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Archive for June, 2006

IA research (or IA is different)

Thursday, June 22nd, 2006

How odd for me. Three posts in a row that reference external things. I must be reading instead of writing.

I just real Karl Fast’s article in this month’s ASIST bulletin: The Confluence of Research and Practice in Information Architecture

This has 2 interesting things:

  • A strong point that although IA can, from the outside, look like it is old stuff painted new, it is only when you are inside you see how different it is
  • A promotion of the IA research stream for the IA Summit that is not just for academics

Best IA article in a long time – “Goal Based Information Retrieval Experiences”

Thursday, June 22nd, 2006

This is the best information architecture/information retrieval article I have read in ages, from Joe Lamantia. It nearly flew under my radar so I want it not to fly under yours (i.e. it was long so I dropped it in my delicious toread pile, which I almost never read):

Goal Based Information Retrieval Experiences

This is a very thoughtful examination of the things that people are really trying to do when they are looking for information. We often treat ‘findability’ as the end goal without thinking of how it really fits in. Joe has a neat set of goals that we can keep in mind as well some very interesting modes of information retrieval. His modes are very different to mine, and an interesting way of looking at information tasks.

Me too – dumping the word user

Wednesday, June 21st, 2006

It’s a me too day.

Amongst many recent articles about getting rid of the word ‘user’ from our vocabulary, I liked this one from Thomas Vander Wal best. Well written and thoughtful as I expect from him.

The only thing the anti-user articles are missing is a discussion of the linguistic need to define more precisely who we are talking about. User did fill that need – it meant the person using the product. But it has become a four letter word and is often used as a derogatory term.

I have not been replacing it with ‘person’ as this is too generic and often clumsy in a sentence. I replace it with author, website visitor, reader – words that describe not who they are but what they are doing. Works for me and gives me the extra granularity I need when talking about different types of people.

Things you should know before working with me

Tuesday, June 20th, 2006

I have often thought about how I work with people, and how people work with me. My work is a bit odd, and I’m a bit odd and people don’t always know what to expect.

So here’s a guide to what you need to know before working with me (in the context of me doing interface design and information architecture work for a project):

  • I may spend a long time seeming to do very little. Don’t panic – I’m thinking. Exactly what you pay me to do.
  • I spend a lot of time with earphones in. That means I’m trying to think and concentrate amongst the chatter of an office, not that I’m anti-social.
  • If you give me a gantt chart all arranged in linear order, I’ll nod and get to the end on time and budget, but not by the path you set.
  • I spend a long time gathering information and thinking, and little time producing towards the end. Once I have nailed an idea, all else is straightforward and fast. So if you think I’m going to miss a deadline because I haven’t produced much, stop worrying.
  • Outputs need inputs – I have experience, but I can’t design a good system out of nothing. I need to base it on something. Don’t stick me in a corner and not let me research and talk to people.
  • Teams are good – I have lots of experience at what I do. But so do you and the team. Let’s work together to create something great. Don’t make me work by myself and expect me to produce miracles.
  • I’ll occasionally rant and get passionate. That means I care.
  • Give me challenging work, give me time to work through it and we’ll get there. Don’t expect me to to hard work in the same time I do easy work. That’s just dumb.
  • If there isn’t enough work, I’d genuinely prefer to be at home. I’m not hanging around to chase dollars.
  • I hate banging my head against a political brick wall. I’d prefer to be anywhere else – that’s just a waste of time.

So, that’s me. Let’s go!

[Note: I wrote this over many months and will continue to tweak it, so it is not aimed at any previous client.]

Webstock presentations are available

Thursday, June 15th, 2006

My presentations from Webstock are ready, in as many formats as you can hope for (audio, streaming audio, video, streaming video).

I haven’t watched or listened to them yet, but will do so in the next day or two and will let you know whether they make sense to listen to, or whether you need to watch the video or go through the slides while listening. The second one (usability for rich internet applications) will certainly be something you need to see, not listen to (and I don’t think the hilarious bits will make any sense without seeing it).

Can you review an article for me?

Sunday, June 11th, 2006

I’m currently writing an article on information architecture for a special issue of a journal (not sure if I’m allowed to say which one, so I won’t).

I’m working on it alone, so don’t have anyone to sense-check it before it goes in for peer review.

I’m looking for a couple of people to read it for me, make sure it makes sense and give me some general feedback. It is aimed at people who do user research within IA projects, but who may not have loads of experience with this. If this sounds like you and you have time to read a 4000 word article, please leave a comment or email me.

Webstock wrap-up (belated)

Tuesday, June 6th, 2006

I can’t believe that it is a week and a half since Webstock finished and I’m only just posting a wrap up. I guess I have some excuse – my family and I stayed in New Zealand for an extra 4 days (spent in the South Island, first wine tasting in the Marlborough region, then crayfish eating in Kaikoura, then general touristing in Christchurch) then came home to the real world and work.

Anyway, I’d like to firstly say that the conference was excellent, both as a speaker and attendee. It was tremendously well organised, well catered and in a beautiful location.

The speakers were great. I must admit that my favourites were Joel Spolsky (I didn’t learn a thing, but he was completely hilarious) and Kathy Sierra (who is just so inspiring and lovely). But everyone else was great – great enough that I didn’t wag to go shopping and didn’t read my email (much).

I think my sessions went well. My IA presentation overflowed (I counted 92 seats, and there was at least half that number again sitting on the floor). I thought this one went fairly well, and a couple of people later told me that it was paradigm shifting. I’m not sure about my usability/RIA presentation – I don’t think I pulled together the examples and the theory as well as I’d have liked. But I’ll let you know when the podcasts/videos are ready and you can judge.

I also caught up with some friends, which was great. I hadn’t seen Hayden for about 5 years, Justine for a year and Trent and I had only met via lots of email. Lloyd and I had IMd about planning beforehand, and it was great to catch Maxine & Russ again. And I met a bunch of new people too. People are always the best part of conferences.

Do you think this sets a record for the most frequent use of ‘great’ in a post…

Technorati tag: Webstock

I’m keynoting at OZCHI

Monday, June 5th, 2006

How’s this for exciting – I’m going to be this year’s industry keynote at OZCHI (our CHI equivalent). My first keynote, and it is at a conference I love where I get to catch up with great people every year.

One of the most interesting things for me will be the change in type of presentation – I have been doing a lot of conference presentations recently, but they are all very constrained, practical talks (which is great as I’m suited to these). It will be very interesting being able to do something more expansive & forward-thinking.