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.
Tagging captures the variety and commonalities in thinking about an object. When many people tag a url, it turns out that some of the tags are common, while some are unique. A lot of people, making decisions independently act in an intelligent fashion, and provide value for everyone. Del.icio.us manages to balance the individual’s selfish motivations, and the group good, in a manner I have not seen many social systems do. It’s a delicate balance, but del.icio.us maintains it very well. Let us look into how it maintains that balance, and why I think that the Lazy sheep bookmarklet disturbs it.
Cognitively speaking – just what is happening at the individual level when you tag a url? I encounter an article I would like to bookmark. Semantic networks related to the article are already active in my brain. When I press “post to del.icio.us” it’s not much more work to note down some of the more important associations.
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.
Someone pointed out this clustering application for del.icio.us. Its just for clustering your own data though, so its not leveraging the group mind. Still it was interesting to see the clusters formed by my tags. Some of the clusters were: clusteranalysis(!); visualization; mobile research; market research; flash; ajax; cardsorting; design.
Expectedly, they are using k-means clustering algorithm. I played around with the number of clusters and the cohesiveness of the clusters does change as the number of clusters goes up.
It was bound to happen sooner or later. Simple lists are great, weighted lists (or tag clouds) are even better. But as data accumulates, its no longer practical to navigate it through tag lists. Some sort of structure is needed. Back in February I had written about tag-sorting, and how easy it should it should be to cluster tags.
Enter categories or clusters as they are referred to on Flickr.
How it works: When you click on a tag, you have the option of exploring different clusters related to the tag. For example, summer has several associated clusters:
Word is Yahoo will soon be coming out with its OddPost inspired version. Ethan Diamond, one of the Oddpost founders, now working on Yahoo mail thinks that users are more likely to use folders than tags to organize emails. I tend to agree. I like the controlled messiness of del.icio.us tags for my bookmarked urls. And the social discovery of others’ bookmarks is very compelling. But for something as personal and important as my email archive – I prefer either a combination of folders and robust search.
The search field is heating up again. There have been a spate of innovations and acquisitions by various search companies. Particularly exciting have been innovations in Local Search, Desktop Search, Maps, and Image finding.
I will be moderating a panel at BayCHI on this very topic on April 12th. Panelists include John Battell of SearchBlog, Udi Manber CEO of A9, and Rahul Lahiri VP, Product Management for Ask Jeeves.
I am talking to two more panelists. Look forward to an announcement soon.