Thursday, December 08, 2005
Today, however, I was (among many other things) setting up Macromedia FLEX 1.5 on my laptop in anticipation of a training session with aquent next week. To quote another Macromedia Product name, it was generally a "breeze" to install, and I'm looking forward to some declarative user interface work - if data binding is as easy as it appears, I reckon that early stage prototyping could be done within FLEX, allowing for some relatively agile techniques in development and user acceptance. If I get anywhere with it fast, I'll post some progress reports.
In the meantime, I'd best get on with other more pressing things!
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Last night I was reminded of another lazy archetype that was not mentioned in the article; crossing London Bridge Station, I saw the new poster for "Billy Elliot" which used his initials to spell out a series of "BE" statements (I can't remember which, but I don't think "BE annoyed" was one of them!). This is lazy advertising at its worst in my opinion: there are so many companies (including one for which I used to work) with "BE" initials who go down this unimaginative, uninspiring path. It always reminds me of the Birthday card (which apparently draws on a quote from Kurt Vonnegut):
"To be is to do"--Socrates.
"To do is to be"--Jean-Paul Sartre.
"Do be do be do"--Frank Sinatra.
I can only remember "be afraid, be very afraid" ("The Fly") ever striking me as a good piece of "BE" marketing, and you'll notice that the initials of "The Fly" are not - by chance - "BE". Does anyone else have any pet peeves on this front?
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
I've been looking at mitigating the experience risk by getting them trained up, ensuring that they have the tools to practice with the development environment (and budgeting in some time to do so), and making sure that they may have access to some expert resource during development, but I am not entirely happy that the risk is completely under control. Does anyone have any other suggestions for reducing this kind of risk(s)? And, yes, I have looked at the avoiding it all together option!
Friday, September 30, 2005
Thursday, September 15, 2005
"Sorry, did I hear you say you used Documentum for Document Management?" (me)
"Yes, but not everyone uses it. It isn't really that user-friendly: when you start, the next page takes a minute, a minute-and-a-half to load up, and then you are presented with a list of options that no-one understands. Oh, and that means no-one uses it - everyone gets trained, and the system can do some really good things, but it's then two months before you use it again and you've forgotten everything. So we also had some document managers, but since everyone gives them the stuff to put in, they're swamped. So the system doesn't have that much information on it." (project colleague)
My colleague and I looked at each other, as she has been looking for a killer internal argument for usability to convince others. This isn't a criticism of Documentum - a great tool in the right hands - more an expression of my continued surprise at how little thought is typically put into human "engagement" in DMS and CMS projects, not just "usability" issues, but also ongoing training and workflow analysis. No matter how many projects you work on for different companies, you always hear the same old story - it would be nice to see someone doing it the right way from the start for a change.
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
NB: True to my promise, I used the Blogger Word plug-in to post this & it seemed to work fine.
Monday, September 12, 2005
Friday, September 09, 2005
Thursday, September 08, 2005
I was just reminded of a presentation I gave last year on the role of online communication in crisis communication by the following quote from an article called "Brand Rehab: How Companies Can Restore a Tarnished Image" from the Knowledge at Wharton newsletter:
"The rise of the Internet poses new problems for post-scandal communications, adds Blythe. "Blogging can kill you. Before, when we had a problem, it was addressed in the public media. Now the Internet is many times faster, more unforgiving and out of control." Increasingly, Blythe's firm is helping companies monitor statements about them on the Internet and generate their own blogs."
The internet can make you or break you - today's brands have to react to threats in "internet time".
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
Something which caught my eye today was an article in the Evening Standard pointing out that The Guardian is changing its format to a more tabloid, Berliner style, is changing its font (Guardian Egypt or somesuch), and is even changing its title typeface. As an arch-liberal Grauniad [sic] reader myself, I am slightly trepidatious, but also wonder whether the current British broadsheet transfer to tabloid style (think The Times, Independent) is anyway influenced by the Web, which is less columnar, and, from my perspective, not "broad" in a layout sense. It's just a thought, but I'm probably wrong and it has more to do with printing efficiencies or the logistics of delivery and display!
I don't remember such an upheaval in British print since colour newspapers first went live in the 80s (am I hallucinating, or wasn't the short-lived European the first, or maybe it was Today?). There must be some underlying force for this all to be happening in a short space of time - I can't believe that copycat activity is the only motivator.
Thursday, September 01, 2005
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
"You don't get a second chance at a first impression."
I like the simplicity of this statement as well as it's 2:1 ratio, which reminds me of my favourite phrase for project planning, the carpenter's proverb:
"Measure twice, cut once."
I'd love to hear some more 2:1 phrases I can bandy about in business meetings (and yes, I have thought of "birds in the hand")...
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
However, one thing that has struck me recently is the following: even in companies that approach project management in a formal, controlled manner, the approach to requirements gathering - the crucial portion of a project - often tends to the ad-hoc to say the very least. I'm considering taking a more controlled look at requirements gathering myself, and have already made some headway into developing my own approach, but when is everyone going to realise that taking a little extra time at the beginning of a project pays dividends in the end whether in terms of time, cost or quality?
Friday, July 22, 2005
It was a fascinating walk as, on foot, I was able to see much of the peripheral Police activity in dealing with the various incidents. This activity continued well into the night, from the sound of the sirens screaming through Islington. The general public - including tourists - appeared generally calm, although there I have noticed a slight mood change in the streets...perhaps a little less bustling, a little less driven and rushed. Someone did say to me earlier in the day that she had stopped using the tube and the bus, and while on Wednesday I noticed the underground was not hugely busy, there were still man people using it - so the majority have not been spooked and are continuing with "business as usual". It pleases me that there is a mood of seeming solidarity, a "no paseran" ("They shall not pass") sentiment.
Thursday, July 14, 2005
This came to my mind last week - as I went onto the BBC site in search of news about the London Bombing tragedy, I noticed that the homepage had been completely stripped back to basics. At first I wasn't sure if this was deliberate, or if many BBC staff had been caught up in the disruption and that departments were too under-staffed to offer a full service. In fact, as Martin Belam points out on his currybet site, the action was deliberate in order to ensure that the BBC coud cope with the predicted (and in the event, huge) spike in traffic.
On a oragmatic note, you don't even have to be quite so proactive - simply switching to standards-based XHTML/CSS instead of table layout can reduce page sizes dramatically. I seem to remember a hypothetical redesign of a Microsoft page reducing footprint by 80%. Try to keep it lean and mean (where appropriate) seems to be a sensible watchword.
I would take slight issue with the governance model showing a "Technical team" and a "Content and Community Team" as separate - firstly these two teams should be in relatively constant communication, and secondly, if they overlap it allows room for the technically-focused content people, such as information architects, information designers and usability specialists to have a voice and a position also.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
It's simple: automated tools can point you in the right direction, pick up on issues you might not have noticed and above all else are quick and easy to use, however they do not match a decent expert review and testing with a target audience. Decent alt descriptions, and why "click here" is so bogus, just will not make sense until you observe, for instance, a visually impaired user merrily zipping through your site, but missing the majority of content because it is "inaccessible". Automated tools are great for getting you started, as well as for acceptance testing at the end of a project, but they are not the be-all and end-all - human input is still required, particularly in some of the greyer areas of legislation and guidelines.
Above all else, ensure that your developers learn from the experience, they'll probably appreciate it from an intellectual curiosity and career development perspective, and you'll benefit from more compliant sites henceforward!
UPDATE - 14/07/2005: On this subject, here is an apposite demonstration as to how knowledge of accessibility good practice should be developed (using guidelines, testing with users) as opposed to relying on automated indications - "Accessible Data Tables" from Web Usability.
Monday, July 11, 2005
The website is nice too, and I particularly like the little Flash demo of registering a new-born old-style along with the new streamlined data sharing approach.
I'm not sure if this is a humorous touch to mingle with calling the system Kafka, but the guy in charge was "Secretary of State for Administrative Simplification, Vincent Van Quickenborne", nominative determinism if ever I heard it. Anyway, the savings as he put it come from "alleviating some of the administrative burden imposed on citizens and entrepreneurs." Nice.
Sunday, July 03, 2005
Saturday, June 18, 2005
*(and its worth reading the comments below his post - particularly the reference to Macromedia Flex's HALO user interface model for RIAs)
Thursday, June 16, 2005
For me, three quotes stood out - one from each interviewee.
Connecting is about "decentralization and relinquishing control" according to Janice Fraser. I think this is an important point, but I always consider that within the enterprise it is more about "loosening control" (or "controlled freedom" as I like to call it) rather than relinquishing it. The aim is to have a clear set of governance policies and the resource to police and push collaborative efforts forward. Intranets , for instance, started down the organic path, expanded beyond control and are now being rationalised and brought under more central frameworks. Draw a line in the sand, but make it relatively fuzzy so that you do not discourage participation, then make sure that you enforce your policies. This has often been the issue with the various blogger sackings - companies have not been clear enough from the outset about which areas of business employee-bloggers can discuss without over-stepping the mark.
"One danger, however, is that of assuming that you can just grab some of these tools that have great social dynamics on the public web and believe they will work equally well inside an enterprise." is the second quote, coming from Ross Mayfield. This leads on from my remarks about governance in that a company needs to consider appropriate usage as well as auditing and control. In addition to this, however, a company needs to carefully implemement any collaborative strategy. "Why are we doing this?", "What do we expect as an outcome?", "Are our staff ready for this?", "Are we fully behind this?", "How does this fit in with our business strategies?" - these are the sorts of question that need to be addressed before sailing into the great wide yonder.
"So much of reengineering, which is what major corporations have been about for the last 10 or 15 years, has been about linear efficiency -- lining everything up in as tight a way as possible along a path. That's wonderful if you know exactly what it is you want to do, and the aim of that task will never change. Increasingly, that's not the relevant challenge. The challenge is adaptability, complexity, uncertainty and your capacity to mine the elements of your business, people and knowledge into different and new combinations." Philip Evans comment rounded things up for me: collaboration can assist in filling in some of the gaps in business, speeding time of response, pointing out the shortfalls in existing processes, exploring new market opportunities and so on and so forth.
I think that for the latest generation of social software (think Groupware) to succeed in the long-term, we should not focus on the types of software and technologies themselves: blogs, wikis, rss, online project management tools, but on the principles behind them: collaborative authoring, ownership of voice, timeliness of information, retention of experience and understanding, flow of information, point-to-point communication et al. The technologies will change over time, but the principles should not.
UPDATE: was just looking through my feeds in bloglines and noticed Mike Gotta listing
"Properties Of Collaboration?" in the same vein. His list read: Contextual; Situational; Behavioral; Transformable; Historical; Shareable; Securable...
Friday, June 03, 2005
"Ernst Fehr of the University of Zurich and colleagues tested 194 healthy male students in a series of sophisticated games of risk and trust: the players were given notional currency and could choose to place all of it, some of it or nothing in the hands of trustees who would then decide how much to hand back after the stake had been tripled. Some players were given a whiff of oxytocin, some inhaled a vial of air. None of the players knew what they were sniffing and none knew whether the trustees were trustworthy or not: they had to make a decision. Those who sniffed oxytocin showed a greater propensity to trust someone than those who simply inhaled air. But when the trustee was replaced with a computer, both sets of investors showed much the same judgment. So the oxytocin did not make the investors generally more gullible or profligate: the effect was only visible when they had to deal with another human being. Paradoxically, Dr Fehr and his colleagues began the experiment because one of them believed that oxytocin signalled trustworthiness, rather than a propensity to trust."
I think I can just about get away with quoting this much of The Guardian article - the interesting point from a computing aspect is how to build trust within an oxytocin-free environment...
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Monday, May 30, 2005
I am stunned that in this day and age this can still remain as a tacit "understanding". For someone to express this opinion as fact, it must be an opinion that is widespread, and - in my opinion - reflects a general lack of respect for women at work. Tut-tut!
Thursday, May 26, 2005
"Ne dites plus jamais blog mais bloc-notes - ... La Commission générale de terminologie et de néologie a publié au Journal officiel du 20 mai un avis établissant une liste de termes et d'expressions destinés à supplanter les anglicismes sur Internet. Ainsi, "bloc-notes", que l'on pourra accepter sous sa forme abrégée "bloc", désignera "un site sur la Toile, souvent personnel, présentant en ordre chronologique de courts articles ou notes, généralement accompagnés de liens vers d'autres sites", soit un blog."
"Don't say 'blog' anymore - now it's 'bloc-notes' [jotter/note-block]: in the official journal of May 20, the General Commission for Terminology and Neologisms published an advice-note setting out a list of phrases and expressions aimed at replacing Internet anglicisms. So, 'bloc-notes' (which can be shortened to 'bloc' will mean "a site on the Net,often a personal site, of short articles presented or of notes, usually accompanied by links to other sites ", in other words, a blog"
At the same time, it put forward that hoax will become "canular", worm - "ver" and splash screen - "fenêtre d'attente"."I'm not sure why the Commission générale de terminologie et de néologie would bother with this - I don't think that courriel (officialese for "email" or "mail" as everyone I know who is French-speaking calls it) has caught on, so why should this? (NOTE: My wife is French and said "Well, it makes sense", so maybe I'm being overly anglophile about this). I do like the French chauvinistic defence of its patrimony - limits on how many English-language songs can be played on radio stations was the big talking point a decade ago (how the media environment changes)... Ollie's blog suggests (tongue-in-cheek) that the Commission members might be worried about their jobs (and therefore need to be seen to be active)...
Monday, May 23, 2005
Friday, May 20, 2005
Thursday, May 19, 2005
"Good writing is good design. It’s a rare exception where words don’t accompany design. Icons with names, form fields with examples, buttons with labels, step by step instructions in a process. Clearly explaining your refund policy is interface design."
And if you haven't read "Defensive Design for the Web" yet, then I suggest you do!
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Anyway, I found this highly interesting as the BBC has just launched advanced weather visualisations whereby its previous iconography is now being replaced by "realistic" graphics. Personally, while I relish the effort, I'm not quite used to the relegation of the Orkneys in terms of importance from the isometric projection of Scotland (the borders looking pretty big to my mind - funnily enough I have just noticed that I am not the only one to think so) instead of the top-to-bottom map used previously, nor am I sure about how easy it is not to be distracted by the different precipitation animations running at different speeds in the top corners of the screen. I wonder what caveman trancing out in Lascaux caves would have thought about it?
Monday, May 09, 2005
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Monday, April 11, 2005
UPDATE - 12/04/2005
Just trawled through a few more links to Ajax-related information, and thought I'd publish them for reference. There's a Struts-view on Frank W. Zammetti's Ajax using XMLHttpRequest and Struts (which I've only half-read, but was interesting), the wikipedia definition for completists, a look at the controversy of names (familiar to all IAs!) in Quirksblog's Ajax, promise or hype?, and a detailed overview in Channel C's Ajax: The Next Generation of Web Interfaces. I think some of the criticism of JJG's piece is a bit misguided - I don't think Jesse was claiming this was new, or to be writing the definitive tech guide to the subject, I think he was just hanging a nice tag on an area of work (yes, DHTML work indeed) that is starting to blossom at the moment. Where Ajax as a concept is interesting is as part of the rich internet applications drive, but working within a framework that many webdevs can understand (where some might be struggling with new concepts with Flex or Laszlo perhaps) - it's nice to see some useful e.g.s out there anyway that break the age-old state issue.
Monday, March 21, 2005
I know that job ads can be reductive, but I do worry about the emphasis being placed on deliverables rather than skillsets: some of this might be because the jobs are mostly for digital agencies, and there's an element of client seduction in there. Good deliverables do make a difference - a bad wireframe can add to client confusion rather than solve it, but these are not the end products of an IA's work: end product delivery is. It's a bit like the emphasis on MS Project skills for Project Managers, I suppose: confusing nice Gantt charts and PERT charts (just intermediary products on the path to successful project delivery) for decent project management.
Maybe it's when wireframes and site maps begin to look too smart, too professional, that designers begin to get annoyed at turf wars - maybe there should be a return to quick and dirty iterations of deliverables... long live the back of the envelope?
Friday, March 11, 2005
1) it connects personal concepts with more social concepts (including organisational);
2) it offers a path for emergent terminology to be added to a more controlled vocabulary set;
3) it makes sure that some context is given to assets rather than leaving them free of metadata.
There are a number of other benefits, but I'm fairly sure that with a bit of work in extending folksonomies (such as mapping key tags to taxonomies, weighting of tag value by popularity for search, combining tags with boolean logic for context [like facetious's faceted approach] etc ...) they could offer a deal of value.
Aah! the IA Summit was clearly fertile ground - wish I could have been there, I've always fancied going to Montreal. Via the Community Engine Blog, news that IBM's taxonomy group is going to be doing pretty much what I'm talking about above. Although I don't see "folksonomies" as a silver bullet, I'm sure that they will have some impact on emerging terms and also on the ability of a company to keep tabs on the impact of its internal communication. For instance, assume that a company has launched an initiative called "BOB", tracking the emergence over time of the use of a BOB tag (and the items associated with it) could show the penetration of communication efforts as well as give an early warning of a waning in interest. All very interesting stuff - and let's hope IBM are successful.
I really like the delivery of more granular content objects for search results in this fashion - for too long we have got too hooked up on the concept of "search": the information retrieval cycle is one of moving from a requirement, finding (or "discovering" as Donna Maurer would put it) information fitting that requirement, and then - critically - making use of that information.
I'm sure I've not even got close to understanding what the CIS can deliver, but I like what I've seen so far...It fits nicely into the equation that I came across in Oracle Magazine (Zen and the Art of Information, George Demarest, p79-80 March/April 2005):
"Information=quality (data + metadata)"
I quite like this neat equation which expresses the idea that information is data with applied quality and context. Structured access to document sections certainly hits the context side of this equation on the head...
Monday, February 28, 2005
"The latest version of Home Page Reader is particularly geared to companies and organizations whose employees use the Internet to gather information they need for their daily work, and to communicate with customers, suppliers and other businesses. It gives users who are blind or visually impaired equal access to content from the Internet, an increasingly important source of information and interaction in business and daily life."
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
"Hybrid Classification …?
Wouldn't user tagging be a great way to fill a hierarchical classification… or many?
(...) Keyword-only systems allow for horizontal movements only (into terms that are not necessarily related). What I'm thinking about is the idea of matching keywords to categories, and then users could move randomly though tags as now, but also move into broader terms and thus find ‘brother' categories.
Of course, as we know, a hierarchical classification will never be unbiased: the way we organize the categories will reflect some of our values and priorities. But I'm sure we could find some means for tracking and incorporating hierarchies that emerge from the users.
I once had to build taxonomy for a company where we had a big team of journalists; all of them specialized in their field. The old manual archiving process involved a team of 20 archivists who would tag the hundreds of articles and photographs that came in every day. I remember they had a great model for tagging images, their descriptors would cover time, location, characters, background elements, character's facial expression, character's outfit, and more.
My approach was to have the journalists assign keywords to their articles (or pictures) under some given framework (based on their old archive), and this would allow us to assign the articles to relevant categories with considerable precision. (...)
So now I look at these folksonomy-powered systems and I wonder, why leave it up to there? Why so flat? These systems are offering thousands, probably millions, of volunteers for tagging content for subject matters that they have particular interest and knowledge on. Why not take this further?"
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
"SWORD works by putting the user at the centre of his or her own universe, updating their personal contacts profile according to the frequency and number of calls they make to colleagues. So as they contact people, SWORD builds up information that increases the chance of providing the right number at the top of the list next time around. The system also locates colleagues’ numbers more quickly, by grouping and ranking them according to various predefined criteria, such as their organisational unit within a large company, or their geographical location."
1) analysis is repetitive and time-consuming for a human;
2) it's generally easier for people to sort with real cards than onscreen;
3) none of the existing tools seem to merge paper and computer-based approaches.
Read William's piece for an introduction to a neat merger of paper, software and barcode scanning that gets around a) having to do your cluster analysis by hand or b) feeding the results of a paper-based exercise into an analysis engine (NB: you can buy everything you need from Mr Hudson too!).
With this in mind, I've been thinking of other ways to communicate the importance of IA to our CMS users without using IA terminology or getting super-complicated. I had a few ideas myself, but was really interested today to read a posting from James Robertson's Column Two on Information Architecture Exercises. James' succinct post also points to a great set of suggestions on Peter Van Dijck's Guide to Ease (with the identical title): I think I may be incorporating some of the suggestions into our core CMS user training...
Monday, February 21, 2005
A little more on this from Mr Veen: "Scrubbing Innovation into Interaction: Ajax"... with some useful looking links at the end. I feel like I want to ask someone at the Flex-end of Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) what they think about this more in-depth use of existing techniques for a richer experience. Will add a post if I remember to do so.
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
So I've been pondering a little bit more as to how to move from the loose spontaneity of folksonomy to a more controlled vocabulary, and this Porter stemming tool from hackdiary presents one possibility, I suppose. Stemming could be run against a folksonomy (rather than just against a personal user's tagset) to give an initial suggestion as to how to consolidate the tags within - for instance by suggesting synonymous terms. How this information is then dealt with is another matter (consolidating the tags would have a negative impact on personal tagsets, whereas a controlled vocabulary would allow the personal tags to stay, but also be mapped as synonyms etc. to other, "standard" tag descriptors, is my assumption)...
Saturday, February 12, 2005
"turn right at Junction 5 at the Red Lion pub onto the B112 heading towards Osmotherley".
In the day and age of Flickr, Keyhole, Mappr and the like, it would be quite nice to have a set of tags to give useful direction hints - particularly if these could be associated with geo-tags from GPS-enabled devices (or manually inputted) - when you use a service like multimap. I guess as well as having a valid latitude and longitude, you'd need to know which direction the photographer was pointing when he/she took the photo, but if it worked it would be very cool to be able to print off a map with photos to verify you were taking the right direction.
So, for the above example, on my hypothetical journey, along with my set of "after 1.5km, turn right onto the B112", I would also have a photo of the Red Lion to reference.
I'm sure there would be enough motivation from clueless, directionally challenged drivers like myself to map key junctions on principle routes.
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
Tuesday, February 01, 2005
Getting back to real basics, what appears to be key in KM is certainly not the individual as an individual, but tying the individual into groups and groups into organisational objectives, because, let's face it, KM is about making businesses work better. These three key areas: the individual, the group (informal or formal) and the "organization" (just another group, but one that acts as a definite entity) each have information or knowledge clouds which he/she/they need to create, manage and develop over time. As an organization is made up of groups, and these groups are made up of individuals, the activities of these specific groups, and the interactions between them (social networkers of the world unite) - the movement of activity, understanding and knowledge from each end of this line to the other is of key importance. I know this is all stating the obvious, but it is very important to keep this in mind with all KM-type activity: connectivity is key.
This all fits back into folksonomy via Peter M's post on self-centredness in group tagging:
"One of the key emerging trends we're seeing with things like del.icio.us and
Flickr is the merging of personal information architecture and
public/shared/group/emergent information architecture. And one of the things
we're seeing in the *use* of these systems is self-centeredness -- how else do
you explain the prevalence of "me" on Flickr?".
I find this a particularly important quote given a comment from John Udell that Google has proven that relevance is a collective issue. I tend to disagree, what delicious shows (as does frustration with returned search results) is that relevance is both a collective and a personal issue. To paraphrase the famous saying:
one man's meat is another man's poison (is everybody's dead animal)".
Delicious allows for a kind of personal reputation management (links I find useful) which has the added advantage of - via a large user base - revealing a collective categorisation of assets. Where this might fit into corporate KM initiatives might be in tying individual categorisation systems into the group and organisational classification structure - I posted about this a few days ago with Enterprise Distributed Categorisation. Surely this type of categorisation tool can be used to:
- help the individual in categorising and retrieving his/her artefacts;
- allow the individual to share his or her categorisation with others (via an rss feed e.g. .../username/tag/rss) ;
- aid the organisation in rapidly developing a classification (based on clustering of terms etc.) for the retrieval of organisational artefacts;
- allow the individual to link his/her tags to the classification via a mapping from the "folksonomy" to a controlled vocabulary;
- allow for a path for new terms to be suggested for the classification (continued log analysis of popular terms)
Search, for instance, could be optimised for both an individual's tags (personal relevance - a nice move down the line of trusted search) and the organisational classification (general/social relevance). This seems to be such an obvious benefit that I am convinced some bright spark out there must already have implemented this - any takers?
[NB: On a secondary note, the development of useful "social" meaning from self-motivated action is also evident in the New Scientist article, "Google's Search for Meaning", where searches on the Google index are used to define distances of meanings between concepts in order to develop an ontology - very cunning.]
Monday, January 31, 2005
With this in mind, I've been looking at various types of software training books to try to get a handle on as many different learning types as possible. So I've come up with the following ideas:
- use common-sense names as well as the technical names for all aspects of the system in the section title even if this makes it quite lengthy;
- use plenty of "What you need to know" call-outs - make these hands on demonstrations of key points of the system;
- use as many illustrations as possible - not just of the system, but some pictures/photos to make neophytes feel at ease (e.g. photo of a user using the system);
- keep the illustrations with the text they illustrate (not just "close to");
- repeat information over and over in as many ways as possible - for instance the "big picture" view, the "step-by-step" approach, the "case study" etc.;
- Have illustrative step-by-step instructions on the page, but back these up with animations of a user achieving these (ie. instructions backed up with a demo);
- run short end-of-section exercises to test the reader's knowledge;
Does anyone have any foolproof tips to add to this list? I'd really appreciate any input. As an NB: we do - of course - test the guide with users before releasing it, but are restricted to no more than three users, and not necessarily of all the types of user we would like to test against.
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
I have been wondering whether in an enterprise environment, a similar folksonomy approach could be used for the rapid (and flexible) development of iterations of a classification system. Taxonomy projects always seem to be tagged as inflexible, long-winded and time-consuming - couldn't folksonomies get rid of some of these disbenefits?
Owing to my own priorities, I've been thinking about this for intranet metadata and search integration. It strikes me that the flat categorisation of a folksonomy could be clustered and analysed using the same techniques as are used for a card-sort, and that key, popular categories coming out of a distributed categorisation exercise could be used to form the structure of an intitial taxonomy.
I suppose my suggestion would be to allow a "tag this page" section in our CMS (which at present has very limited metadata functionality) which allows for multiple space delimited tags in the same fashion as delicious. This functionality would be explained to current content authors, who could tag new and existing content in an unrestricted manner for a set period of time. At the cut-off point, the tags would be analysed for popularity and similarity (synonyms, misspellings etc.), and a reduced set then used for an open (card) sort. The results of this could be analysed and transferred into a first iteration of a taxonomy, along set rules.
The taxonomy could then be exposed to the search engine and CMS - authors would now tag their content using the taxonomy, and, for ongoing maintenance would still have the option for creating a new tag. New tags could be processed by the taxonmomist and added/amended to the overall classification as necessary. I'm not sure whether this would work in practice, but it might be the outline of using rapid, distributed categorisation to move to a stable classification, and it would certainly reflect a consensus opinion...
[NB: Clay Shirky (I think) mentioned that delicious tags can be moved into hierarchies (xml>xslt, for instance or mammal>dog), although I can't find out how to do this, or any reference on delicious as to how to do so - otherwise, I might possibly suggest allowing users to set their own "corporate" hierarchies and then clustering them in this way rather than just going for the clustered approach.]
Has anyone implemented anything similar or looked at the pros and cons of such an approach? I know Adam Mathes Folksonomies - Cooperative Classification and Communication Through Shared Metadata touches on some of the issues, as does Ulises Ali Mejias A del.icio.us study -
Bookmark, Classify and Share: A mini-ethnography of social practices in a distributed classification community, and the always helpful Lee Bryant at Headshift with Can social tagging overcome barriers to content classification?
[NB(2): check out extisp.icio.us while you are at it - if you haven't already - a nice visualisation of your own delicious personal information cloud.]
Should have checked Louis Rosenfeld's bloug out first - some of this is discussed in a post there, makes for interesting reading.