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?