partial recall

a blog of ideas, links, and musings.

IA Summit Redux: DC-Style


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):


  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.


James Melzer addressed the topic of tagging, focusing primarily on using the bookmark tool

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. embraces both, and James noted that sometimes crowds become groups in 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”)


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.


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


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.


Olga Howard took some more time to cover the distinction of “crowd” versus “group.” With regard to tagging in, 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?


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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