I was asked to do the closing plenery at the IA Summit this year. This is a real honor and I thought for a long time about what I wanted to talk about. I ended up talking about designing SlideShare and why we did not use many of the typical UX methods and tools for that. Instead we opted for an agile design process that works well with fast-paced development of a social (ok, I will use the word – “Web2.0″) application.
Update: Alberto Mucignat has a point by point analysis of my talk – in Italian!. Go here for original Italian version and here for Google translation.
On the Rosenfeld Media blog, Indi posted a note asking whether she should name her book “Mental models” or “Alignment Diagrams”. Read her post for background.
I am one of the people who thinks she should stick to the term “Mental Models”. I think the term is a good description of what she is writing about. When I mentioned this to her, she was concerned about the reaction from cognitive psychologists. I say: “To heck with cognitive psychologists”. I am one of them (yes, I am a cognitive psychologist by training) and I think this is the right term to describe what she is doing, even if is not entirely be in keeping with how congiitve psyhologists like Johnson & Laird might use the term. In fact, two years ago, when I submitted a paper to CHI with the word “Mental Models” in the title I got the same type of feedback in the reviews.
Some of you asked me for the slides for the IA Summit presentations – Here they are. I had a great time at the panel – lots of questions. Seemed like people in the room enjoyed themselves. The sldies for the panel are similar enough to SXSW, so just download that. I am working on a detailed writeup of my contribution to the panel, and will try to post that as well.
And here are the slides from my talk: Sorting, Tagging and Social Information Architecture. The talk was somewhat rambling – I tried to put into perspective the recent disenchantment with hierarchies, the rise of tagging, and how many current trends show the need for IA’s to focus on Social Information Architecture.
Update: Christian Crumlish did an excellent job of taking notes on my talk.
I knew someone or the other was going to do this – its too obvious an idea. “Lets try replacing all site navigation with a tag cloud!”. I just came across this on the FlockSucks website – its by a company called 83 degrees – you can tell from their name that they go in for all things hip and Web2.0.
I have my own opinion on the topic, but am going to wait till you express yours. What do you think? is this a good idea? Is this the future?
I just spent some time with GoogleBase and was amazed at just how deeply Google has embraced standard information architecture concepts and trends. We have categories, facets, tags. I kid you not. Google of the simple search box with a go button has come a long way indeed.
A few top level categories
12 top-level categories (e.g., course schedules, Events & Activities) show up when you post a piece of content. Interestingly they do not get exposed directly in the search interface, but get used indirectly. Google uses your initial query to place you in a particular category, and show the relevant facets. For example, the facets presented when you search for a vehicle name are different than when you search for a recipe. This is a good approach, but it does mean that Google needs to guess the right category to present the appropriate set of facets. Google Product Manager explains that “Google Base suggests attributes and item types based on popularity, which you can use to define and attach your own labels and attributes to each data item.” So there is some magic going on behind the scene to decide what sets of facets to show.
The latest article from StepTwo raises an interesting question – should you finalize site structure based on sorting, or other types of classification exercises?
Broadly I agree – site structure cannot be final final till you consider page layout and other aspects of the design. Card-sorting results are merely suggestions. You need to add in other design and business considerations.
But the problems with creating structures based on card-sorting, mentioned in the article, are not really problems with card-sorting. The problems are more with half-baked understanding or usage of the technique. For example, the article mentions that browser pages cannot accommodate too many top-level headings, long titles etc., and how this impacts structural decisions. But these and other issues can easily be handled with good card-sorting practices and more better analysis.
I spent the first few years of my life in Calcutta. It’s a big, crowded city, a paradise for people watching – for those who enjoy that. We lived in a small street that overlooked a bigger one, and one of my early memories is sitting at the front window, watching the world go by. It was aimless and yet so enjoyable. I could do that for hours. Its the feeling you get sitting in a sidewalk cafe in New York or another big city. You observe people go by. Ever so often, someone seems more interesting, and your eyes follow that person longer. But soon you return to watching the people go by.
Lately, I have experienced that feeling again. When I have some idle time, I go to the front page of del.icio.us and look at what’s passing through. I refresh to see new bookmarks replace the old ones. A few times, I have even seen something I wrote pass by. More often, I recognize a bookmark that’s the talk of the day. I might be curious enough to take a peek at the article. But I return quickly. Because this is not about finding interesting content, ego-surfing, or what my friends have bookmarked. It’s mostly about seeing content float by. It was interesting to someone, somewhere. So for a brief, ephemeral moment it’s there at the top of del.icio.us, and it has my attention. And then it’s instantly displaced.
It’s simply about watching the web go by, one bookmark at a time.
Never change the frontpage of del.icio.us, Joshua.