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Archive for September, 2007

Andy Clarke is an information architect

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

Who knew? I always thought Andy Clarke was a great visual designer and CSS dude. But what I didn’t know was that he’s a closet information architect.

I attended his workshop today at Web Directions. In this, and in his book (Transcending CSS), he spent a big chunk of time talking about meaning and structure – about identifying meaningful content chunks, using semantic naming for pieces of content and using microformats to make small pieces of content more usable.

I know this isn’t usually considered to be information architecture, but I personally think it is. What is more IA than analysing content, finding meaning and creating macro and micro-structures? That sounds like IA to me.

Andy talked about the idea that ‘designers’ should be involved in the development (or at least planning) of code structures. I think this is a perfect place for IA folks to also be involved (if they are involved in a project) – to best figure out how detailed content chunks can be used. But I don’t think this is only an IA role – it is important that everyone thinks at the broad level of communication design and the detailed level of communication execution.

And it was a fantastic workshop, wonderfully supported by The Jam & Paul Weller.

Oz-IA wrap-up

Monday, September 24th, 2007

Oz-IA finished yesterday. For me the best part is catching up with smart colleagues I don’t see enough of (and smart friends I see often). And I certainly got to do a lot of that. I hardly stopped talking!

There were a couple of outstanding presentations (especially Matt’s semantic analysis preso which never fails to stun me). There were some good, solid, interesting case studies (my favourites were the news website redesign, user research in secondlife and the mentoring case study). There were some good theory presentations (Steve’s statistics, Iain’s page length).

There were a few disappointing presentations*. I won’t name them – that would hardly be professional ;) . But there were a couple of presentations that were content-poor, impractical or overly general. There was one that I found quite condescending (without sufficient rigor to back up particular criticisms).

I mention this as I know we can do better. I know a large proportion of the IA folks in Australia and I know that you have the skills and the content. So I would like to encourage the organisers to focus on presentation quality next year – get the call for proposals out earlier, involve the community in choosing and be more transparent. And I would like to encourage all you smart folks to put in a proposal.

[* Who am I to criticise, after the most disastrous start to a presentation ever. It was bad enough that I had a screaming backache and forgot to grab my water and notes, but then the lapel mic battery died - I hate using handheld mics - if I can't talk with my hands, I can't express myself.]

This Is One of the Best William Gibson Interviews Ever

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

After telling friends tonight that I don’t link blog, I’m going to do it. For my friends who like William Gibson as much as me:
This Is One of the Best William Gibson Interviews Ever

I’ve been keeping an eye out for his new book – think I need to go on a concerted hunt tomorrow. I always travel with a Gibson novel and may as well leave for Oz-IA with a new one rather than an old.

(found via one of my other favourite authors – Bruce Stirling)

An information architect and a wine rack

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

What happens when an information architect has a lot of wine? She creates a complicated organisation scheme…

photo of donna's wine rack, described in detail in this post

I’ve told lots of people about my wine rack, but hadn’t written about it, so I thought I should show just one aspect of my obsession with organising stuff. People always laugh at me when I tell them about this. Not sure why – after all, I do organise messy content for a living.

So here’s my grand scheme:

  • White wines are on the top half of the rack, red on the bottom
  • Each shelf holds a different varietal (some have more than one shelf)
  • Each shelf is sequenced in vintage order (oldest at the left, newest at the right

That’s OK, isn’t it? Better than some random method.

Well, where I think it tips into the slightly crazy is this… Each bottle has a sticky label on the end that lists where we got it, when we got it and a range of years to drink. It is a little label, so I can’t fit much else.

Oh, and if I got it from a wine club, I tape the tasting notes to tthe bottle.

Actually, this doesn’t sound mad to me— it is just useful. I can look along the row, find an older wine that needs to be drunk right now, and know it will be good. And that’s pretty much exactly what I need my organisation scheme to do.

I could, of course, create a computerised catalogue of it all. I could stack it randomly, and have my computer re-organise it on the fly. David Weinberger would call that a second-order of organisation. Believe me it is tempting, but until I go completely mad or everything turns spime, I’ll stick with my first-order scheme.

And I’ll have a lovely time tidying it every month or so when a new order arrives.

No! No! No! No! No!

Thursday, September 13th, 2007

See the title – that’s me practicing. I’m practicing saying no, because I don’t do it nearly well enough. And as a result, I am completely overwhelmed. This is my public confession – if I don’t say it publicly, I’ll keep pretending it isn’t a problem.

So here’s how things are for me right now:

  • I’m working 60 hours a week, and my to-do list doesn’t shrink
  • I’m behind on all my projects – none of my clients are worried, but I’m not happy with where I’m up to
  • I’m on two boards for organisations I love, and not managing to do anything substantial for them
  • I’ve been writing my book for 18 months and it still isn’t done (I’m making progress, but slowly)
  • I have two clients I really enjoy working with, and haven’t talked to them in two months
  • I’ve had my first situation where I think a client is not returning calls because I’ve been unreliable
  • My kitchen is a mess and I haven’t swept the floor for weeks
  • All I think about is how to cram more work into fewer hours
  • I got sick for the first time in a year, and still worked 10 hours
  • I haven’t even started to write my talk for Oz-IA and have 9 days to go
  • I haven’t written a decent blog post in ages and I’m sure no-one reads anymore except my close friends

I promise it’s not all bad, though. I have had some achievements:

  • I planted onions and carrots
  • I weeded a completely overgrown garden – it was overgrown not due to me, but because two plovers had laid eggs in it (for my non-Australian friends, plovers swoop and attack when they have eggs)
  • I got my community website up to scratch
  • I planned a usability test one day, ran it the next, had a report finished by midday the following
  • I wrote lots of copy for two important websites that will be released next week
  • I finished judging for the McFarlane prize
  • and lots more…

But I really need to get things back in control. So if you hear me start to say yes to something, print this out, wave it in my face and hold me down until I say no! (unless of course, it is the coolest project ever)

And now it’s time to get back to my book…

Murrumbateman website redesign

Sunday, September 9th, 2007

I just finished a piece of work I’m quite proud of – a redesign of the Murrumbateman community website (this is my local physical community).

I’ve evolved this site over the last few years, adding in new events as they came up, changing the html structure for each as I built it and other things that were getting hard to manage.

So I rebuilt it with a consistent approach and styles and redesigned the home page and community section.

Next job is to rebuild it into a CMS and hand authorship out to the members…