the coming era of ambient interfaces/devices employing nanotechnology and wireless Internetworking.

Software documentation

Was looking for resources for writing software documentation for a friend (and for myself as well). Figured the STC would be the most authoritative resource. On the STC Four Lakes, Michigan site, I found their book list to be enough, but figured there must be some guidelines for writing documentation on the web. Anyone know any good freely available resources /guidelines for writing software documentation that might be available on the web?

Kristjan pointed out one we blogged from Advogato a while back: How non-programmers use documentation.

STC Usability SIG, Usability toolkit

The STC Usability SIG offers a collection of documents including forms, checklists, templates for conducting usability testing and user interviews.

Polar Bear II Review

James McNally has a great review of Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, Volume 2 to round up this month's IA-focused Digital Web Magazine.

To be completely honest, trying to give you a taste of the content of this book is going to be a little bit like trying to take a drink from a fire hose. ... Information Architecture for the World Wide Web is an introductory course in a discipline of which we are all slowly becoming practitioners. That it is such an enjoyable course is due entirely to the knowledge and experience of the authors. Their humility, evident in their willingness to point the reader to other sources of information, is also refreshing.

2003 IA Summit -- Call for Participation

The call for participation for the March 2003 IA Summit has gone out. They're looking for case studies and presentations, as well as posters. Deadlines? December 2, 2002 for case studies and presentations, and January 15, 2003 for posters. Follow the links for more info.

[Thanks, Digital Web Magazine.]

Polar Bears invade B & A

Boxes and Arrows is running an interview with Lou Rosenfeld and an excerpt from the new edition of the Polar Bear book that focuses on MSWeb (the Microsoft intranet).

Accessibility Arguments Revisited

New on Frontend Usability Infocentre.

    Regular Infocentre readers will know that Frontend has been arguing for the need for greater accessibility on the web for some time. Frontend have recently completed the delivery of the first version (1.1) of the Irish National Disability Authority (NDA) IT Accessibility Guidelines. In the course of our work for the NDA over the last year we've talked to a wide variety groups and individuals who have an interest in accessibility and as a result of their input, our approach has shifted a little. Here's what we found out.
UK Government & Metadata

Quick article on UK Government's use of metadata and thesaurus to support information management and organization.

"Keeping an eye on metadata" by Glyn Moody, August 8, 2002 from CW360.

TOC for the IA issue of JASIST

The table of contents is available for the Information Architecture issue of the Journal of the American Society for Information Science & Technology (JASIST). Full text is available to members who have opted for electronic access only.

New XML feed for Radio News Aggregators

Apparently there is some problem with Radio grabbing iaslash's newsfeed and showing duplicates. For Radio aggregator's here's the workaround for now. I am using lynx to dump the XML feed once a day. Source is here:

    http://iaslash.org/index.xml
Thanks to Lee for pointing this out.

The Semantic Web: Taxonomies vs. ontologies

"The Semantic Web: Differentiating Between Taxonomies and Ontologies." Online. 26 n4 (July/August 2002): 20.

    Computer scientists--along with librarians--are working to solve problems of information retrieval and the exchange of knowledge between user groups. Ontologies or taxonomies are important to a number of computer scientists by facilitating the sharing and reuse of digital information.
Katherine Adams' article in ONLINE (ironically, not available online) talks about the Semantic Web and the subtle difference in the approaches that computer science and library information science have taken toward making information findable using structured hierarchical vocabularies -- ontologies for CS and taxonomies for LIS.

The article generalizes one difference between CS and LIS by saying that "software developers focus on the role ontologies play in the reuse and exchange of data while librarians construct taxonomies to help people locate and interpret information". Both hopefully remain focussed on the end result of making data findable and usable.

    Some of the traditional skills of librarianship--thesaurus construction, metadata design, and information organization--dovetail with this next stage of Web development. Librarians have the skills that computer scientists, entrepreneurs, and others are looking for when trying to envision the Semantic Web. However, fruitful exchange between these various communities depends on communication.
    Commonalities exist--as do differences--between librarians who create taxonomies and computer scientists who build ontologies. Mapping concepts, skills, and jargon between computer scientists and librarians encourages collaboration.
I'm quoting a few large blocks from the article because they're probably important for us to read (fair use!). One of the sections discussess differing views on inheritance and the last discusses topic maps.

    DIFFERENT POINTS OF EMPHASIS: INHERITANCE

    In general, those in computer science (CS) are concerned with how software and associated machines interact with ontologies. Librarians are concerned with how patrons retrieve information with the aid of taxonomies. Software developers and artificial intelligence scholars see hierarchies as logical structures that help machines make decisions, but for library science workers these information structures are about mapping out a topic for the benefit of patrons. For librarians, taxonomies are a way to facilitate certain types of information-seeking behavior. It would be a mistake to overemphasize this point since one can point to usability experts in the CS camp who advocate user-centered Web design or librarians who are fascinated with cataloging theory to the exclusion of flesh-and-blood patrons. Yet, as an overarching generalization, software developers focus on the role ontologies play in the reuse and exchange of data while librarians construct taxonomies to help people locate and interpret information.

    This difference is illustrated by the concept of inheritance. Computer scientists build hierarchies with an eye toward inheritance, one of the most powerful concepts in software development. Machines can correctly understand a number of relationships among entities by assigning properties to top classes and then assuming subclasses inherit these properties. For example, if Ricky Martin is a type of "Pop Star" in a hierarchy marked "Singers," then a software program can make assumptions about Mr. Martin even if the details of his biography are not explicitly known. An ontology may express the rule, "If an entertainer has an agent or a business manager and released an album last year, then assume he or she has a fan club." A program could then readily deduce, for example, that Ricky Martin has a fan club and process information accordingly. Inference rules give ontologies a lot of power. Software doesn't truly understand the meaning of any of this information, but inference rules allow computers to effectively use language in ways that are significant to the human users.

    By contrast, librarians think of inheritance in terms of hierarchical relationships and information retrieval for patrons. Taking the example above, the importance of the taxonomy rests in its ability to educate patrons. Someone who's been tuned out of popular culture might use the Pop Star hierarchy to learn the identities of singers who are currently in vogue. A searcher could also uncover the various types of Pop Stars that exist in mass culture: Singers, Movie Stars, Television Stars, Weight-Loss Gurus, Talk Show Hosts, etc. Finally, a patron could hop from one synonym to another--from "Singer" to "Warbler" to "Vocalist"--and discover associative relationships that exist within this category.

    TOPIC MAPS AS NEW WEB INFRASTRUCTURE

    Topic maps are closely related to the Semantic Web and point the way to the next stage of the Web's development. Topic maps hold out the promise of extending nimble-fingered distinctions to large collections of data. Topic maps are navigational aids that stand apart from the documents themselves. While topic maps do not include intelligent agents, other aspects of this technology--metadata, vocabularies, and hierarchies--fit well within the Semantic Web framework. According to Steve Pepper, senior information architect for Infostream in Oslo, Norway, in "The TAO of Topic Maps: Find the Way in the Age of Infoglut", his presentation at IDEAlliance's XML Europe 2000 conference, topic maps are important because they represent a new international standard (ISO 13250). Topic maps function as a super-sophisticated system of taxonomies, defining a group of subjects and then providing hypertext links to texts about these topics. Topic maps lay out a structured voca bulary and then point to documents about those topics. Even OCLC is looking to topic maps to help its project of organizing the Web by subject.

    An important advantage of topic maps is that Web documents do not have to be amended with metadata. While HTML metatags are embedded in the documents described, topic maps are information structures that stand apart from information resources. Topic maps can, therefore, be reused and shared between various organizations or user groups and hold great promise for digital libraries and enhanced knowledge navigation among diverse electronic information sources.

Other articles mentioned:
Tim Berners Lee, "The Semantic Web," Scientific American, May 200.

Natalya Fridman Noy and Deborah L. McGuinness. "Ontology Development 101: A Guide to Creating Your First Ontology," Knowledge Systems Laboratory Stanford University, March 2001.

Tom Gruber, "What is an Ontology," [September 2001].

Steve Pepper, "The TAO of Topic Maps: Find the Way in the Age of Infoglut," XML Europe 2000.