IA Summit 2007 Redux: Joshua Prince-Ramus

It’s been over a month since the IA Summit, and I’m only now getting a chance to write about the experience. I took notes from many of the sessions I attended, but I’ll try to link to available videos or slides when possible.

An opening keynote: Joshua Prince-Ramus.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn how much commonality there is between “brick and mortar” architecture and information architecture. Joshua outlined issues surrounding limitations of space, resources and differing business goals and provided a glimpse into how his firm pushes for the best solution given these constraints. He had presented a similar talk to TED in February 2006, so seems best to just show you his related talk.

[Runtime: 20:09 | Please make sure you have the latest version of Adobe Flash installed on your computer to watch this video. To download it, please visit: http://www.adobe.com/ ]

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Post a Slideshow on Your Site – Part III

Slideshare

Well, it’s now available and I’m very excited! Think of the possibilities. For teachers. For sharing knowledge in an organization. For sharing knowledge with the world. Sign up now and get started.

Related Posts

Post a Slideshow on Your Site – Part II

Post a Slideshow on Your Site – Part I

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Web 2.0 the Enterprise

Digg Logo

I’ve been thinking a lot about the voting mechanism in Digg, Netscape beta and others that allows users to rate content as helpful or worthwhile. Think of Amazon’s “Was this rating helpful?” mechanism but with the power to literally elevate content to higher visibility.

I think there are some wonderful uses for this type of social voting for the enterprise, and Kevin and others might consider teaming with CMS providers to include this functionality into corporate intranets and KM solutions. Here’s one idea:

In traditional organizations, innovation and idea generation is a top-down exercise. That is, business leaders drive the services and products based on their own analysis of market needs. In addition, corporate policy is determined by the leaders of the organization.

On the other hand, some organizations allow for the bottom-up vetting of ideas. Why not use a voting mechanism like that employed by Digg to allows employees to participate in a “suggestion box” approach – suggestions to better the company – both in terms of corporate policy/culture and the products and services they offer to the customer? Fellow employees can then rate these ideas and the best ideas are vetted to the top. These suggestions then get on the radar of corporate leaders.

Implementing this functionality on corporate intranets seems like a no-brainer to me. Unfortunately, in my experience, only the large organizations really focus on harnessing the potential of their intranets. The new social technologies of blogs, wikis, feeds and the like have a slow mainstream adoption process, but the need for sharing knowledge in the enterprise is great and these tools are inexpensive solutions for building an innovative knowledge-sharing organization.

Update

After doing a little digging (horrible pun), it seems as though the folks at Digg will be releasing a Digg API around the time of the version 3.0 release next Monday:

“We also plan on launching an API after the next major release of digg (v3). The API will provide users with access to digg DB data in which you can build your own digg tools/research projects around.”

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Diggidy Dugg

Digg Logo

Seems there’s a buzz about AOL’s venture into user-recommended-and-rated-news. I am not writing this post to berate AOL for moving into a space carved out by Digg. Frankly, I do not think Digg owns the IP to this social news framework. Others like those at Newsvine have produced similar offerings.

Instead, I think AOL’s offering instead targets the Googles and Yahoos of the world, trying to pit this functionality into their broader portal offering.

Most importantly, I want to give props to Alex for his fantastic work on the product. He and his team have a lot to be proud of.

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Wiki Recommendations

I am looking to set up a wiki for my group at work. The idea is to share information regarding conferences, research, or anything else we’d like to share. We decided a wiki would be the best tool, but after a preliminary review of free products hosted by the wiki provider, there were not too many I’d consider intuitive. The two I’ve focused on are Jot and PBWiki. The big plus with Jot is that is uses a WYSIWYG editor and it has a number of template plugins available.

Can you make any recommendations for a free hosted Wiki with WYSIWYG editing features?

UPDATE: June 10, 2006

I’m not sure why I hadn’t thought of it since I already use WordPress for this site…I’ve been thinking of moving away from using a wiki and instead using a blog tool like WordPress. WordPress hosts blogs at wordpress.com so I can set up a blog that includes wiki-like functionality using editable pages. There’s also a WYSIWYG editor for those who would rather not dabble in XHTML.

In addition, WordPress offers much more for workgroup collaboration. For instance, it lets you feed XML into the sidebar, so colleagues can easily share articles bookmarked and saved in Del.icio.us.

The biggest issue is intellectual property issues along with security. Pages and posts can be password protected, but it would be much easier if only registered users of the site could read posts and pages. Unfortunately, it does not seem that WordPress offers this out-of-the-box functionality. I can only assume they will add this to their enterprise offferings.

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IA Summit Redux: DC-Style

dc-ia

On Saturday May 20, the local chapter of DC information architects got together to recap topics that were addressed and discussed at the 2006 IA Summit. This was a long time coming for me. I’ve been meaning to attend these local meetings, but life has, of course, gotten in the way.

Livia Labate has provided a wealth of useful material, including MP3 recordings of the local DC event, as well as links to material that was presented at the Summit.

Anyway, the following is a brief summary of my notes. Certainly these notes do not codify the entirety of the redux – just my own brain dump based on notes taken at the event. The topics to be addressed are listed below (those in bold are the ones we had time to discuss):

Overview

  1. Summit Overview#
  2. Tagging#
  3. Wireframes#
  4. New Technology#
  5. Content Management
  6. Business and IA
  7. Theory#
  8. International

Summit Overview

Dan Brown facilitated the DC-IA redux, and one of the things he discussed centered around the format of the Summit. He mentioned that in the past, there was a greater selection of things to attend and a greater variety of topics. On the other hand, he mentioned that there were better opportunities to connect with people outside of sessions this past year. He asked for input on how to create a culture that would both maximize connections outside of sessions and make good use in-session time.

Tagging

James Melzer addressed the topic of tagging, focusing primarily on using the bookmark tool del.icio.us.

Some discussion revolved around making a distinction between a group versus a crowd. A group, James indicated, is intentional, known, and planned. In contrast, a crowd is unknown and not planned. Del.icio.us embraces both, and James noted that sometimes crowds become groups in Del.icio.us because is sometimes ends up being the same people who are the forefront of tagging, and their aggregate work sets trends for other users.

Tagging::Kinds of Tags

  • Description (Singular)
  • Categorization (plural)
  • Opinion
  • Action (temporary, personal)
  • Relation (for userid)
  • Insider Reference (e.g., “enterprise_ia”)

Wireframes

Nathan Curtis discussed wireframes. Apparently, Nathan worked at K12 for a few months just before I arrived. I’ve heard very good things about him – in particular, how he shared some of his wireframing techniques with current K12 IAs.

Wireframes::Techniques

Nathan explained that there was a discussion of using different wireframing techniques/tools, including:

Wireframes::Challenges

Nathan mentioned that IAs need to struggle with representing interactions over time. With the advent of RIAs such as Flash and Ajax, IAs need to be able to communicate how information is to be presented, but how user behaviors will affect the feedback and visual representation of a web application. Nathan mentioned Bill Scott at Yahoo! and how he uses interaction storyboards, complete with interaction matrices to document all behavior changes for a given interaction type.

One technique Nathan mentioned was to segment the “modules” that comprise a wireframe. In other words, reusable widgets can be saved as components to be used over and over again. In addition, Nathan commented on Kevin Cheng’s use of comics to communicate HCI usability issues with stakeholders.

New Technology

Nathan briefly discussed how new technologies are affecting the profession. For instance, Laszlo and Adobe Flex make it easier to move from a rapid prototype to a working solution. The web metaphor is moving away from “pages” to “mashups,” so IAs need to be able to embrace change and add new skill sets to accomodate for this change.

The group also discussed game design and the use of incentives as a way to interact with the user.

Theory

Olga Howard took some more time to cover the distinction of “crowd” versus “group.” With regard to tagging in Del.icio.us, the group discussed how there may be a flurry of different tags used to classify objects, but over time, the number of tags flattens to an accepted assortment.

Next, the discussion turned to Morville’s championing of “findability.” The basic questions to ask include:

  • Is it useful?
  • Is it desirable?
  • Is it valuable?
  • Is it credible?

Conclusion

Since I have not been able to attend the IA Summit yet, I found this redux to be pretty informative. In addition to getting useful information, I enjoyed spending time with other like-minded individuals who have a passion for creating usable intuitive products.

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Daily Reads

Wall Street Journal

Upon coming to work this morning, I noticed a stack of newspapers left outside of the building for our senior management – CEO, CFO, CTO, CLO, etc. I’ve noticed this with other companies as well – the daily read of choice is the Wall Street Journal.

Since my last post encouraged you, the reader, to aspire to executive management positions, such as CIO, what publications would you consider essential “big picture” executive daily reads? Why? Certainly this can encompass both online and traditional publications.

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Rethinking EIA: Becoming Information Ecologists

Summary

Enterprise Information Architecture (EIA) refers to the process of making information easy to access throughout a discrete entity – in this case, an organization. According to Wikipedia, Information Architecture is, in part, defined simply as “the practice of structuring information (knowledge or data).” Note that this simplified definition makes no reference to the Web or information systems of any kind, a la Richard Saul Wurman.

This post attempts to rethink EIA and argues that information architecture need not be constrained to designing structures and managing content as it relates to the Web or for any electronic system for that matter. Instead, I argue that an enterprise information architect might also be called, as Thomas Davenport coins it, an “Information Ecologist.” In addition to the commonly defined responsibilities of the iA (little ‘i’), the EIA or IE adds the following skillsets/responsibilies to his or her repertoire:

  • Information Audit/Mapping
  • Business Process Engineering

The end result is that not all information finds its way into a web-based system. Some information may be best kept in other formats. However, an IE‘s responsibility is to structure information so that it is valued as a resource on par with human capital, physical capital, and the like. Although information systems are best suited for information management and information findability, the IE must map all information in order to have a comprehensive inventory.

Background

I’ve been at my new job for close to three weeks now and during the first week I was inserted into a project. Without getting into specifics, K12 develops both digital (online) and “hardcopy” products for specific educational market segments. Their current CMS is the backbone of their production efforts.

I am enjoying taking this on as my first project, in part because it forces me to understand the business of K12 and its workflows. I’ve been able to interview different stakeholders and users, thereby forcing myself out of seclusion and getting to know my colleagues. In the process, however, I’ve been faced with the dilemma: What exactly is a CMS and what is the hand-off between system processes and people processes?

Defining a CMS Means Analyzing an Organization’s Information Assets

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the Information Architecture (IA) Summit (As an aside, I hope to attend next year – although it’s hard to be participatory now that I’m a relatively new parent), and subsequently, two of the many sessions that interested me: in this case, the session on Enterprise Information Architecture, along with Dan Brown’s [slides], really got me thinking about the definition of who and what information architecture is.

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Foxmark Your InfoCloud

Foxmarks Logo

In my never-ending quest to manage my personal infocloud, I came across a great article referencing Foxmarks, a tool to sync Firefox bookmarks between computers. If you are a Firefox user (which you should be!), I encourage you to use this tool. It’s in beta now, but I’ve had no problems whatsoever syncing bookmarks between my work pc, my home Mac, and my laptop.

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“Come to Me” NETiquette

Summary: Since the blogosphere is abuzz in the Web 2.0 dialogue, I feel it’s time to reiterate the call that web sites should universally provide a usable method to transact with them from any capable electronic device. As CMSs becomes the norm, it seems too that such “universal access” capabilities should be the norm. Since we are swamped with so much information, I humbly suggest that we start by being sure to include titles for our content and full text options when syndicating feeds for consumption. I’ll explain…

It’s about the Net, not the Web

Once upon a time, the Internet was all about serving static HTML pages to view in a Web browser. The terms “Internet” and “Web” were considered somewhat synonymous, even though the former refers to the physical means for data trasmission among interconnected electronic devices (tool) and the latter refers to interconnected electronic documents (content). Today, the Internet transmits data in multiple ways, not just by serving up HTML documents for people to view on their preferred browser. The Internet provides services such as e-commerce, communication, video and other types of dynamic content.

We’re Becoming a More Portable Society

Today’s culture embrances portability. The world has become smaller, in part due to the Internet’s possibilities of transacting internationally on a scale unheard of 20 years ago. Further, this opportunity to connect, transmit, and receive information has moved away from simply using a personal computer to view web pages. I would first admonish gatekeepers of web sites to provide a method to view content on any capable electronic device. For example, Mike provides a great tutorial (for us non-code folks) for making your site mobile-friendly. Of course, I am the biggest hypocrite. Perhaps I will implement this feature once I get more than one reader (thanks, Mom).

Nonetheless, there are sophisticated happenings – take, for example, ESPN’s foray into mobile content delivery. Pretty impressive, huh?

Information Explosion

As David over at Technorati indicates, the blogosphere world alone “is over 60 times bigger than it was only 3 years ago.” Because so much content is being created on a daily basis, it is so difficult for the common consumer to find what he or she is looking for. Let’s try to make it a bit easier for everyone…

Titles Matter

NewsAlloyBe sure to include titles for new content. I’ve recently “crossed over” and now do most of my reading using a feed reader rather than proactively using a combination of search and bookmarks to visit specific sites for information. As Thomas explains, the “come to me web” is the model of the future. I would argue that as more and more information is created and available, the harder it will be to find it. However, one way to make sense of the information that interests me is to subscribe to feeds available through sites I am interested in. Right now I have over 80 90 sites I subscribe to, so when browsing for articles of interest, the titles really matter. We need to be journalists here. Interestingly, one of the bigger feed evangelists out there does not regularly use titles on his site, thereby making me less interested to see what he has to say when using my new feed reader of choice (hat tip to Mark).

Give me the Whole Article!

In addition, I would say a great many content providers that do provide feeds only provide “snippets” of an article – usually only the first 250 characters. This then forces me to visit the web site to view content. This really makes syndicated feeds worthless for the reader, IMHO. In defense of only providing snippets, I’m sure this practice may, in part, be done purposefully so that I will click on advertisements. However, feeds are beginning to become embedded with clickable advertisements.

I cannot speak to every CMS out there, but I do know that WordPress by default will only syndicate these snippets of an article for those who choose to subscribe to a site’s feed. I’ve chosen to make sure that every post on my site is viewable in its entirety in an RSS reader. Below is the interface used in WordPress to make this change:

WordPress Admin Screen

WordPress Admin Screen

Conclusion

We live in an information age where each of us is confronted daily with choices about what information we choose to grab, hold onto, use, and get rid of. We make these choices very quickly. Therefore, I urge all content providers to make their content accessible to all digital devices, but let’s start by making sites “feed-friendly” by offering full-text syndicated feeds along with richly named titles.

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Egocentrically Altruistic Web 2.0

John Battelle recently asked readers to come up with a tagline for the next Web 2.0 conference. This will be the third such conference.

Year One included the tagline “The Web Is a Platform” to which Battelle remarks,

“That felt spot on, because the idea of the web as a place you could build on the work of others was a pretty new idea.”

Year Two included the tagline “Revving the Web” to which Battelle remarks,

“…because it was all about the services and businesses and opportunities that arose from the Web – all of which taken together made the web more robust and more exciting.”

For November’s conference, Battelle suggests the tagline “Disruption” by indicating,

“…the year the Web – in all its forms – really flexes its muscle and begins to seriously turn the soil of the global economy in deep and permanent ways. Think of the disruptions in the media and entertainment industries – probably the deepest disruptions so far. But we’re only in the first inning or so of the disruptions in the mobile and communications space (how excited do YOU think AT&T is about Google offering free Wifi, for example? Or eBay buying Skype?). And the disruptions of search and clickstreams on commerce is only now beginning, and the same is true for the massive IT industry (Microsoft Live, anyone?). And the disruption on our cultural life – in government, for example (can you say warrantless wiretaps meets the Database of Intentions?) – is only beginning to dawn on all of us.”

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You Gada.Be Kiddin’ Me

Gada.Be Logo

Well, I may have found a search tool that makes up for some of the limitations of my last post regarding Rollyo. It seems Chris Pirillo of G4TechTV’s Call for Help fame created gada.be, a search tool that allows for unique easy-to-remember urls along with capabilities for RSS search feeds. I look forward to the development of this tool. If I had two nickles to rub together, I’d even consider investing.

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Enterprise Information Architecture and the Need for Knowledge Management

James Melzer, fellow CLIS graduate, spoke to my grad school class last week regarding Enterprise Information Architecture. James has a great complement to Lou Rosenfeld’s original.

I was a little stuck on James’ use of content/document/record, but I realize I do not have the library background that he does for discerning these document types. Of note is that James indicates that good IA precedes good CM development. Consequently, his diagram seeks to convey the relationship between the two.

My argument would be that we must broaden the definition of Information Architecture, because IA is not simply used as a precurser to CM or other types of information system development, but also for KM development. Unfortunately, not all knowledge is captured in a system electronically. Isn’t a part of the job of an Information Architect to also perform information audits to determine where both information and knowledge stores reside, particularly if they are not captured electronically or if there’s unnecessary redundancy?

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Effective Culture Change in the FBI

I recently read a CIO Magazine article that discusses some of problems the FBI has faced while attempting to implement technical solutions. Although technology projects have been successfully implemented, there still exists a culture that mimimizes the importance of these solutions. The article states

Azmi [FBI CIO] is aware of the mountain that faces him—not to mention the consequences if he fails to deliver the support systems the agents need to fight against high-tech crime and terrorism. “Looking at the mission of the FBI and how critical it is, I will tell you that we are at war,” he says. “And the best tool we have is information, and if information doesn’t get to agents on the street in time, then we haven’t done our job properly.”

Last year I wrote a paper entitled, “Effective Culture Change.” The paper was written as part of a graduate school team experience for the Department of Justice’s Library Services division. Although the paper was targeted to a specific audience within the DoJ‘s Justice Management Division, I feel the paper could be used to address some of the culture problems within the FBI and the DoJ as a whole.

First, let me define organizational culture. Claver, et al. (2001, p.248) define organizational culture as:

“A set of values, symbols and rituals shared by the members of a specific firm, which describes the way things are done in an organization in order to solve both internal management problems and those related to customers, suppliers and the environment.”

This culture manifests itself at both a visible level (age, ethnicity, gender, dress, organizational structure, symbols, slogans, etc.) and an invisible level (time, motivation, stability vs. change, orientation towards work, individualism vs. collaboration, control, how management views IT, etc.).

I believe the primary reason for failed IT projects and a revolving door of CIOs at the FBI is primarily due to the agency’s culture, not failed technologies or poor CIO leadership. Let me elaborate…

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Search, Folders, and the Need For Automated “Smart” Tagging

The End of Folders? Nope.

I recently read related posts on Dan Brown’s Green Onions and Brad Hill’s Unofficial Google Weblog regarding the buzz about the supposed demise of “folders” on personal computers. Dan discusses this buzz – that people may be moving away from classifying electronic information based on a hierarchical “folder” framework, instead complementing this habit by applying the concept of attributing “labels” (often more than one) to this information. Dan appears not to buy into this theory, instead arguing that the the concept of folders (or a hierarchical structure of organization on personal computers) may not become obsolete because the “human mind loves part-whole organization.” I agree.

I cannot imagine a world without folders. Folders make my world a bit smaller and more manageable – a starting point, if you will. If I had to rely solely on a search mechanism I might very well be in trouble because sometimes I just cannot think of the correct meta-information to locate what I’m looking for. Since I am a visual person, I often need a visual cue to get me started on my quest. I can often define my specific search strategy only after I have seen the top one of two tiers of folders on my computer’s file system. Unfortunately, while search tools are doing a better job locating information based on meta-information, there is still a gap. Let me explain…

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Matt Drudge, PIM Portal Pioneer

me text

As an American, I am profoundly aware that I am living in a “me” culture, one that took off during Generation X. Here are a few examples of cultural/technical changes, partially influenced by this “me” philosophy:

Television

There used to be 4 main television channels – ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC. From these sources, consumers were entertained, informed, and marketed to. Today, it is not uncommon for the typical consumer to have hundreds of cable or satellite choices to satisfy their specific interests for entertainment or information. Consumers with these advanced pay services can also choose to see selected movies, sporting events, music events, etc. with on-demand-like features.

Music

Services like iTunes and Napster allow consumers to pick and choose the individual songs they would like to purchase (or “rent”). Even radio formats such as Jack tries to broaden its appeal to many people, so at least they can hear some tunes off the beaten path.

Web Services

I made the mistake a few years ago when my contracting company planned to implement the portal concept to its web applications. I thought, “Why waste all this time and energy collapsing customized information for people when they can go to individual sites on their own?” I made the mistake of forgetting where I was (America – the “me” culture) and two other critical variables. (more…)