Scott Berkun's best of CHIWEB and SIGIA-L

Scott's "best of" lists have been updated.

Doing a Content Inventory

Jeff Veen's latest in the Adaptive Path essays is Doing a Content Inventory (Or, A Mind-Numbingly Detailed Odyssey Through Your Web Site), in which he talks about the process of taking stock of client data, mostly as a pre-requisite to building/deploying a CMS within an organization. Includes a link to download the Adaptive Path content inventory template. Related to this article is Janice Crotty Fraser's article in Web Techniques last year.

Foreseeing the future: The legacy of Vannevar Bush

Erin writes about Vannevar Bush in B&A. His As we may think essay is requisite reading in LIS programs.

Fifty years before web, 30 years before the personal computer, Vannevar Bush envisioned a new machine to make sense of the growing mountains of information, creating the notions of “hypertext” and the modern link.

Thesaurus::RDF

I posted this link about Thesaurus::RDF, The RDF Thesaurus descriptor standard under the OPML thread so thought I'd surface it here in case it gets missed.

This document describes an RDF implementation of a representation of terms of a thesaurus. The definition of a thesaurus follows that of the NISO specification z39.19. This specification is intended as a method for thesaurus servers to transfer all or part of a thesaurus to an application.

OPML (Outline Processor Markup Language)

Thanks to Kika for pointing out the OPML format to me, which might hold some promise for people interested in shared/distributed taxonomies. What is it?

OPML an XML-based format that allows exchange of outline-structured information between applications running on different operating systems and environments.

Seybold SF 2002

Thought many of you would be interested in the various topics that will be presented at Seybold SF 2002. Sounds like there will be lots of information on taxonomy, metadata, and of course, content management.

September 9-12, 2002 | San Francisco Moscone Center

49th Annual STC conference presentations list

A colleague sent me this link to the 49th Annual STC Conference presentation list. It's ordered by presenter name rather than by session ID or keyword, but it's worth mining.

Toledo: Home of User-Centered Design

For those interested in the UCD side of things, NPR had a neat segment this weekend on Industrial Design in Toledo, Ohio. In the first half of the century, Toledo was a burgeoning industrial city with a twist — a special program set up in conjunction with the Toledo Art Museum trained industrial designers (not a very common thing back then, apparently) who worked with local companies.

They talk a bit in the segment about how the industrial designers observed how people used products and changed the way they were designed to make them better, easier to use, and more sell-able. John Heskett explains what the addition of industrial design into the process adds to the final product:

It's a very small design change, but it's a very significant one, because someone has been observing people — observing their sensibilities, their problems ... and the change doesn't necessarily have to be a massive one. If you want to make it acceptable to as many people as possible, it makes perfect sense to observe them in detail, to understand them in detail, and to design in detail for their needs.

You can listen to the 7 minute story in RealAudio, read the accompanying article, or check out the Toledo Museum of Art.

Introduction to vocabularies; Shared categories for IA

I've got two threads here. One is a link to the Getty site and the second is a discussion about a controlled vocabulary for IA.

Getty introduction to vocabularies
I've long been intrested in the description of objects of art and several years ago delved into the literature of cataloging art work using the Getty and Visual Resources Association categories. I came across a section of the Getty site that talks about controlled vocabularies and the value of their use in describing works of art in networked environments. Should be valuable to people interested in learning about or selling the value of indexing with a controlled vocabulary. This is what the site aims to demonstrate specifically:

    1. Vocabularies can be used as "assistants" in database search engines, creating a semantic network (or roadmap) that shows links and paths between concepts. When querying a database, users can follow these paths composed of synonyms, broader/narrower terms, and related concepts to refine, expand, and enhance their searches and achieve more meaningful results. When used as a search assistant, a vocabulary is a powerful knowledge base -- linking searchers to information from both structured and unstructured databases.
     
    2. Vocabularies are sources of "standard terminology" for use in the description, cataloging, or documentation of cultural heritage collections. Vocabularies often reflect consensus of opinion within a community, that is, by answering the question - "How do we talk (or write) about this partiuar subject area?" In doing so, vocabularies become valuable tools for professional catalogers and documentation staff who need to establish consistent access points.

    Vocabularies play a critical role in the larger movement to create and apply standards that will improve access to cultural heritage information. This work requires creative collaborations among nations and disciplines in ways that have not been attempted before.

Controlled vocabularies for IA
The last point about improving access to information is relevant to our discipline. Many of us struggle when trying to exhaustively search the IA sites on some specific topic and find ourselves at a loss because different sites might describe (categorize/classify/index) that topic differently and our search tools might not help lead us to the place on all of the IA sites that mention that topic. A few people with popular sites have felt this pain with me. I have had discussions via email with a lot of these very smart people in the last couple of months. So, on IAWiki Eric is leading a discussion about the concept of SharedCategories and the value of sharing of indexing/classification schema. Please go there and add your thoughts.

CMS upgrade: Drupal v.4

I've upgraded the Drupal cms from the CVS version to the stable version 4. Please bear with me as I get some things back in order.

Thanks to everyone on the Drupal team for a kick-ass blog app.

-m

HBR article on social networks

Harvard Business Review has an article in their June issue about Social Network Analysis and how to tap into the power of informal knowledge & action creation in a company. This is an important field of study for us to keep up with, because it provides a new context for us to consider how we structure shared information spaces -- according to the 'official networks' or to support the informal ones?

The article costs $, but here's a quote from the Abstract:
Specifically, senior executives need to focus their attention on four key role-players in informal networks: Central connectors link most employees in an informal network with one another; they provide the critical information or expertise that the entire network draws on to get work done. Boundary spanners connect an informal network with other parts of the company or with similar networks in other organizations. Information brokers link different subgroups in an informal network; if they didn't, the network would splinter into smaller, less effective segments. And finally, there are peripheral specialists, who anyone in an informal network can turn to for specialized expertise but who work apart from most people in the network. The authors describe the four roles in detail, discuss the use of a well-established tool called social network analysis for determining who these role-players are in the network, and suggest ways that executives can transform ineffective informal networks into productive ones.

Cobranding

In the New Architect article, "Joint Venture", Adaptive Path's Jeffrey Veen discusses how to co-brand services successfully on the web.

Well-executed partnerships can make your site's offerings both more complete and more competitive. Just remember that new content or services will only attract users if they are complementary to your current offerings and are consistent with your existing interface. And without an unrelenting focus on your users fueling your development, you risk having a confusing site and alienating your core audience.

Column Two: KM & CMS blog

Step Two Designs, the firm in Australia whose whitepapers we have linked to occasionally, has started Column Two a new blog on knowledge management and content management systems.

Boolistic

Christina pointed to the Boolistic (requires Java) meta search engine and I've been having fun doing boolean AND and NOT searches with it using the neat little venn diagrams it creates from your query. Fun.

Web design 'causes confusion'

This BBC article comes to the shocking conclusion that:

People don't remember websites the way web designers think about it ... designers should organise information on websites in categories that are obvious to users.

I don't mean to be rude, but this sounds like a study conducted by the Center For Figuring Out Really Obvious Things. I'm sure it's a fine study, but it's certainly not news. John Rhodes' has written about Perceived Information Architecture, described a Perceived Information Architecture Test, and even posted feedback about a Perceived Information Architecture test run by (gasp) the BBC themselves. (Of course, John wasn't the first person to come up with the idea of seeing how users thought sites were organized nor the first to suggest that sites should be organized according to the way users think. But I do give credit where it's due...)

Information Architects and most people working on the web have known this for a while, and it's kind of disheartening that the BBC only picks up on it when it's a “study” conducted by a university. (At first I thought that maybe the BBC picked up on a SURL newsletter report, but then I realized that SURL is at Wichita State University, while this study was run by the Department of Psychology at Kansas State University. Kansas — hotbed of usability research!)

While it's nice that something like this appears in a “mainstream” publication like the BBC, it makes it seem like the only way this would have ever been found out is because they conducted “a study.” Maybe we should start calling usability tests “studies” and then people will take them more seriously.

I don't mean to rag on Kansas State, since, from their website, it seems like they have a pretty good focus on HCI and human factors. I guess it's one of those things where some publicity is better than no publicity.

Helping Businesses Evaluate Their Internet Presence

There's a brief article NY Times article on the importance of usability testing of web sites. Putting out articles in mainstream papers like this puts the usability meme more into the mainstream consciousness. If enough business decision makers read quotes like this:

    "Many customers will infer what it means to be in the relationship with a company for its design, navigation and performance."
there will undoubtedly be a positive effect on the bottom lines of usability firms. The value of IA needs to sold like this so that business decision makers connect design/navigation/performance not only with the issue of using usabilty testing to uncover weaknesses, but to connect these aspects with the UI/UX designers and IA's that might help bridge the experience gaps between the system and the user by working on/developing these aspects.

P.S. Couldn't help but comment on the hugely intrusive advertising blocks their using to interrupt the stories these days. Yikes.

Narrowing search results

"The following documents also contained words you DID NOT search on." In the Bloug, Lou considers a comment from Rick Starbuck about using common words found in a search set that were not used in a search query in order to offer a way to narrow results. In the comments at the bottom of the page, Prentice offers that this is only one possible way to allow narrowing of results and offers a dozen more useful methods.

Newspaper design: A return to simplicity

Mario Garcia's article on simplicity in newspaper design (and redesign) is nice. Simplicity tip: "When in doubt, review the rules of the minimalistic style of Bauhaus artists. Context, without excess, is the key."

Cascading Style Sheets: Sample chapter

I am so looking foward to the CSS book that Owen Briggs, Steve Champeon, Eric Costello and Matthew Patterson have written. There's a chapter excerpt on WebReference.