Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Off to Thailand

No posts for a while - not that I've posted that much over the past fortnight, anyway - as my wife and I are off to Thailand for three weeks. Happy Christmas and Happy Hogmanay!

Monday, November 29, 2004

Management as making it difficult for people to get things done

This is a title from a post at Lilia's Mathamagenic site. I won't say anything other than that I feel an affinity for some of the ideas expressed within.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Entrepreneurs in Scotland

Many thanks to John McLeish of Equator, who invited me to the Entrepreneurial Exchange 10th anniversary awards ceremony in Glasgow this week. I must confess a) to never having heard of the exchange until John mentioned it b) having seen very many references to it over the last week - which shows that I was obviously being ignorant not to know about it c) being surprised at the reach and prestige of the Exchange. Certainly, with a lifetime achievement award for the Baxters (of soup fame), and recorded messages from Tony Blair (about which Fraser, one of the people at our table, was not too happy!), Gordon Brown and the Prince of Wales, it is hard not to picture a vibrant and entrepreneurial business community in Scotland.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Bloglines Self-reference

In the interests of transparency, I thought I'd publish the bloglines link of "People Subscribed to this Feed also Read" for Mark T's Info Blog. I'm not sure what view this gives into the reading habits of my few subscribers (thank you chaps/chapesses), and to be fair, I'm not sure what it says about me - but Tennyson did point out that mine is not to reason why... Do with this "information" what you will! Anyway Shirky I understand - but I find the other connections that are instantiated between my blog and other blogs by the efforts of collaborative filtering absolutely fascinating. ..

Rich Reach

Rich Internet (and Intranet) Applications (RIAs) have been on my mind recently, for a number of reasons (one being some really interesting posts by Jon Udell on "restful" RIAs), so it was with great interest that I headed along to the Scottish Usability Professionals' Association meeting at Microsoft, Edinburgh last night.

The main speaker was Steven Webster of iteration::two (and co-Author of "Developing Rich Clients with Macromedia Flex"). Steven's presentation was - in my opinion - pitched just right, and really gave a great overview of the fundamental concepts of well-developed RIAs and talked about some of the business benefits (obviously with a strong usability flavour). I've just been casting my eyes over Steven's weighty tome, and it looks pretty exhaustive. I'll try ad post a few highlights from the presentation as soon as I can get my hands on his PowerPoint presentation (which used Breeze, which also never fails to impress me in the right hands)... In the meantime, check out the Engineering Rich Internet applications site, and if you are in Scotland, head along to a SUPA meeting - as th upcoming events sound interesting!

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Sweet - Veen and Venn

I almost feel like saying "Now and Venn" for Luke W's post on Venn diagrams in Information Architecture and User Experience. As a particular fan of the triangular equation (anyonoe for Physics revision?) and the pointed (mis-)use of the Venn, all I can say is enjoy...

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

What you cache is what you get

Hadn't ever come across wyciwyg until checking through my referrer logs - apparently it's mozilla caching. NB: how do you spell caching with or without the "e"?

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Context, Enemy of the Blogosphere?

Some comments from Ian Mayes, readers' editor for the Guardian, have made me think that one "danger" of blogs is the diffusion of errors owing to quoting, commenting or linking either out of context or with no reference to context. I'll leave a precis quote of Mr Mayes article as an explanation (Open Door, Saturday November 6 2004), but it is food for thought - a kind of web-based chinese whispers. The article discussed (in part) a piece in the Guardian TV supplement which had resulted in a furore (it was about Bush's election victory) and had subsequently been commented upon by a number of American bloggers. Mr Mayes put forward as a mitigating factor that the TV supplement has a different editorial tone and target audience to the rest of the newspaper (as does the G2 supplement) - while also pointing out that there was no defence for the comments:

"(...) These distinctions begin to disappear when the material is put up on the website. They disappear almost entirely when linked from the home page. And there is no context whatsoever when they are picked up by bloggers, individuals conducting their own websites.

Blogs, particularly in the United States, played a big part in the dissemination of the comments in the (...) case. They do not usually want to give or even hint at context. They are often slow to pick up retractions or apologies. This "web effect" is something to which the Guardian, and other multi-section newspapers, need to give more thought."
(my bold)
I think Mr Mayes is tarring all bloggers with a rather large and ill-targeted brush on this point, as many bloggers are careful to set context with links out to background material. However, it would be fair to say that many are not so careful (and not everyone - and I include myself as a member of this group - is scrupulously careful 100% of the time), and this is a signal point for many news services and publishers to consider.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Intimacy Gradient

Via Claire Chaundy, I found myself back on Life with Alacrity for the second time this week, reading about the Intimacy Gradient [and Other Lessons from Architecture]. One addition that I have to add to the idea is that communication/collaboration methods also follow an intimacy gradient, from most removed to close proximity. Essentially this means that when initially estalishing trust, people follow a path from means of communication where they feel they are least exposed, moving down the gradient of intimacy toward the most exposed as trust builds. In practice, this means that there is a progression - in my experience - as follows: comments on blogs/postings to BBS; Instant Messaging/email exchanges; exchange of telephone numbers and/or conversation; meeting at an event/conference/organising to meet once(face-to-face); arranging additional meetings (face-to-face); shaking hands (individual space) and other physical contact. Forgetting about synchronous/asynchronous means of communicating, it is simply that levels of social confidence are built into the way we treat certain tools. The best social software, I reckon, both supports or integrates with these means of communcating and offers a path down the intimacy gradient (or is that "up"?).

On my bookshelf

Didn't the cranberries have an album called something like "Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We"? With this thought, I've noticed a few bloggers out there posting a "what I'm reading at the moment" story, so I thought I'd share mine:

Observing the User Experience - Mike Kuniavsky

Reads well so far, with decent practical advice: I agree with many of his working methods and points of advice.

Learning to Fly - Collison & Parcell

Thanks to David Gilmour for loaning me this. Haven't started it yet, but it's all about practical knowledge management.

Armadale - Wilkie Collins

This is a cracker of a 19th century potboiler, and I must get around to finishing it. If you can manage betrayal, poisoning, deceptive doubles, hidden secrets, back-street abortionists and the Norfolk Broads in one book, it's well worth a read.

Well, that's my catholic tastes up for display - any starters for ten?

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Update in Basecamp

Bit of a geeky one this, but I love the [UPDATE] feature that has just been added to basecamp. Essentially you type "[UPDATE]" and your text is replaced by a wee green UPDATE icon. Simple but effective, like the rest of the application.

CRM and call centres

Having once worked in a call centre for a bank during its first e-banking forays (although very much in a "grunt" capacity to rip off the G.I. term), I feel quite sensitised to telephone-based customer contact: for this reason, I was initially delighted today when phoning Dell, I was given the opportunity to opt for a call-back (while retaining my place in the queue) instead of just holding. This reminded me of BA's callback confirmation for ticket amendments that they ran around 2000/2001 (haven't bothered to check if they still do).

Anyway, I said initially delighted, as Dell have yet to call me back, about 5 hours later for an estimated 5 minute queue. Obviously, I should have held on - my first two attempts to ring back were cut off, then I hit another queue. I'm not saying Dell have missed the opportunity of a purchase, but I can't say I'm impressed at the performance of functionality which gave me the initial "great" factor. I'm assuming it's just a glitch, but I might give it another go and see if it works...

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Time Management Again

One thing I have worked out about my failures in time management is the work/home/not at work/not at home series of divides. I try to use a Palm Zire, a Nokia phone, Outlook (home and work) and scribbled lists in pads/calendars/diaries and on bits of paper to keep track of everything, but I cannot use anyone of these except the last to keep all my diary and task information together. I often wish that I could have one to-do list/diary that I could access and update from anywhere - pen and paper wouldn't work, I'd never manage it, and I wouldn't get nice ringing/vibrating reminders for things I had forgotten!

UPDATE - 30/10/2004

Funnily enough, here's John Udell chatting about much the same thing!


Via Lilia Efimova, this quote from Ross Mayfield:

"Where the bottom-up and top-down meet -- middlespace -- is the realm of policy, metrics, incentives, cooperation and sharing control."

I like this term, it's a nice way of looking at the messy area that is all about stimulating interactions (be they collaboration, co-operation or communication), but also about the governance and control issues that go with them. Having spent a portion of today writing a set of Terms & conditions for our intranet bulletin board system, I've had fun with just what messy territory it can be. Having checked with Legal and Information Security teams, I'm looking to engage what I call "controlled freedom" (oxymoronic, eh?) - which I now realise is middlespace, the hinterland (or is that tweenerland?) in between allowing more direct communication in the enterprise (making sure that initial enthusiasm is retained), and ensuring that this stays within boundaries acceptable to the enterprise itself...oh, and of course, delivers benefits to the enterprise, its formal departments and groups, the individual worker and any Communities of Practice. It's actually a neat representation of the conundrum posed by Jesse James Garrett's Venn diagram of Content, Context, Users (which I thought was in "The Elements of User Experience" but which appears not to be on a quick flick-through) - how do you satisfy this middlespace of competing needs, how do you hit the sweetspot?

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Intranet Benchmarking Forum Live

Intranet Benchmarking Forum Live was a great success - and I'll try and put up some relevant notes and links over the next few days. Highlights for me included another excellent presentation from Adam Joinson of the Open University on online behaviours, an insight into tasks on the BBC intranet (they have a nice attitude toward user-centered design), and chats with some of the guys from search vendors, Endeca, Kevin Keohane of the IBF as usual and Dr Liz Daniels of Cranfield University's Information Systems department - and my presentation on intranets and crisis communications seemed to go down reasonably well... (I hope!).

Some of the other attendees were particularly taken with Gerry McGovern's presentations - personally, I felt that he was preaching to the converted (but that might be because I used to be an editor, and have read his book, Content Critical - but at the very least he was entertaining.

Perhaps the best thing about the day, however, was that the stated aim of being a more interactive conference pretty much succeeded - although as the day was very packed, everyone looked fairly bushed at the end. Personally, I felt that the table-topping exercise I ran at the end of my presentation (ably facilitated by Bridget Peake) ended up being more useful to attendees than my presentation itself. I was also happy to coin a catchphrase during Plumtree's portal presentation - "Take care, low-hanging fruit can sometimes be rotten" (surprisingly Gerry also made use of a rotten fruit metaphor in his presentation, but was referring to out-of-date content).

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Slippery Words

I love the slippery nature of language - particularly what I like to call semantic wobbles (although I'm sure there's a technical linguistic term for them) where not enough attention has been paid to the rules of language, and a phrase "wobbles" away from its intended meaning. Take this example from my workplace, for instance:

"Soap Machine
Sometimes Jams
Press repeatedly"

Because the phrase misses out the definite article, and takes on a telegraphic style, I now think that our dispenser may occasionally bring forth a raspberry preserve or plum compote if I "press repeatedly". Pedantic I know, but it made me chuckle.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Relevanta - online reputation

I was meithering quite a few months ago for a while about online reputation particularly insofar as it could be leveraged to deliver either "personalised" results or results where it was easier to evaluate the relevance of results returned on a search query. With this in mind, I am intrigued by Relevanta - which I came across via the Social Software Weblog. At the moment, you can sign up and then post comments and ratings to a political area, thus building (I assume) both the content authors reputation, and your own reputation as reviewer and commenter using their experience system. I've not yet entirely grasped how best to use this, but it seems like an interesting implementation of some of the areas I was looking at in particular. Take a look, it could at least be fun...

JotSpot - interesting looking wiki

In looking at various online authoring tools along the stasis-flow line, I've just come across the interesting-looking Jotspot (via Jon Udell). It's a WYSIWYG interfaced wiki tool with additional application-type add-ons. Worth further investigation...there's a beta sign-on available if anyone is interested.

Information Foraging

I haven't seen anything on this for a while, but here's a good introduction to Information Foraging at InfoVis by Juan C. Dürsteler. I always think that the sorts of Web tools that add "good scent" are breadcrumb trails, faceted categories for search showing the number of results under each facet, recommendation metadata and search categories - including best bets.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Time Management

I have been really under the cosh over the past few weeks (nay, months) both in personal and professional terms (in fact, my blog reflects this with a dip in postings). What I'd really love to know is:

When you really have too much on your plate, how do you decide which important items may actually have to be dropped?

One of these days, I am sure I am going to get this sussed, but if anyone has any thoughts, let me know...

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Collaborative / Social software strategy - help?

I have been taxed with putting together a "taster" document for my company to put out the feelers within the business for online collaborative working and communication tools - the document is supposed to cover Blogs, wikis (blikis), online project management, bulletin boards, RDF (including RSS) etc. What I want to hear are successful stories of the implementation of such tools on an intranet to support specific business aims - I'm not looking at outward facing blogs etc., purely inter-staff communications very much from a Personal Information space / Communities of Practice / Formal company groups perspective if that makes sense. I know that there have been a few comments on this sort of stuff, for instance on Lou Rosenfeld's bloug and Michael's urlgreyhot in the past few months, but I'm keen to hear specific stories that may help me in initiating such practices.

The sort of stuff I've been looking at is Basecamp (which I really like) and Web Collaborator (which is useful in a stripped-down-to-basics way), Ikonboard, and general wiki and blog bits and pieces...

UPDATE - 02/10/2004

Many thanks to Lee Bryant of Headshift who pointed me to his presentation on informal, joined-up knowledge sharing [...] - which at first glance looks a) useful, and b) very much in line with my thinking.

Speaking at IBF Live, London

I'm going to be speaking at IBF Live on the 20th of October in London about using an intranet in a time of rapid change or crisis (from a communications/governance perspective rather than a technical side, but I might touch on the odd techy aspect). Anyway, IBF Live looks like it is going to be a good opportunity to catch up on a number of interesting intranet aspects - I think the event is being partly sponsored by PlumTree and Endeca - don't know too much about PlumTree's CMS activities so I'm looking forward to speaking to them!

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Readings on Web Credibility

Via the Stanford Captology Notebook, the references for an HCI encylopaedia chapter on web credibility and online trust: Readings on web credibility -- the best list ever compiled. This is a bit of a bookmark to myself to trawl through the list...

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Learning Management

I'm looking at e-learning strategies at the moment, specifically the delivery of Authorware content over an intranet. The way I see it, a good strategy would be to have some form of XML based Learning Content Management System to produce and amend content, feeding into an AICC/SCORM-compliant Learning Management System for tracking and admin (then pumping it out via the intranet). Are there any LMS/LCMS combinations out there that fit tightly with Authorware (I'm assuming this must be a yes), and does anyone have any experience of them? All useful feedback appreciated.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Feeling a Bit Guilty About the Lack of Posts

I'm feeling more than a bit guilty that I haven't posted to my blog in almost a month. To be honest, however, I've been so busy with work and my wedding, that the blog has had to suffer.

I was intrigued yesterday to receive my company's "Human Performance" training (which was surprisingly good) which forms part of a wider company improvement initiative. One thing that stood out for me was the use of the idea of "human error" to mean any undesired human event, where both "human error" and "human mistake" should have been used. It's fine to cover unintentional, automatic events, but the more intentional should also be dealt with as well.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Accessibility and Intranets

I was told recently of a case in the UK where a woman who became blind, was subsequently unable to access applications on her PC, and litigated against her employers. I may have got the wrong end of the stick on this one, but if anybody knows the details, can they let me know? I'd be interested, as it could be an excellent stick for good practice, standards adherence, accessibility and treating your employees right (it always helps to have some convincing ammo).

Probably won't be posting over the next fortnight as I'm off to get married in France.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Sweets delivering results!

I had an email from Scott Berkun - who always writes such interesting pieces on www.uiweb.com - yesterday in response to my suggestion to him that small, unexpected treats (like a sweet) at the beginning of a training session lead to more creative training [NB: this was in response to an article of Scott's - I think it was The problems of training]. I'm sure it's ust a matter of relaxing people (and giving them a mild sugar rush), but it works for me - I hope Scott gets similar results!


By dint of being a bit busy with other things, I haven't posted anything on the blog for a while. I would cite Bertrand Russell's "In Praise of Idleness", but I haven't been exactly idle... I've also been concentrating on writing on my other new blog, Semantic Wobble, which is mostly about cinema as I seem to have been spending a deal of time glued to the silver screen (and the smaller screen too with DVDs - Pirates of the Caribbean: what was the big hoo-hah about, I thoght it was a bit boring, myself). So this is an abject apology to myself for not putting the effort into the Info Blog!

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Testing Meme Propagation In Blogspace: Add Your Blog!

This via nate's notes:

Testing Meme Propagation In Blogspace: Add Your Blog!
This posting is a community experiment that tests how a meme, represented by this blog posting, spreads across blogspace, physical space and time. It will help to show how ideas travel across blogs in space and time and how blogs are connected. It may also help to show which blogs (and aggregation sites) are most influential in the propagation of memes. The dataset from this experiment will be public, and can be located via Google (or Technorati) by doing a search for the GUID for this meme (below).
The original posting for this experiment is located at: Minding the Planet (Permalink: http://novaspivack.typepad.com/nova_spivacks_weblog/2004/08/a_sonar_ping_of.html) --- results and commentary will appear there in the future.
Please join the test by adding your blog (see instructions, below) and inviting your friends to participate -- the more the better. The data from this test will be public and open; others may use it to visualize and study the connectedness of blogspace and the propagation of memes across blogs.
The GUID for this experiment is: as098398298250swg9e98929872525389t9987898tq98wteqtgaq62010920352598gawst(this GUID enables anyone to easily search Google or other search engines for all blogs that participate in this experiment, once they have indexed the sites that participate). Anyone is free to analyze the data of this experiment. Please publicize your analysis of the data, and/or any comments by adding comments onto the original post (see URL above). (Note: it would be interesting to see a geographic map or a temporal animation, as well as a social network map of the propagation of this meme.)
To add your blog to this experiment, copy this entire posting to your blog, and then answer the questions below, substituting your own information, below, where appropriate. Other than answering the questions below, please do not alter the information, layout or format of this post in order to preserve the integrity of the data in this experiment (this will make it easier for searchers and automated bots to find and analyze the results later).
REQUIRED FIELDS (Note: Replace the answers below with your own answers)
(1) I found this experiment at URL: http://natek.typepad.com/blog/
(2) I found it via "Newsreader Software" or "Browsing the Web" or "Searching the Web" or "An E-Mail Message": Newsreader Software
(3) I posted this experiment at URL: http://marktsinfoblog.blogspot.com
(4) I posted this on date (day/month/year): 05/08/2004
(5) I posted this at time (24 hour time): 09:37:00
(6) My posting location is (city, state, country): Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland

OPTIONAL SURVEY FIELDS (Replace the answers below with your own answers):
(7) My blog is hosted by: Blogger
(8) My age is: 31
(9) My gender is: Male
(10) My occupation is: Online Strategist
(11) I use the following RSS/Atom reader software: Bloglines
(12) I use the following software to post to my blog: Blogger
(13) I have been blogging since (day, month, year): 27/05/03
(14) My web browser is: IE 5.5
(15) My operating system is: Windows NT

Monday, August 02, 2004

Another helpful accessibility widget

Via the Ease of Use mailing list, I learned of an IBM addition to the accessibility checker/assistant tools list. This one, aDesigner, looks like it could be useful in combination with other tools, heuristic evaluation and user testing (probably at the early stages). As the description states:

"The aDesigner is a disability simulator that helps Web designers ensure that their pages are accessible and usable by the visually impaired.
Voice browsers and screen readers read aloud the text on Web pages and are used by visually impaired people. However, these devices are less effective with certain kinds of content, such as highly graphical material. Web developers can use aDesigner to test the accessibility and usability of Web pages for low-vision and blind people. "

Sounds interesting and potentially useful - one to download when I get 5 minutes.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

User Feedback...Good to Receive?

Sometimes I have a good old grumble at the feedback I receive for the company intranet (and not so often at the website feedback), but today, I was elated to receive an email from one of our CMS users in response to an upgrade email I had sent around. There were four elements to the upgrade, and the response went:

"1. good idea, 2. better idea 3. this is good too 4. this will make things easier"

Now according to this emailer, all we need to add is a wysiwyg spell-checker (in the pipeline) and he'll be happy as Larry.

My question from all this is as follows: should we be honest and say that it is "constructive" feedback (read "negative") that the IA/ID/UX practitioner should pay attention to, or should we say that the odd pat on the back is good for morale, and shows our attention to our users? Given that as Schiller said "Du Kannst nicht allen gefallen" (I think he said this - "You can't please everyone!"), when do you draw the line with a piece of feedback and say it's just not helpful (because it is too laudatory or unnecessarily critical)?

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Who needs permalinks?

So far as purple links and perma links are concerned, how's about the Bible for permanence. The Book, Chapter, Verse system has worked for a long time, and still does, as I discovered when guiding my friend Tom to a wedding reading in the Song of Songs (Chapter/Song 2, if you must know). Sometimes the oldies are the goodies, now where's my parchment?

Friday, July 16, 2004

Heuristics only take you so far

I've been at home nursing a fever the past three days, and apart from feeling sorry for myself, and watching the Peter Weir adaptation of Patrick O'Brien's "Master & Commander" (great Boys' Own stuff, and very good when you're down in the dumps), I've started reading "The World of Christopher Marlowe". The great thing about this book so far is that it puts Marlowe's writing into a very clear socio-historical context, including the virtues of a Cambridge education.

What interested me was the emphasis on heuristics for oratory and rhetoric: which reminded me very much of the advice drummed into me by a French lecteur at college - argument, counter-argument, synthesis and conclusion. Having a wayward mind, I found such linguistic corsetry a little frustrating at University, and I've always been of the opinion that rule-based learning only takes you so far. I think this lesson stretches into the world of the Web, and was summed up very nicely on Christina's Elegant Hack site with a posting on "Good Gut", where experience was highlighted over heuristics, heuristics are not enough...    

NB: not sure that I like the new HTML editor on Blogger - wasn't the previous instance sufficient without giving us all the virtues of a WYSIWYG editor? Did I really need to add colour to this post? I liked being able to add HTML in directly without an "edit HTML" option.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Amazon recommendations

I was checking out the IMDB the other day and noticed their Bayesian weighted ranking system

weighted rank=(votes cast/(votes cast+minimum votes to be in top 50)) x mean rating + (minimum votes to be in top 50 /(votes cast+minimum votes to be in top 50)) x mean vote across the vote population

I think I've got this right! Thinking about recommendations engines, I then thought I'd go and sort out my personal Amazon recommendations (as most of my Amazon purchases have been corporate) by ranking items that I own and/or have read/viewed/used. I was pretty surprised at how (simply)comparative the engine appears to be: most of my recommendations so far are for authors I have read before and/or other editions of books I have read/CDs/DVDs and just a little bit of "others who purchased this..." Maybe I'm mis-calling Amazon on this one, as I know other people who say that Amazon second-guesses their purchases, but I would have thought ranking a couple of hundred items would give slightly more interesting recommendations. Oh well, I shall continue ranking and see if I'm more satisfied. Anyway, I seem to remember that there is a recommendations engine expert at Glasgow University (I think he's involved with the Information Retrieval Group) - if I can remember his name, I might send him an email to find out a bit more about the nuts and bolts of recommendations (hopefully it will be comprehensible to someone without undergrad maths).

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

The Joy of ...User Focus

After months of resource constraints getting in the way, myslef and a colleague have been working on some minor UI and functionality upgrades to our in-house intranet content management system. Small the changes may be, but I'm confident that they will bring fairly major user benefits (including the time I will save from not having to answer repetitive queries caused by the vagaries of the CMS). Hopefully we will continue to tweak our WYSIWYG editor until it writes beautifully compliant xhtml instead of the dog-eared HTML it spits out at the moment, but we'll have to wait and see on that one.

Murphy's Law Revisited

Humph! Having borrowed a power supply to test whether my PC is still alive (it's own power supply being dead to the world as of a few days), Murphy's law struck again. As soon as the replacement power supply was plugged in and switched on, the transformer coil started belching acrid smoke. I'm thinking I may have an inverse Midas touch when it comes to power supplies...

Monday, July 05, 2004

Murphy's Law

Isn't the extended version of this law not just that what will go wrong has to go wrong, but also that it will choose the most inopportune moment to do so? How's about starting work to get rid of a (human) single point of failure in a process, and then the same having to stay off work for two weeks with chickenpox (at his age!). How's about networking some standalone PCs so that they can be backed up to ensure (personal) important data is not lost - then the PC going kaputt before it can be networked. I can think of other things, but I do not want to conjurer le mauvais sort as the french say.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Diff'rent Strokes in Community Building

Reading Nancy White on Many to Many's posting on practical knowledge of social software technologies, and user's of one type (e.g. blogs) dissing other options of which they may have no practical knowledge, I am drawn to add the following: all these social software technologies can support one another, it's a question of horses for courses. Blogs are better for some aims, as are wikis, as are forums (or is that fora?), as are P2P shared workspaces, as are the Grooves, Sharepoints et al of the world. These can be combined to produce different results, and to offer full and enriching online community experience (much as I dislike the phrase "online community" - the community is offline, the glue holding it together is online). People prefer different tyes of technologies depending on their own boases for personal information control and communication - the phrase "one man's meat is another man's poison" springs to mind...

Bakerman, Bakerman, Bake Me a Cake

I wouldn't normally be flagrant in advertising a service, but if you are ever in Garforth (Leeds) or on the King's Road in Harrogate (both places in Yorkshire in England, and a very fine county indeed!), you could do worse than buy a piece of patisserie from one of M. Dumouchel's shops.

The reason this master baker has come to mind was in reading Metro (a free British newspaper for commuters) this morning. One of the stories referred to a Japanese girl who had paid £2,000 for a trip to Garforth in order to take an interview for a job with M. Dumouchel. Needless to say, such dedication beyond the call of duty landed the lady the job, and, if she learns to make a buche de noel (chocolate log) as tasty as those made by her patron, then it is money well spent.

"The Youth of Today" - Seven and Blogging!

Via Business Blog Consulting, I came across The seven-year-old-bloggers, a fascinating piece from the BBC on how early, early adoption of the blogging concept can take hold. I think that logs are pretty ludic in nature, which is one reason why they are appealing to individuals, and probably have taken a hold in the young mind more readily than say the concept of business blogging has. Anyway, you can generally be assured that children will learn how to do anything more quickly and more successfully than an adult if they are given the opportunity.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Community (and not much to do with "The Fall Guy" at all)

Colt Severs sang that he wasn't "the kind to kiss and tell", and personally I prefer not to just stick up a link to a resource on my blog - it smacks of laziness: "I'm not the kind to slap up links", but never say never...

Anyway, this is a very roundaabout way of saying that while trawling a few pages on the wicky wacky web recently, I came across the Online Community Toolkit from Full Circle, which looks chokka with useful links (not that I've had much of a chance to look at any of them yet).

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Managing Expectations

Can anyone think of an effective technique to manage expectations for an unexpected 'blip' in the level of service which can be provided to end-customers (regardless of the type of service being provided) - especially when the likely length of the blip cannot be determined. I have some thoughts, but would be interested in hearing the opinion's of others... (more to the point - what about when two unexpected blips coincide?)

Friday, June 25, 2004

Topic Exchange - Topics for the Masses

Not a post about a chocolate bar, so much as one about Topic Exchange, a repository for links/rss feeds with "topics" attached. It means you can attach a blog posting to a topic/topics, and anyone interested in/subscribed to that topic can pick up on it. Nice idea for those without categorisation/in search of topic standardisation/the first steps on the semantic web.

Anyway, I've popped a couple of posts up and will add more, I think, shame it doesn't appear to integrate with blogger...

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Moving Beyond a Honeycomb Centre

There have been a few comments and postings about Peter Morville's User Experience Design "Honeycomb", and I must admit - with a couple of reservations - that I like the diagram. My gripes with it - which are not large - are that the hexagons appear as independent facets, where in actual fact there is significant overlap and hierarchy within the terms used. To my mind, and many may disagree strongly, "accessible" and "findable" are just children of "usable" (i.e. to use something, you need to find it and or access it); useful is a subset of valuable, and valuable is the mother of all of the terms - they are all "values".

Criticism aside, like Jesse's Pillar diagram, the benefit of these diagrams is in the simplification. While they may be reductive, they are also seductive: messy explanations while often being more accurate, just aren't so convincing. So to my mind, if I can slap this type of diagram in front of a client and gain buy-in, all the better, even if the reality is slightly less distinct.

I'd kind of like to overlay the content/context/users venn diagram over the honeycomb, as I feel that some of the layers feed one into another to build up a clear 3-D picture of how it all connects.

Yet More Strange Search Referrals

Returning from a cracking break in Provence at the marriage of Romain and Florence - friends of my wife and I - I checked out my web referrals, and was delighted to se yet more weirdness in the search terms being used. How's about "network attached storage iran" and "'small world' +'naomi campbell'" for pulling traffic to my blog. Fantastic.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Strange search referrals

Looking through my search engine referrals for this blog, I saw that the last search directing a user to my blog was "Big T's Wales". I thought this sounded mildly pornographic or at the very least blatantly weird, until I realised that on page 2 of the Google results for the search term, there was a very relevant hit for a posting on new uses for mobile camera phones. Funny old world of search, really.

"Mark T's information blog
Anyway, reading through the venerable Big Issue recently, I ... clipping explaining that Junior Doctors in Wales have been ... beetled over to you "
On which note, I am going to go away and watch the England vs Switzerland match, and hope that there will be no more crowing from the Welsh and Scots. Fingers crossed.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Gold chip social networking

Via The Sunday Times June 13, 2004: "Well connected: the jet set", an article on an upscale social networking service with 2,800 members, called A Small World. Apparently members - including such luminaries as Naomi Campbell and Petrina Kahashoggi - have been using the BBS to discuss such posers as finding a private jet service for one's pets. This is great, as it really puts the "social" and "peers" to the forefront, emphasising what the French call piston, and we colonial types term the Old School network.

Although I read this article with my tongue firmly in cheek, it does highlight the fact that online social networking tools are as useful for communication within closed network groups, as they might be at broadening one's social circle. Alumnus services for universities are like this, and damned useful at putting you back in touch with people from the past (Friends Reunited is like this too!).

Friday, June 11, 2004

Tweaking search

Since there was a "spanner" in our intranet search, we have finally got around to tweaking some of the configuration options, improving the UI and are now looking to start gaming the results based on what we can garner of the algorithms that are used. Luckily, while running through the config, I discovered that we could reveal the actual document scores returned by the engine as opposed to simple matches. In an effort to "improve" our results, we have set up an intricate series of "Lorem Ipsum" documents (so as not to skew search terms for any other intranet searches) with the word "Conundrum" (which returns 0 results at present) secreted in various combinations of location within the document (title, meta etc...). Fingers crossed, when we compare our current results with any tweaks that we make, we should be able to instantly see the effect on our "Lorem Ipsum" search documents. Fun, fun, fun! (hmmm)

Update 14/06/2004

The plan was highly successful, and exposed some of the workings of the weighting process of which we were not 100% aware - for the record, it looks like we are over-skewing results with keyword occurrences in the title (among other things). We have adjusted the configuration files, and will see what results we get back with the same search term tomorrow. At the very least the two sets of results will be cross-comparable.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Accessibility Developments

Via Tim Bray, a link to Peter Korn's weblog, where there is a post on new developements in accessibility - including Adobe Acrobat 6 accessibility features and an Apple Sceen Reader. When I get 10 minutes I might even get the chance to follow one or two of the many interesting links.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Spanner in my search

Our intranet search has blown a gasket - and intensive digging by the team has uncovered that our inability to complete indexing is being caused by one corrupt Excel file. The annoying factor is that we can read some of the contents of the file in the core dump - including the fact that it has teal, gray and aqua formatting and Times New Roman! - but nothing that will help us to identify the file. My love for Excelnow knows no bounds...

Monday, June 07, 2004

It's a Breeze

If you get the chance to register your interest and participate in a Macromedia Breeze web seminar, it's well worth it. I'd already been impressed with Breeze's "PowerPoint with wings" online presentational capabilities, but it really comes into its own as a virtual meetingplace/training tool, as I discovered last Friday. I'm not going to list what it can do - you can go to the macromedia site for that - but I'm now dreaming of a mating of Breeze with 37Signal's Basecamp (and a side-order of wiki) for good general purpose collaborative tool.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Search Ranking Factors

I'm trying to footle about with some fairly rudimentary factors to improve relevant results in our intranet search engine. What I want to know is - assuming that a matching word in a document can have a weighting of between 1000 and one depending upon its location within a document (with 1000 being instances that occur very early in the document) - this is set, I cannot alter it - what should be the related weighting for instances in a) titles b) subheadings (h1, h2 etc - which are not, unfortunately very widespread on the intranet) c) link text.

At the moment, I am reckoning that a) and c) should be fairly meaty, and should be the same as document titles are generally used for link text on our intranet, but what should the exact figure be? 150? 500? 1500? There must be a heuristic out there that says a word in a tilte is worth X in the body text! I feel like this might be a trial and error situation... Any suggestions?

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Trying Photoblogging With Hello

Gleneagles Hotel, Scotland

I've just been fooling around with "Hello", the photoblogging tool, which has kindly been offered to current webloggers.
Now I wouldn't say it is the most intuitive tool I've ever used, but I've managed to post a photo of the lovely Gleneagles hotel...
so it obviously works!
It has a neat re-sizing tool as well. I think I may be adding photos to my blog more regularly now! In fact, thinking about it, this may mean that I actually get around to updating the personal photo catalogue that is several months out of date.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

"Bunch of RSS"

Apologies for the title, which probably only 'works' if your from the UK. That's enough bad jokes for today. Via Object Learning, I found Brian's long list of RSS links called "The Fuss", an excellent storehouse of RSS-related information, albeit - not surprisingly - focused on Learning Objects and educational uses.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Social Software Overview

Matt Webb's overview of Social Software is pretty useful - particularly as it is a n=hub of useful links out to specifics - for instance, this fascinating article on Life With Alacrity (and Comments!) on optimal group size and "The Dunbar Number", which I for one had never heard of.

UPDATE: Via Many to Many, I came across the Online Community Toolkit, which looks like an excellent set of resources.

UPDATE 2: an excellent matrix of social software facets (not orthogonal!) - could help in deciding on a particular tool, or in gap analysis to work out how to make a 3600 networking tool.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Annoyances: Easyjet and Blogger

I'm not one to get annoyed over much, but two things this evening have got on my nerves
First of all, I had a message from my mother-in-law explaining (2 hours after her expected arrival) that my wife had not arrived from her flight to Geneva. My wife was travelling via Easy Jet (EJ), so I went on the easyjet.co.uk site to get contact details. Instead of a number, EJ tries to answer a set of common questions. Typing "telephone number" into the search, I arrived at a UK number, which, when dialled only presented you with directions to "visit our website for more information". EJ: people phone you for a reason. Efficiency is all very well, but people may at times need to speak to a human for more personal information. Communications channels should support one another, not replace one another - the chase for increased profit margins can be detrimental to a customer's experience, you realise...Anyway end of rant one.
Annoyance two was blogger's re-design, handled by the (should I say "usually"?) excellent Adaptive Path. However, trying to amend my profile photo, I typed in a lengthy path to a photo of myself. There were no written indications to suggest that my path would be a problem, and the form field accepted my path, only for me to realise post-submission that there is a 68 character limit for images. Chaps, read "Defensive Design for the Web" - let me know before I fill it in. Grrrrr!

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

More Searching

I read the New Frontier of Search a bit ago, and had meant to post something as to the fact that it is a neat overview. It also highlights something that I mentioned at an intranet benchmarking meeting with a group of peers - we were bemoaning intranet search performance, when I asked what sort of searches employees at each company were interested in. No-one seemed to know, yet everyone was keen to criticise the search performance. Are you looking for the occurence of a phrase or of a concept? Are you looking for results that you can trust? Different engines will perform better for different types of search - I think we've all got slightly over-sensitised to Google.

"The Enemy of My Enemy"...

"...is my friend" according to the saying. I seem to remember a humourous extension of FOAF aiming for this territory a while ago, which sparked my interest. The problem with the above-saying is that it is a paradox in certain critical situations where trust is involved. I don't want to be overly political in sensitive times, but the relation of the USA to Iraq and Iran (implementing this strategy) over the past three decades is a case in point.

Map out the relationships - Iran and Iraq have been reciprocal "enemies" during this time, so let's assume the US takes up an antagonistic approach to Iraq, then the eneny of its enemy is Iran, its "friend". If the US then gets fed up with Iran and takes up an antagonistic stance towards it, by this strategy, it is honour-bound to do a volte-face and make the enemy of its new enemy its "friend" i.e. in this case Iraq. I don't think it takes a genius to work out the drawbacks of this strategy - there are numerous instances of this happening with the foreign policy of various governments, and the Iran/Iraq issues are still rattling on.

Anyway, getting back to my sheep, my point was that it is a risky strategy to suggest anything other than predisposition towards a relationship in a social network unless that relationship is directly stated. I know that my above example does not map directly to the virtual world, but I still think it's an interesting bone of contention.

Endeca Again (and Facets to Support "Searching")

As I've said before, I'm not sure anyone is ever interested in searching for anything - it's the retrieval (and usage) part of information that the end-user is concerned with. Treasure hunters might, at a push, enjoy the search, but it's the booty they're really after! With this in mind, I thought I'd mention Endeca again, as - via Lou Rosenfeld - I came across an interesting overview not only of Endeca, but also of facets supporting information retrieval in "search", in Volume 1, Issue 1 of "The Barrington Report on Advanced Knowledge Organization and Retrieval" on the KM Connection site. I've yet to read the entirety of the Journal, but it's good stuff with a focus in this issue on metadata (particularly faceted).

Now that I've written "booty" I'm concerned about raising false expectations for this post in search results...

Monday, May 24, 2004

Trust and intranets

I'll write a little bit more about this later on, but I recently met Dr James Backhouse and John Baptista of the London Schoool of Economics Information Systems Integrity Group. James and John were presenting on "Do People Trust Your Intranet?", and were proposing measuring "trust" to be benchmarked and compared across a number of intranets. The aim, it appears, is to measure five key "trust" factors displayed by an "institutional device", including governance and policy (although I can't remember the other three off the top of my head!!!). I'm going to take a second look at their presentation when it becomes available online, as - in spite of my concerns at the vague nature of "trust" in an institutional sense - it could be a useful metric in the armoury of the intranet/portal manager.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Social Searching (aka Trusted Results)

I've banged on about this for a long time - about how recall and precision are not enough to move a user from a searching action to a "doing" action, and that being able to trust your search results may be a missing link - anyway, it seems like one search engine is actually applying this model: Eurekster. I must sign up to this and get some "trusted" sources to do so as well, and see how well the system actually works in practice.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

PageRank Revisited

So I'm still not 100% convinced that I understand the baseline in a comparative sense, but this article by Harjot Kaleka did at least make me realise that PR is exponential

Note: The scale of 1-10 on Google is not linear. It is exponential in nature, believed to be a base of 6 to 7, that is, PR 7 website is 6 times more important than PR 6 website.
I am therefore assuming that PR6 is 6x more important to PR5 and so on. i.e. PR1 (1), PR2 (2), PR3 (6), PR4(24), PR5 (120), PR7 (720) etc... Someone stop me if I'm wrong!

Blogger Redesign

Like most reactionaries, my initial instinct is to run from change...where are my comfortable slippers? So, I'm a tad shocked at the blogger changes. I'm not sure that they are super radical, but I am quite averse to beige, or is that camel or taupe?
I seem to be getting the odd screwy css ie6 reaction on the sliding doors tabs at the top of the screen as well, but I'm sure this will get sorted. The bit that shocked me was seeing all those posts lined up in the dashboard - I quite like the fact that I only see a small number of posts at a time (so I immediately reset to five), but seeing 50 posts in one go has probably sent me over the edge. I shall compose myself and have a fiddle with the new additions shortly. I wonder if I can export comments from Squawkbox into blogger?

Saturday, May 08, 2004


I found - and forgot to bookmark - a PageRank calculator yesterday, and was making some - I thought - intriguing comparisons. This site has a page rank of 5, which I guess is OK, but the funny thing is this is better than a few of my company's sites. Now, I know I haven't had time to get any SEO work done, but I think it's about time I wrote a strategy paper for this. On the laziness front, the other baseline indicators I ran were quite intriguing. Lou Rosenfeld, for instance - who was complaining about my laziness in getting an RSS feed up the other day, that was my butt kicked - has a PageRank of 6. Anyway, while doing this baseline comparison, I realised I had no idea really what a decent baseline is. While I understand the theroretical idea behind the PageRank algorithm, I'm now realising that I have no idea what the end figure means. Can somebody fill me in as I'm feeling a bit stupid?

Friday, May 07, 2004


Via Tom's (OTHERblog) more human efforts, I came across Lisa Galarneau's Relevancy blog. What Lisa calls relevancy is what I've generally termed "making stuff useful" previously - i.e. focusing on value-centered design for all stakeholders, business and user community, so her blog looks like it might be an interesting read. Anyway, I was interested to see that Lisa is a fan of Endeca's faceted browse/search interface as well, having used it at Tower Records. Once again, I feel the small world syndrome closing in on me!

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Intranet Governance Policies

It strikes me that when intranet governance is mentioned by intranet professionals, they are generally discussing overall governance structures - i.e. intranet boards and committees, however, I'm interested in finding out some more detail on more granular detail on intranet governance and auditing issues.

For instance, I need to provide an auditable structure of user access both to our content management system and to the folder permissions on our network attached storage which acts as a document repository. If I roll out any collaborative tools such as a blog, wiki, bbs/discussion board, project management comment tool, instant messaging client etc. I will also need a clear governance structure for this also i.e. a set of defined behavioural norms and guidelines, as well as moderators/discussion facilitators.

Anyway, my conscience on these matters was piqued when reading through Mike Gotta's piece that I blogged about on 5 May 2004, which was very focused on the business implications of social software. So, I'm hoping for some responses - what governance issues have you come across related to intranets, and how have you solved them? I'd be interested to hear everyone's comments.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Yet More Corporate Blogging Details

Judith Meskill posted an interesting bunch of links in and around corporate blogging (k-logging now seems to be motus non grata for some reason - NB: my Latin is a bit pokey). Mike Gotta is worth a read, and I just scanned the intro of the zdnet piece, Social Computing: Getting Ahead of the Blog, which looks interesting.

Straightforward Wiki Explanation

A very nice description of what wikis are and what they do by Lee Lefever on his Common Craft blog. Not a lot more to say other than succinct!

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Basecamp - Collaborative Web-based Project Management

I seem to be very 37signals-focused at the moment: I've been reading Defensive Design for the Web on my way to work, and enjoying it's no-nonsense advice in the same way that I enjoyed Steve Krug's Don't Make Me Think!. In fact, while delivering training yesterday on our intranet content management system, I realised that some of our error messaging is not really contingent enough, and will be implementing some of 37Signal's thumbs-up good practices.

Anyway, the real reason behind the posting was to express my general delight so far at Basecamp, 37Signal's web-based, hosted, project management application. This is no MS Project with Gantt charts, resource costings and the like, but is instead a very sweet, functional tool for collaboration on smaller topics. As I've only got one project at the moment, I'll admit that I've signed up for the free version, which does not offer file-uploading, for instance, but having set up a bunch of messages, a milestone, and a to-do list the other evening, I've been generally impressed at the focus on simple project management tasks. My clients haven't logged in yet, but I'm hoping that they'll see it as a useful tool. So thumbs up to 37Signals for this one - I've used "thumbs-up" twice, haven't I: repetition is a virtue among the lazy.

Monday, April 26, 2004

JavaScript and Accessibility

I feel rather shame-faced that this is the first time that I have noticed the Trace Center, as I just came across the pages on JavaScript and
Dynamic HTML Accessibility
while writing a briefing document for the Strategy and Architecture team in my company on general accessibility issues and the law. But from the looks of the section entitled Designing a More Usable World - for All there is a great deal of interesting reading here.

Tree Structures and Overlap

I'm sure that this one will be bouncing around as a more popular meme, as this comes via Clay Shirky, but in terms of too neat organisational structures, this article by Christopher Alexander called A City is Not a Tree resonates with information architecture and the need for cross-linking and related items in a tree structure. I know that there is a great deal of debate about the navigation metaphor and the concept of cyberspace in terms of IA at present, but it is sometimes nice to take a hint from the real physical world. In this case, the real world shows itself to be hyperlinked in a way, not neatly bundled into patterns and single classifications...but we knew that anyway. I'm rambling, so I'll stop.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Memo to self: read - European KM Standards

Via Column Two, publications on knowledge Management from the European Committee for Standardisation.

Gmail ads

Not sure what this means so far as I've only had two emails into my gmail account, but the ads have so far been for obscure Scottish museums and country houses. I hope this isn't down to GeoURL! I think gmail needs some more content to work with.

More on Storytelling (a Xerox!) in the Business World

I've only skim-read John Seely Brown's talk so far, but this series of talks on storytelling from Xerox PARC looks pretty interesting.

On another note, Karl picked up on my mention of our shared recent reading lists, and discovered by dint of this that he too is on Lou Rosenfeld's Favourite blog list. I think this reinforces my small world feeling.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Stories in the Business World

Personally, I think that story-telling should be more heavily promoted in the business world, particularly as a means of summing up project successes and failures in an easily digestible form. For this reason, I'm going to nudge the "Knowledge Management is Nonsense" article that I was going to read this evening off my inbox and flick through this story-telling site instead. Nonetheless, a story is only as good as its teller...

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Leveraging Faceted Browsing to Improve Search

I always think that the term "search" is a bit of a misnomer in the information retrieval field, for, as the "retrieval" hints, users are generally only interested in "find". To this end, I was really impressed by a demonstration (but unfortunately not by the price!) of endeca's search tool today (you would have thought that I'd remember the exact name, but you can find it for yourselves). Among other things that I liked was the combined keyword search box with metadata facets displayed beneath, and the fact that you could search within your results as you filtered down among the facets. Filters could be removed and deleted at will to modify your search, which was excellent feedback, and worked very neatly. Very neat.

Update 23 April 2004

And on that sort of a note, here's an article on Metadata based search and browse (for the NSW Office of Fair Trading intranet) via Column Two.


So I've taken Blogger/Google up on the test-drive Gmail offer, as I want to check out if all the anti-accessibility comments are true or not, and it'll be nice to see how the concept differs from the hotmails of this world. I'm also pretty keen to see what sort of personal advertising will come through based on the content of my emails - I'm sure that'll be an interesting experience. The ads that come through from blogspot on the top of my blog appear to key in quite nicely on a usability/search/ia front, but the content of my emails tends to be a bit more jumbled than my blog postings, so we'll see! - my gmail will be my name at gmail.com, send me a message.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Overlapping Readers and Subscription Lists

I am always fascinated by the small world phenomenon, and was interested to see that it affects reading patterns as well - it's obvious when you think about it, in that bloggers with similar interests will have similar blogrolls and rss subsciptions/opml files, but fascinating nonetheless to find someone else (Karl Nelson) has been reading almost exactly the same articles as yourself. Pretty much 90% of the articles I have read over the past couple of weeks, which suggests to me very strongly that blogs support communities of practice, no matter how loosely/weakly tied they may be.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

"Bigging Up" Myself - Reputation

Having ya'd on about reputation and trust for a while, I thought I'd give myself some kudos. I don't bother tracking my traffic or referrers, as I use blogger (blogspot) - being that I am cheap and too lazy to install MT, greymatter, drupal or the like. I'd been noticing the sparsity of comments recently and assumed that I was blogging in the hinterland of visibility, so imagine my delight to find that Lou Rosenfeld of Polar Bear fame has my blog listed in his list of favourite weblogs. So, a quick doff of the hat to Lou, who I previously thought I was being presumptuous to describe as "colleague" in my xfn links, and a quick boost in my self-perception (is this in Maslow's hierarchy of needs? "a need for blatant self-promotion"?).

On a sadder note, the intranet benchmarking forum presentation on 26 April in Glasgow - at which I was going to extoll the virtues of bencmarking and knowledge sharing for enterprise-level intranet managers to the land of Scots - has been cancelled, and I still haven't managed to hook up with the Glasgow IA/UX community (if it exists), having abortively tried to meet up with its (seeming) sole representative, Duich McKay, twice now! Oh well, you live and learn...anybody out there in Dundee or Edinburgh (he says plaintively)?

Monday, April 19, 2004

Excellent Web Standards Build Presentation

It's short, it's sweet (mind you, it's a Flash presentation), and an excellent "How to..." for a web standards approach to building a site - from Maxdesign, it's deathonline.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

More Corporate Blogging Links

A bit of repetition on some points here (cf Wed April 7 posting on NASA and Knowledge Management), but via Tom at theOTHERblog, here's a bunch of links to corporate blogging stuff on contentious. Haven't had a chance to read them all yet, but there will doubtless be the odd golden nugget or two within.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

More on the Page Paradigm

Link to Design by Fire posting - on Peter and Mark page paradigm "dispute". I like the fact that this is now getting quite philosophical.

And more on FOAF...

Clay Shirky comments on weinberger's comments on centralisation and decentralisation in "artificial" social networks on JOHO.

NASA and Knowledge Management

Via David Gilmour at Work, a very interesting addition to the KM world: KM a la NASA.

Also via David, then via David Gurteen, a link to Martin Roell's blog with an elevator pitch for senior managenent on the value of K-logs. Then, via social software, a whole bunch of links to corporate blogging ideas and stories through the perfect elevator pitch competition. I like Internal Corporate blogging because this need for a bottom-up percolation of knowledge within organisations (mine thinks it's flat, but is hugely hierarchical in an inconsistent, mixed-up way) hits the right tone. Also came across w4 k-collector, and another nice rss, k-log justification.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Case Studies and Collaboration (It's a Breeze)

Just a couple of links really - one from James at Column Two refers to case studies, a subject close to my heart when discussing intranet issues with other companies and professionals. I agree with him that it's the meat and two veg that really counts in case studies, people want to know how you did it and why you did it that way, as well as what went right and what went wrong. Yes, some of this can be on the edge of confidential/sensitive information, but who as a KM worker wants to hold onto his/her knowledge silo? It would be sheer hypocrisy!

The second link is to a presentation on Macromedia Breeze. I've only seen one presentation on Breeze (weblogs, rss, trackback discussion) so far, but I was really impressed.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Very Cool News Visualisation

Too cool: this infoviz tool for showing the density of news stories across the world. I think I got it via InfoDesign, but can't be sure...

Online Beginning Perl Book

Via Tanya at Pixelcharmer, via Kasei, a link to a beginners' Perl book (online pdfs). I've never really fully revved up my Perl learning experience, although I know bits and pieces, so this might help...

Monday, March 29, 2004

Topic Maps Blog

From Bond University, a blog on Topic Maps.

UPDATE - via Peter Van Dijck on a SIGIA posting, TMTab, a topic map plug-in for Protege is available. Must get around to downloading them both and having a play at some ontological/taxonomical mapping.

UPDATE - 14/04/2004

Via Peter again (via scale|free), here's TM4JScript, a JavaScript topic maps tool for browsers (I think you can ontologise your favourites with it???). Sounds nice, must play with it when I get the chance.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Two interesting bits & pieces - email social networking/trust and online rss newsreader

Via Clay on Many-to-Many, the introduction of LOAF, which uses a bloom filter (some whizzy algorithm) to essentially give you an overview of your email social network. It compares the details of contacts that you have sent one or more emails to against your incoming mail and against the contacts of your contacts - (sort of a -1, 0, +1 scale) - the result: contacts you don't know even via others, contacts you only know via others and contacts you know yourself (and via others). I can see this being useful - although the level of detail that you get through probably isn't anywhere near enough to base any major decision upon.

The most excellent bloglines, I have just discovered - an online rss newsreader. hotmail for rss.

I'm not feeling too hot, so apologies for the Yoda-like grammar

Monday, March 15, 2004

Community Article

Via Tom Smith, here's an interesting looking book (from the first flick through) on online community building by NAIMA.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Atom Autodiscovery

I'm hoping I've used the correct format for Atom autodiscovery:

<link rel="alternate" type="application/atom+xml" title="Atom feed" href="http://marktsinfoblog.blogspot.com/atom.xml" />

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

How much does my weblog own me?

Luckily not too much

18.75 %

My weblog owns 18.75 % of me.
Does your weblog own you?

Vade Mecum: FOAF/trust/reputation

Just using my blog as an aide-memoire, here's a bunch of FOAF stuff to look at in the light of my More Trust Links posting on 09/02/2004.

As well: a weighty academic piece that I've scanned very quickly: Rational Decision Making Using Social Information (Google HTML of a Word Doc). Noted the use of the term "Polyanna Effect" in this document, which is something that strikes me with early adopters of these kinds of models: ask users to "rate" someone and they usually will rate them highly (even, perhaps if they don't think that much of them!). I get the feeling that this might be exacerbated on the Web by the lack of "identity" of users within a defined social context.

Also came across Paolo Massa's Blog, which has some very interesting related stuff on it.

More trust links

A couple of FOAF/RDF links from Eric Vitiello:

I'll have a closer look at these later. I'm just pondering things at the moment from an object, subject, attributes and connections perspective in the light of my golden rules...

Thursday, March 04, 2004

XFN - representing human relationships in links

Very interesting this XFN stuff - the non-symetrical relationships are particularly interesting. XFN appears to be an instance of the small world semantic web - tiny, personal ontologies as opposed to the grandiose, joined-up vision of everything espoused by some. I might bung some if this up on my blog roll. Other wee bits of the semantic web (small "S", small "W") on here include the Atom feed for subscribing to my bosts, as well as the GeoURL details which allow me to see other bloggers nearby.

Social Network Analysis in a Business Context

Much like Valdis Krebs' stuff, this SNA stuff from Rob Crosslooks interesting - like so many other pieces I have just browse-read it so far. What I'd like to see are some arguments for selling this sort of insight through a business.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Sunday, February 29, 2004

The Golden Rules of Trust

I've just been thinking some more about trust and reputation - and have a list of articles to read and re-read, but sitting on the train on Friday - on the way to the beautiful West Coast of Scotland (blue skies, blue sea, and the top of Goatfell on Arran overlooking me) - I scribbled down some thoughts which maybe online trust should address. Maybe I'm wrong on some of this (I'm still working through it), but here are my initial golden rules:

  1. Trust is not a constant - it can (and does change...over time, according to relationships etc.);

  2. Trust can be, but is not necessarily, reciprocal;

  3. There is a categorisation of trust: you can trust an individual on one plane, and completely distrust him/her on another;

  4. Trust can be misplaced, so it needs to be adjustable/amendable (see rule 1.);

  5. Trust (in the real world) can be transmitted through group interaction: A knows B, and introduces B to his trusted group, which decides to trust B (although individuals in the group may reserve trusting judgement!);

  6. Trust (in the real world) is not just a psychological construct, it appears to be physical too (oxytocin, body language, group dynamics);

  7. Trust is not dependent upon face-to-face communication. Phone and internet relationship building demonstrates this;

  8. Trust is usually a 1-to-1 relationship, but it can be 1-to-many or many-to-1 (see rule 5.);

  9. People appear to develop strategies of trust; (see rule 1. also in that strategies can develop over time);

  10. Trust can deteriorate over time if its "ties" are not renewed (frequency and currency of trust);

  11. Trust appears to be a generalised concept ("trustworthiness") and may reach a point of critical mass where "trustworthiness" more easily creates more trust;

  12. There's quite a lot of cross-over in this list, and it needs a lot more thought, but I'll have a think, a re-read, a re-think, and work on this list some more, as I think a number of these points can be leveraged for online trust/reputation models.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Scotland and Glasgow - Forums (or is that Fora?) Galore!

I have had a number of calls recently from forum organisers (some that I know, other who are new to me) looking to start up benchmarking forums for intranet- and internet-related issues as well as knowledge management at the enterprise level. One of the forums starting up soon in Glasgow is a smaller scale offshoot of the intranet benchmarking forum (IBF): Paul Miller of TEG (which runs the intranet benchmarking forum) is looking to kick off a scaled-down version of the full forum in Scotland for medium sized companies with - I believe (although I might be wrong on this point) - approx 2,000 staff. This new initiative is called IBF World. The IBF focuses on intranet good practive, covering accessibility, usability, governance and administration, content management and many of the other day-to-day issues of running a successful intranet. If anyone's interested, a taster session is taking place in April - send me an email, and I can put you in touch with Paul.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Content Management - Avoiding the bloat

I've seen a few bits and pieces recently from people grumbling that CMS don't solve any problems, just create new ones, and I reckon this is because a lot of companies buy in the excellent top-of-the-range Documentum/Broadvision-style systems. People often refer to these products as "solutions", but what is the problem they are trying to solve? In the case of most CMS implementations, I think that the problem is usually - at the beginning at least - the simple one of making sure that the right people publish relevant and timely content that is similarly formatted. If this is the case, do you really need all the bells and whistles? Maybe it is better to invest in/build a simple extensible framework that can be added to in an iterative fashion as CMS needs develop. Keep it simple, start stripped-down and then develop plug-ins and add-ons according to need.

Very good RSS presentation - weblogs, rss, trackback

I love this. Number one, to my shame, I've never come across Macromedia Breeze before (after already marvelling at Flash Paper and Contribute), sort of a more multimedia PowerPoint with wings, which - at least in this presentation - gets rid of repetitive bullet points that just reiterate the speaker's notes. Number two, it's a genuinely interesting exploration of how RSS can help with the discovery of useful objects (in this case for learning). So read Connecting Learning Objects..., which I found via Tom Smith at the Other Blog (or maybe it was his new Drupal-fired Other Other Blog.
Note to self: must explain some of this to our Training department so that we can think of internal RSS uses rather than just external ones.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Accessibility: It's not about ticking off boxes

I've been explaining to a number of people recently that even though their sites may meet w3c guidelines and bobby tests, they are still not "accessible". You have to:

  • see users in action;
  • understand their demands;
  • then work out to which areas you need to pay specific attention.

An article on guuui.com called Accessibility Humanized covers most of the main points admirably.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Ia Meetup

Arranged an Information Architecture meet-up to speak to a couple of guys in Glasgow that do IA-related stuff, and we stupidly neglected to make any effort to identify ourselves to one another. Result? Crowded pub, me asking a bunch of people who look vaguely like one of the chaps' (saw his photo on his website) if they were him. Blank looks and strange glances for me in the Horseshoe Bar. Not much architecting of information there, eh?

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Glasgow Information Architecture

In the hope that this will get picked up by any search engine robots crawling these pages: is there anybody out there? I'm trying to set up irregular meetings for information architects, web-based information designers, usability / human factors types and anyone else interested in the general concepts of useful, user-focused design who lives or works in the vicinity of Glasgow. That's Glasgow, Scotland in case there's another Glasgow out there in Canada or Patagonia. Cheers.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Paper prototyping

Via Vanderwal, Blackbelt Jones post on paper prototyping and UX issues. The Marc Rettig stuff looks interesting at a first glance.


Silly me - I've read most of the Rettig stuff before. I'd love to use some of the wall-based communication methods at my place of work, but I don't think we've broken into collaborative working wholly yet.

Accessible forms

I've not tested this yet, but I managed to put some of the background reading I have done on accessibility issues into action today. Accessible forms appear to me to be one of the easiest things going - forms are already logically structured, so the use of fieldsets and legends makes sense, a little attention to writing, order, information design and user experience means an online form can look the same, but be many times more compliant with the needs of your user base.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Attractive Things Work Better

Can't remember where I found it, but have been reading a sample chapter of a Don Norman book called "Emotional Design". Most of the chapter called Attractive Things Work Better is interesting, if relatively obvious background stuff. I was, however, enchanted to read the following:

"The psychologist Alice Isen and her colleagues have shown that being happy broadens the thought processes and facilitates creative thinking. Isen discovered that when people were asked to solve difficult problems, ones that required unusual 'out of the box' thinking, they did much better when they had just been givena small gift..."
That's me handing out lollipops at the next meeting or training session I host!

How consumers trust

Haven't read this in its entirety yet, but it looks interesting. From the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab, How Do People Evaluate a Website's Credibility?. Happy New Year!