Sunday, July 27, 2003

Photo Mobiles

Here in the UK, we are currently being bombarded with ads from mobile phone players like T-Mobile (in its distinctive pink livery - not a Germanic colour in my book) to pick up on 2.5G/3G picture messaging services.

Most of the ads are trying to get people into "mob" activities - suncream fights, pillow fights, frisbee throwing etc. All well and good, but not really a world changing benefit.

Anyway, reading through the venerable Big Issue recently, I came across a small clipping explaining that Junior Doctors in Wales have been using photo mobiles to take pictures of X-Rays and forward them to consultants for assistance in diagnosis. It strikes me that this is a great use of the service - it could be extended maybe to teh general public with a 999-PHOTO number where, say, if you were at the scene of a traffic accident you could post a message to this service and receive a text of instructions from a trained medical professional while the emergency services beetled over to you ("Don't take off the motorcyclist's helmet, check his/her airways are clear...")

So, I reckon a big push for the medical services industry could be on its way.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Trust/Reputation in Search

I've been wondering whether reputation can be conveyed in any other way in search algorithms than Google's PageLink algorithm (which seems to me to be a measure of popularity - albeit in a network sense - rather than of reputation). I was reading an article in the ASIST Journal called "When Documents Deceive" by Clifford A. Lynch on the bus home, and came across the phrase:

"The question of formalizing and recording expectations...[of] trust in behavior [is] very poorly explored. There are a number of avanues: certification or rating services that might be consulted, or webs of individuals vouching for behaviour of others"
I'd been pondering whether it might be possible (particularly in an intranet) to modify a search engine so that when a user rates a page, he or she can also see in his/her search results how people like him/herself have rated the pages and/or how people he or she trusts rated the pages. This might seem a bit daft, but I was wondering whether, a bit like FOAF, a search engine could have a "who do you trust?" section, where you log-in, and then identify other people on a database whose opinion you trust. Search results might gain extra weighting within the overall results based on their "reputation" rating 9where the results would be specific to your trust network). I suppose the problem is placing the burden on users of registering and keeping their "trust networks" up to date, and the fact that it would become a very large database, but that detail could be ironed out by brains greater than my own.

Saturday, July 12, 2003

Bah! Humbug

A section of the company intranet needed some serious IA attention. Because,perhaps more than any other section of the intranet, it focuses on end user needs and tasks, I ran a 20-person card-sort to get some idea of end-user ideas on groupings and labelling of these groups. Got some useful results, turned them into a decent wireframe with our CMS, then my boss presented the results to the "section" working group.

The working group said they didn't care for a lot of the user-focused stuff and wanted to stick to a fairly "departmental" viewpoint. Although I accepted this with gritted teeth, it was still fine as we had manged to make some significant progress on the section structure. So I re-worked the wireframe (not a small job) and we re-presented the findings for the working group's approval.

Lo and behold, some of them said - "I thought the purpose of this exercise was to focus on tasks and users". This from the every people who had rejected the initial user- and task-focused structure. Sometimes I despair! Send me valium.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Blog geography

via Tom at the OTHERmedia's blog, I've posted this blog to Blizg - it shows the closest blogs to mine geographically (that have been entered on Blizg) and the closest to mine topically (by analysing meta tags). Check out my listings: very nice.

Baby Perl

Because I haven't done any programming to speak of since I was nine or ten, and dabbling with BASIC on a BBC B Micro, I've decided to start to learn Perl. I've got my SAMS book and a couple of O'Reilly guides, and am ready to go.

Friday, July 04, 2003

Hierarchical labels

There have been a lot of postings on SIGIA with regard to Jakob Nielsen's kind of bland article on information foraging recently - but the article itself did send me off in search of some information retrieval articles. One I found called "Web Page Design: Implications of Memory, Structure and Scent for Information Retrieval" by Kevin Larson and Mary Czerwinski at Microsoft research had some interesting conclusions (and I'll be honest, I was naughty, and skim-read the body, jumping to the conclusions). The conclusions are great because they suggest that if you ensure that the "information scent" (to use the in "meme" du jour) at each classification level is strong - i.e. label things clearly such that they give you a clear idea of what they are, and what else you'll find if you follow the link; and aim for a middle-path between a broad and shallow in terms of your site structure.

Not rocket science, but it's nice to have a justification for what seems like good practice.

The Web for the blind

I read a posting on Accessify about the RNIB supporting individuals in the UK in accessibilty cases. It looks as though we are moving toward a situation, as in the States, where W3C-type guidelines might have a basis in law. It's worth keeping an eye out on this one


Check out this interview with Julie Howell of the RNIB on Made for All.