IA Summit 2007 Redux: Rashmi Sinha

A closing plenary from Rashmi Sinha.

Rashmi is the creator of SlideShare.

[Runtime: 49 slides | Please make sure you have the latest version of Adobe Flash installed on your computer to watch this slideshow. To download it, please visit: http://www.adobe.com/ ]

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Post a Slideshow on Your Site – Part II

…or, you could simply use SlideShare, once the kind folks open up the beta to everyone. Below is an example using the venerable Lou Rosenfeld’s recently posted “Enterprise Information Architecture” slides.

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Post a Slideshow on Your Site – Part I

I stumbled across this post which describes how you can embed slides into your website. If you use either a free Flickr account (or Google’s Picasa), you can export your Powerpoint slides as image files, upload them to your photo site, and then insert a bit of code to embed your slides. It takes a few minutes, but it is certainly a useful little hack. Hopefully Flickr (and Picasa) won’t change their code to beat this hack.

Obviously the example shown below is not too pretty because my content space does not have a lot of width. I’ve noticed that this alters Flickr’s functionality a bit. One other note – be sure that you upload your slides in reverse chronoligical order so that your first slide is the one most recently uploaded. Unfortunately, I cannot seem to find a way to change the slide order.

The slide example below was created by Ari Weissman after his recent conference experiences. He posted some useful links to accompany his slides. Enjoy!

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G.E. Brainstorms Too!

G.E. Imagination Cubed

Now this free tool from G.E. might be a helpful tool to use during brainstorming meetings…folks can collaborate during the meeting and then be able to print out the results…[Hat Tip to Lifehacker]

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Online Visio

Gliffy Logo

The rage now is converting every MS Office application to the web (web 2.0) so you can access tools and files from anywhere, enabling better collaboration among team members. One suite of tools that comes to mind is Zoho, which includes most of the MS Office tools, but with less functionality.

This morning I read an article [hat tip to Nomad] about Gliffy, a web tool that looks to provide Visio-like functionality. I wonder if it can provide the mind-mapping functionality as well? The cool thing is that you can easily embed the results into any site.

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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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Sweet Resume Tool

Emurse Logo

Alex is a busy man. His “day” job has kept him busy with Netcape beta and now he’s publicizing his resume tool called “Emurse.” I encourage you to check it out.

Here’s Alex’s press release regarding Emurse:

“Emurse.com’s mission is to improve your job hunt.

We believe that your job hunt is a continual process that starts with having an updated resume available at all times. Emurse allows you to easily create resumes and manage your existing ones. You can download them in any format instantly from anywhere in the world. Stay organized and save time by easily distributing your resumes directly from the site, keeping track of all their destinations and when they’ve arrived. When its time to update your resume, Emurse allows you to easily make a change to all of them simultaneously. We’ll even help you turn your resume into a web page so potential employers can always have access to your most recent copy.”

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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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Easy Chat

Did you know you could add chat to your website very easily? With Gabbly you can simply type in to your browser address line (best with Firefox) ‘www.gabbly.com/www.mywebsite.com’ where ‘mywebsite’ is your site. You can also embed the chat tool right into your web page like the example shown here. Note sure about security, but it seems interesting.

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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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Google Calendar – First Impressions

Google Calendar

Today Google launched their own calendar offering. I created a Google Calendar for myself and my initial review is relatively positive, but not enough to make me a convert.

Pros

The definitive positives include the ability to manage multiple calendars, sharing calendars and delegating permissions to access these calendars. Also, there are a variety of ways to get notified of events – emails, SMS, etc.

Cons

The biggest negative, for me, is that there is no sync capability. Google allows you to import your calendar from another program, but there is no way to sync a localized version of your calendar, either on a client program, a handheld, or otherwise. In addition, it does not publish in the iCal format to allow for subscriptions. Why should I only be able to view the calendar on the site? Shouldn’t I also be able to subscribe to the calendar and view it using a portable device? Perhaps the thought is that all portable devices in the future will have a persistent connection to the Internet, but I for one cannot now justify spending a few extra bucks for my mobile phone provider to offer this option.

I understand that Google starts off with limited features and expands its offerings, but this sync criticism is one that I have with a majority of the web calendar offerings out there. My current solution is to use iCalx to host my calendar. Essentially, it is a site that offers webDAV technologies and uses PHP iCalendar. That way I can use a client like Apple’s iCal or Mozilla Calendar to publish and sync my calendar in the iCal format to the iCalx site. Then I can sync the client with my portable device (Palm).

Conclusion

I have no problem using a web program like Google instead of a client program, but it must at least offer a way to subscribe to the calendar for viewing on other platforms and devices. Google is on its way to solving the problem of sharing and collaborating using calendars, but until they can offer a subscription and a syncing feature, it will not replace my current solution.

Update

I spoke too soon. Google does offer the ability to view the calendar from other applications by offering both an xml feed and an iCal subscription! Yippie! Now they just need to let users create entries from these other applications so they can be synced to the Google calendar.

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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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Which Stakeholder is Greater?

I understand that one of the big reasons Grants.gov went with its current solution was so that people could fill out forms offline. However, I wonder which stakeholder is more affected – the person who cannot have constant Internet access or the person who has a Mac (or another alternative OS) and has to jump through additional hoops in order to submit his or her application? I am amazed that any research institution would not have constant Internet connectivity. Do we know what percentage of applicants might fall into this category? Dave indicates that as many as 33% of the Grants.gov audience uses a computing platform other than Windows OS. I just cannot imagine that 33% of applicants in the grantee community would not have access to the Internet. As I’ve remarked tongue-in-cheek in the past,

“There are federal mandates such as Section 508 that provide for equal access to web applications for handicapped individuals. Shouldn’t there be an equal access technology policy too?”

My point being that official G2C business systems should allow for multi-platform accessibility. Granted, I’ve spoken about the alternative of using Citrix, but this is not a particularly intuitive solution for many people. At least there are some offers of help.

Frankly, I do not think that it would be such a stretch to create a product that is available on multiple platforms. Sure, perhaps they cannot have something available “for every platform imaginable,” but this is not forging new ground. For instance, a tool like JEdit is Java-based and can therefore be run on multiple platforms. It is a text editor that handles a variety of plugins, including fairly robust XML editing. Now, although I do not know all the technology requirements for a tool to be able to transmit the data to grants.gov, it seems to me that something similar can be created that meets the requirements for offline application creation.

If Grants.gov is unwilling to “host” grantees’ data centrally, then it seems that this saved money could easily be used to resolve this issue. It’s just a shame that they did not think to include the multiple platform requirement when they initially contracted with PureEdge. I guess the saying goes “better late than never,” but it sounds as though there are some angry people – I’ve been monitoring this dissatisfaction for almost 2-3 years now.

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Grant.gov Usability Incompatability

Grants.Gov

Today’s Washington Post catches on the problems Mac users have identified for a while now – that Grants.gov does not support Mac users unless these users use a Citrix workaround.

Scientists should focus on science, not on how to submit applications for funding. It seems to me that the process should be intuitive and quick – not painstakingly difficult to figure out. The Grants.gov issue starts off with usability problems because it does not support a variety of computing platforms. Why does the grant community gush about NSF’s Fastlane system? Well, you don’t need to get bogged down in instructions to figure out how to use it and it is platform independent.

Perhaps Grants.gov should determine why scientists love this system. Previous posts about Grants.gov here and here.

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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.”

(more…)

Afraid of Google Earth

Google Earth

Back in May I discussed the potential misuse of a powerful mapping tool like Google Earth. Today, the New York Times reports that international governments are afraid of the potential for misuse of this technology. Since the New York Times will eventually make the link to their article obsolete (unless you pay for a subscription), I felt compelled to include some of the more interesting tidbits…

From the Dec 20, 2005 edition of the New York Times, “Governments Tremble at Google’s Bird’s-Eye View”

“Lt. Gen. Leonid Sazhin, an analyst for the Federal Security Service, the Russian security agency that succeeded the K.G.B., was quoted by Itar-Tass as saying: “Terrorists don’t need to reconnoiter their target. Now an American company is working for them.”

“India, whose laws sharply restrict satellite and aerial photography, has been particularly outspoken. “It could severely compromise a country’s security,” V. S. Ramamurthy, secretary in India’s federal Department of Science and Technology, said of Google Earth. And India’s surveyor general, Maj. Gen. M. Gopal Rao, said, “They ought to have asked us.”

“Andrew McLaughlin, a senior policy counsel at Google, said the company had entered discussions with several countries over the last few months, including Thailand, South Korea and, most recently, India.”

“When you have multiple eyes in the sky, what you’re doing is creating a transparent globe where anyone can get basic information about anyone else,” said Mr. Gupta, the Sandia analyst. His recommendation to the Indian government, he said, would be to accept the new reality: “Times are changing, and the best thing to do is adapt to the advances in technology.”

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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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You Can Roll a Rollyo to Your Pal

Rollyo Logo

Since I’m always on the prowl for all that is gadgety-cool as well as anything that may make my life easier, I came across a search tool with a twist…

Rollyo “is the fast, easy way to create personal search engines using only the sources you trust.” In other words, you add the Internet sites that you would like to search on. Therefore, you purposefully limit the universe of possible web sites to search – think of it as a filter to your Internet searching. In addition, you can create multiple search engines based on your interests. For instance, I may add trusted weather Internet sites for my “weather” search engine or add Internet sites devoted to Apple Computer for my “Mac” search engine. You can also share your search engines with others.

The site, although in beta, appears to have quite a following, or at least quite a number of endorsements – Hollywood celebrities like Debra Messing and Rosario Dawson, politicos like Arianna Huffington, to blogger celebrities like Heather B. Armstrong (“Dooce”) and Jason Kottke.

My only suggestion to the team would be to add an RSS feed based on your search engine criteria – that way you can easily see new search results without having to go to the site. I’ve just registered, so hopefully over the next few days I’ll be able to try it out. Go for it!

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