Thursday, December 08, 2005

No time to blog...

I don't seem to have had very much time to blog recently, which is a shame, as there has been much that I have wanted to blog about concerning planning, requirements elicitation, devising KPIs and metrics for non-financial benefits, as well as thoughts on how not to launch a knowledge management initiative.

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

UPA membership

I got my usability professionals association (UOA) membership through the other day, so am now looking for meetings to attend in aand around London with other UPA members. Any UPA members let me know who you are and I'll say hello at some stage.

Technorati tags: | |

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

BE afraid...advertising nonsense

A few weeks ago, I read a scintillating article (which I have unfortunately no record of) with an advertising guru, where he spelled out the lazy archetypes of advertising - the only one of which I can remember is the "literal metaphor" of which the Guiness Fish on a Bicycle ("a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle") is an example.

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?

Technorati tags: | |

Comments Spam

Owing to the large volume of comments spam I am receiving at the moment, I have switched some options to restrict comment posting to "registered users". If you have a valid comment, and are unable to post using the comments, send me an email instead and I'll maybe put it on the site as a posting.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Mitigating Development Risks

I am involved in a project at the moment, where we are looking to develop an online application using (for us) a new technology. The company has an outsourced technical team (not first-language English speakers) who will be doing the development, but none of them have experience of this technology.

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!

Technorati tags: | | | |

Friday, September 30, 2005

Zimba: an ajax communication client

Via Jon Udell, here’s gmail on steroids: zimbra. Zimbra is a beta, but looks like it does all the things I wish gmail would let me do – online calendaring and contact management (which, to be fair, gmail handles OK already) all integrated into the one interface, much like Outlook. Nice to see as a next-generation online tool; personally I hope the guys at 37signals hook basecamp into it, then I’d be really happy! I also liked the little googlemaps mash-up for showing location. Makes you wonder what Google will do to push this on a bit further - will they develop gmail as an online client some more and try to match some of this zimbra functionality?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

CMS Projects - same old story

While visiting an immense project today, the following exchange was held between someone based at the project, another colleague, and myself (this exchange is not verbatim):
"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.

Technorati tags: | |

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Ajax Links

While looking for something else focused on rich internet applications, I came across the following link to A Venture Forth’s list of the top ten Ajax apps. The Periodic table is very nice!
NB: True to my promise, I used the Blogger Word plug-in to post this & it seemed to work fine.

Technorati tags: | |

Monday, September 12, 2005

theguardian Re-design

The wonky title is deliberate, since - as part of its Europe-focused (?) re-design - The Guardian has gone all compressed and lower-case. I can't really comment too much as I have yet to swing by the news-stand and grab a copy in the flesh (apologies for the mixed metaphor), but, via Tom Coates, here is Dan Hill's cogent view on the branding exercise. I particularly like the use of Flickr annotations...

Friday, September 09, 2005


I've not been too experimental with my blog recently (or particularly assiduous in writing posts), so I am going to endeavour to add technorati tags to relevant posts, think about actually re-designing the blog ("re"-design is a bit of a joke, as I didn't put too much effort into look-and-feel in the first place!), and fiddle about with posting direct from MS Word. If anyone has any suggestions for other stuff I should be doing (like updating my XFN network, for instance), just let me know!

Technorati tags: |

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Brand crises

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".

Technorati tags: | |

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


I've recently had feedback complaining that I haven't written anything in a while - for which I apologise, only citing the pressures of moving and starting a new job. Real life sometimes gets in the way of blogging, I suppose.
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

Rich Wiki Editing

While I love the collaborative authoring aspects of Wikis, I've always thought that wiki markup, while nicely concise, acted as a barrier to their uptake in "the real world". Via socialtext, I've come across Wikiwyg, a JavaScript-driven wysiwyg editor for wikis (designed to integrate into existing wiki s). I just tried out the demo, and while double-clicking to reveal in-context editing is a bit counter-intuitive, it works really nicely.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

2:1 Words of Wisdom

My colleague, Karl Pickering, repeated a real gem of an expression again today, while talking about establishing a new brand:
"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

Back to the Smoke

After a few months of independent consultancy work, I've moved back to London to start a new job (which I can't say too much about for the time being, but it's very interesting). I'm not likely to post all that much over the next few weeks as I can foresee myself being exceedingly busy.

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

Inspiration, reputation and perspiration

A reminder from The Times Career supplement (back-to-back articles, pps 3-4, 21/07/2005) that it takes effort to be inspired as well as to build (or in this case, restore) a reputation. A short article ("Ideas plucked from a blue sky") on innovation strategy pointed out - quoting Saj Parwani, MD of ?What If! - "Innovation is a science," in other words it requires time, study and effort. A similar tack was taken with the ten tips for "Polish a tarnished image". They're both short, simple articles, but well worth a once-over.

London Explosions

I was in London yesterday, and was approaching Angel Tube at 12.45 just as it was being evacuated and the Northern Line shut down - as the bus I needed did not appear to be running at that time, I instead enjoyed the opportunity to take a longish walk through London, walking first to Clerkenwell for an appointment and then on to Borough, then back up to Fleet Street for a drink with my friend, Dan.

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

Page footprints

I am always surprised at how little attention is paid to page footprints (size) on many websites and intranets (especially now that everyone seems to have a fat connection). Page footprints are not just about how fast the page loads for the user, they also offer fantastic savings in bandwidth.

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.


Governance and guidelines are the essentials of a sound website, portal, intranet or extranet, and all too often neglected (nobody appears to enjoy documenting good practices, workflows and checklists in a company, let alone sticking to them) in my experience. Via James Robertson, I read this succinct and interesting article on portal governance, much of which relates to intranets and websites also.

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

Accessibility Testing

I came across this post via the E-consultancy E-business Briefing newsletter: a forum post asking site managers to stop relying on Bobby automated testing for accessibility. I was quite surprised, as I had assumed accessibility had reached a "critical mass" in terms of industry perception.

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

Kafka Management, the new KM

About a week and a half ago, I read a very small story in a newspaper about the Belgian government's Kafka red-tape cutting initiative (here's the ABC coverage, The Guardian website was timing out while I wrote this). I think this is a great piece of collaborative "knowledge management" that delivered huge savings - about £150mn, I think, just by getting user-focused and asking the populace what pieces of bureaucracy were unnecessarily annoying, and then actually acting upon the results. Shared experience delivering process improvement.
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

Make Poverty History

My wife and I marched on the Make Poverty History demonstration through Edinburgh yesterday. What a magnificent site it was to see so many people (over 200,000) - in particular large numbers of the very young and old - gathered together for one message: "Make Poverty History". I do not for one minute expect the march to live up to its slogan - this would be a naive mis-reading of its purpose - but I do hope that it sparks off not only political action among world leaders, but also a greater, constant attention to world issues from the media, and a more concerted coming together at grassroots level of all the charities, NGOs and governmental organisations involved in assisting poorer and developing countries to become self-supporting.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Ajax Resource - Rico

Via Jeff Veen *, here's Rico, "a suite of rich internet components, behaviors and effects for the web application space." - I've not explored it very much at all beyond a cursory look, but its an open source resource of Ajax RIA effects. The demos are very nice with drag n' drop and resize functionality.
*(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

Via the Knowledge@Wharton newsletter comes an interview with Philip Evans (Boston consulting Group), Janice Fraser (Adaptive Path) and Ross Mayfield (Socialtext): "Wikis, Weblogs and RSS: What Does the New Internet Mean for Business?". I don't think that the article says anything new about the collaborative software space, but what I did appreciate was the attempt to explain the shift in enterprise psychology and organisation that is necessary to make the most of these "new" developments.

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

Oxytocin and Trust

I've written about the hormone oxytocin and its role in trust before, but here (via The Guardian, via Nature) comes interesting corroboration as to howit influences our decisions as to trustworthiness:

"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

BBC Tagging shows its value...

Lee et al at Headshift have been playing assiduosly with BBC backstage it appears, and have hooked up a little Ajax tagger which allows you to free-tag BBC news stories. I played around with some stories about the French "no" vote to the EU constitution and de Villepin's promotion, and found it worked a treat. Well worth a fiddle for five minutes...

Monday, May 30, 2005

Language and Homes

The UK is famously a nation of shopkeepers, but increasingly (since Mrs Thatcher's push for wealth for the individual and release of the nation's social housing stock) a notion of homeowners also. Watching a few TV programmes recently, I have become annoyed with the way in which this has meant that estate agency culture is starting to influence language (and hence the way we think about housing). One of the signal words for me is "property", which now only appears to be used in the context of houses and flats, but there are other worrying signs. The couples on TV are expressing increasingly passive opinions about housing (not "I don't really like it", but - as I heard today, "it doesn't have the X-factor" as if that were a quality that existed in anyone's eyes other than their own) and purely evaluating "properties" for investment potential rather than as homes. I think my least favourite is "outside space" or "outside living space" - funnily enough I thought the words "garden" or "outside" would cover this territory well enough, but the increasing commoditification of the home means that the available leisure-time activities have to be spelled out. So people are ripping up patios to put down decking, forgetting that the loveable British weather has always meant that "outside living" is a fleeting and enigmatic activity for the Anglo-Saxons... hmm - on Friday I was accused of being a "Grumpy Old Man" - maybe this annoyance with the estate agent's brochure-speak influencing our own way of referring to things is just another sign of this!

Switzerland, Shame on you!!!

My wife was just on the phone to one of her best friends, she recently married a Swiss guy (also a very good friend) after having been a couple for very many years, and moved to Geneva. Despite several years experience as a Product Manager for an international pharmaceutical company in France, she has had no success in finding a new job. One factor in this is certainly the fact that she doesn't speak German, however, she was recently discussing her situation with a neighbour (also working in Pharmaceuticals) who told her the following: you are 30, you are recently married, no company will take you on as they expect you to get pregnant within the next couple of years. You should have a baby now and then look for a job in a couple of years, where having a family will reflect will (stability etc.).
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

Le bloc-notes d'information de Mark T

I think I'm behind the times on this one, but I via Tom Coates plasticbag, I found this story on Coop's corner pointing out that a French Commission wants "blog" to be replaced by "bloc-notes". I checked this out a bit more and found a Le Monde article from the May 21 (not April 1!) which appears to corroborate this (look at the call out or see my loose translation below. I'm not really sure of the best way to translate "avis").
"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)...

Project Management Qualifications

I was delighted yesterday to discover that I passed my PRINCE2 practitioner exam, and can now call myself a qualified PRINCE2 practitioner. At the moment, I am working on a project that uses a related (very very close cousin, I would say) simplification of PRINCE2 called PRIDE/PRIDElite, and am just trying to get to grips with the differences (mostly these are terminology and/or quantities of specific project documentation) between it and PRINCE2. This got me thinking about relationships between project management methodologies - there is an underlying philosophy or approach to each method, and - having come across a relatively close overlap relationship between two methodologies - I was wondering whether anyone has come up with a visual/written map/taxonomy of how the different methodologies relate to one another? I haven't come across anything yet, but I am sure that such a map might be useful to work out which methods are most appropriate for which type of project (based on duration; discipline; cost; organisation differences etc.). Just a thought...

Monday, May 23, 2005

More Ajax stuff just to stay in touch...

I think I got to this via Lane Becker and Adaptive Path, but I can't remember: LukeW writes the nicest, simplest Ajax piece for communicating to non-techies that I've seen so far, and the lovely little file upload progress monitor from Home Made. Go on, try it, you'll like it...

Friday, May 20, 2005

Video and KM - Trade Secrets

While watching Trade Secrets on BBC2 today (a 5 minute show of top tips from industry experts - in this case theatre dressers), I suddenly realised what a great piece of knowledge management it is. I think video is often under-used by companies, and this sort of top-tip format could work beautifully in companies either for induction training or broken out into clips (with nice descriptive metadata) via an intranet. The benefits include the fact that the tip is mediated by a person (closest value to face-to-face), can be demonstrated in context (as a demonstration), and obviously can be stored for later retrieval. With the advent of low-cost DV cameras and editing, budget also shouldn't be an issue. Has anyone used this sort of video-based, Lessons Learned format within a company before?

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Editorial tone of voice and IA revisited

Something about this post from 37 signals resonates (and not just because I am having fun trying out backpack at the moment): "Getting Real: Copywriting is interface design". I said earlier on in posting called "Choice Theory" that I would have a think about how editorial voice informs information architecture and lo and behold, I haven't got around to it yet... Anyway, Jason's piece is a nice, brief starter for ten.

"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

Ajax Blog

I've just had a read of a few postings on Ajaxian Blog, but there are some nice wee Ajax demos, including an Amazon diamond search with accuracy sliders. Worth a quick peek.

How Art Made the World and BBC Weather

As a callow undergraduate (I think that you only ever get to use the word "callow" in conjunction with "undergraduate"), I lived downstairs from Nigel Spivey, so it was with interest that I tuned into "How Art Made the World" on BBC2 last night. While I'm not sure I entirely agree with the very Platonic theory of Art having [entirely] stemmed from stone age hallucinations being cast onto grotto walls, it was interesting to think about Art in grammatical terms - very Hildegard of Bingen - lines, dots and shapes coming together to make meaning. I don't think I've really thought about this much since reading books by Ernst Gombrich, Oliver Sacks, and John Berger's excellent "Ways of Seeing" a number of years ago - but it's definitely nice to go back to first principles and think about what is happening when we represent objects as images.
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

EU Citizen?

I'm on holiday in Dubrovnik, which GB Shaw apparently called a paradise on earth - we've come over from Budapest (Hungary) which is now part of the EU. Croatia is also looking to join the EU, and in the square in Old Dubrovnik today I picked up an ABC lexicon to the EU in Croatian (not that I can understand Croatian): it made me realise (looking through the entries) how little I actually know about the way the EU operates. I knew about Schengen and the EMU obviously, but had no concept of Eurostat or the EIB. I think I need to become a better European! Seriously though, my point is that - as an EU citizen - I've never seen anything as simple or as straightforward an introduction to what the EU actually does before. In the days of 500 page constitutions, perhaps this should be kept to the forefront of the EU's collective mind...

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Choice Theory

I haven't posted anything in a while, and am mulling over a couple of issues before I add anything to the blog. I'm really thinking about two concepts and how they could relate to IA. The first is choice theory, which - I must confess - I did not realise was a branch of economics until I started to read about it (in fact if anyone is interested there is an interesting article about bounded choice/rationality in the University of Chicago Alumnus Magazine), the second is editorial tone of voice. I think the latter is interesting as this is often one of the key missing elements in a wireframe. I haven't really polished my thoughts on either of these subjects yet, but if anyone else either has considered, or is currently considering, either of these issues, I'd be interested in hearing your opinions...

Monday, April 11, 2005

Delphi Technique for Breadth and Consensus in Requirements

I have been using a slightly bastardised version of the Delphi technique recently for some rapid requirements gathering and prioritising. Rather than the usual standard version where disonnant views are retained and ranked and re-ranked until stability appears (fine if you have plenty of time to build consensus), I've gone for a quick fix - send out a focused, open-ended questionnaire, retain all significant points and opinions, and then send the results back out to the review group to be ranked - use the initial ranking to prioritise the issues to be addressed (you could use MOSCOW or a larger sliding rating scale than 1,2,3 if greater shades of importance need to be considered) and there you have a decent case to start to develop your requirements from. I suppose that cherry-picking the first round of feedback goes against the grain of the technique in a way - but this feels like guerrila-delphi, just a quick-and-dirty "what do you think", "now rank it" - I think it fits in with the pre-project/requirements gathering process very nicely.

Ajax and other stuff

I haven't posted for a while as I've been focusing on consultancy work (to keep the home fires burning now that I've left my job with my previous employer) and taking PRINCE2 project management training and exams, but I noticed this really nice video overview from CMSWatch (via StepTwo) showing some Ajax techniques in CMSs - sometimes IE does rule...

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

Deliverables mania

I've been looking through a bunch of Information Architect job roles recently, and noticed that a number of the ads are placing a great deal of stress on the production of deliverables, and specifying experience in specific "IA" tools like Visio and Omnigraffle.

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

IA summit and Folksomomies

From a write-up of comments on Folksonomy from IA luminaries at the IA Summit. I agree with many of the reservations, but I reckon that in a controlled, corporate environment tagging could pay dividends:
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.

Structured Searching with Mark Logic

Via Jon Udell, I have come across the very cool looking Mark Logic Content Interaction Server (CIS). From what I've gathered so far - without reading the white paper yet, so this might be not 100% on the ball - this acts as a repository for content of different formats, which it stores as XML and then, using a mix of XML querying and search logic, is able to deliver more targeted and granular search results and content for re-use (as this is now structured rather than unstructured information). Jon Udell has a screencast demo showing some of the functionality, which is very nice looking indeed, with the engine pulling out the most relevant paragraphs and chapters in a searched document rather than just pointing to the document itself. The rest of the demo is about outputting to XHTML/pdf via XSL/XSL-formatting objects transformations.

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

IBM Screen-reading browser

IBM has just released Home Page Reader, a new, accessible "talking Web Browser", which is being targeted at the corporate environment from the looks of things:

"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

Even More Folksonomy

Another good folksonomy overview on The Community Engine: Using mapped folksonomy to break corporate silos...very much my opinion as expressed in earlier posts, a viewpoint also taken up by Javier Velasco in his comment on Lou's Bloug post: Damned Addiction.

"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

Social networks made easy by phone

Via Alex Gault of Collaboration Cafe comes this very cool sounding technology from BT, SWORD. BT is pushing small world social networking within corporate environments to boost company directories:

"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."

Computer-aided paper sorting (CAPS)

Another comment via Column Two: William Hudson - who I know from his usability work for the Intranet Benchmarking Forum - has come up with a neat idea to get around some of the difficulties surrounding card-sorting, those being:
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!).

Distributed IA (Information Architecture)

Within our intranet - owing to lack of resource at present - we delegate the task of structuring sets of intranet pages lower down the hierarchy to our content authors. In some cases, this means the content authors come back to us and request IA help, in others it means they go ahead and architect the sites themselves, with results verging from the reasonably well ordered and user-focused to the slightly chaotic. The first section of our Content Management System user guide takes a couple of pages to carefully introduce the importance of structure, usefulness and usability (without necessarily using those terms), but the impact of this appears to be limited: a few content authors are genuinely interested and "get it", some of the others have just been tasked by a superior to "get on with" creating some intranet content, and therefore do not hold as closely to good practice.

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

Ajax - Not for Cleaning, But for Richer Internet Applications

Jesse James Garrett has an interesting article on what Adaptive Path are calling AJAX, essentially the model that uses DOM and standards to provide richer internet applications (think Gmail, Google maps, Google suggest - think Google, I suppose.) among other things through the retention of state. All I want to know is what's in the Ajax engine?

UPDATE 22/02/2005
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

More folksonomy

I've just been keeping my eyes on the folksonomy pros and cons discussions (there's a nice overview article on Burningbird) - obviously I'm in complete agreement with regard to flat social categorisation replacing classification systems, but think that it is all a question of value judgement: the folksonomy approach combines personal information retrieval (my tags) with social information retrieval (whereas formal classification will not account for a personal mental space), it connects what you know directly with what others know without you having to give up your worldview to do so. Secondly it allows for the rapid evaluation of a knowledge space - this may not be optimal classification, but it made me think of John Nash and the Nash Equilibrium (as seen in A Beautiful Mind): I know this is not the equilibrium per se: (so apologies for quoting scripture to the Devil's purpose) but the best strategy for a group as a whole may be a compromise solution that is not the optimal solution from a choice. Watch the bar scene in the film with the blonde, and you'll see what I am getting at. With a folksonomy, what we lose in precision, we may gain in rapidity and flexibility as well as connectivity - it's a simple trade-off, and therefore its applicability will depend upon circumstances.
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

Seeing where you are going...

I reckon some whiz-kid out there has probably implemented this somewhere already, but I was pondering multimap-style directions and google-map today, and thinking about the mental model that map-type views force us into. Personally, I look at the world with a horizon-point rather than from above, and find the easiest directions to follow are those which give me clear, visual reference points at each major change along my path:
"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

Knowledge Gap Analysis?

I strongly suggest that you read the Wired article Scientific Method Man that I came across via a SIGIA discussion on expert systems and expert-level knowledge. The technique appears to be a form of knowledge gap analysis to try to find new, possibly untapped directions for research, and seems inherently common-sensical: define the known territory; analyse assumptions; find under-explored areas ( I am simplifying here). Fascinating.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Filtering news for reputation management

There's an interesting post from urlgreyhot on RSS newsfeeds, as I was contemplating the issue of a company knowledge aggregator in the context of intranet news feeds the other day. Apparently the MSN Search Beta and Yahoo News offer RSS feeds (which I must confess I didn't know about - note that there is no news available about me, surprise!) on specific search queries - which is particularly useful for KM workers who need to survey all mentions of a company or issue for feeding and re-distributing news or for reputation management (rather than paying big bucks to outsource this work).

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Personal Information vs Group Information vs Organisational Information

Not a particularly scintillating title, I know, but I'm just trying to ponder the different information clouds, their interaction and utility from a knowledge management perspective. What sparked this line of thought was a) more thinking about "folksonomies" (or as Peter Merholz points out - collective categorizations/group taggings, as they are flat not taxonomical - i.e. define the relationships between elements) and b) remembering a comment on KM from James Robertson, where he (sensibly, I think) suggested avoiding the use of "knowledge sharing" as a business aim (instead pointing out that all "sharing" should be tied to a specific business task or activity that the audience is already aware of and engaged in). You'll have to excuse me, as this is likely to be a stream-of-consciousness posting rather than anything particularly structured...

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 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)
The nice thing about this is that it ties usage to both business goals and personal goals (in fact, they are both allied: personal KM is important to the business too) without necessarily imposing the business classification on the individual or the individual on the business. Likewise, as it is motivated by enlightened self-interest first, and collective interest second, it is less likely to become moribund owing to lack of usage - the burden of metadata is high, at least, perhaps, this approach may lighten the burden.

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

Writing User Guides

I'm soon to attempt version three of our intranet CMS user guide - we have a good handle on what our users want and need to know, as they are pretty good at providing feedback, and I tend to act as the coalface for this. My issue is more in supporting the various different modes of learning that our users have (they range from the technically not knowledgeable to the technically very knowledgeable indeed!) and making sure that they move from passive reading to active learning.

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

Enterprise Distributed Categorisation: I Get on the Folksonomy Bandwagon

I haven't posted for a while, but like many out there, I've been thinking about services like delicious which can offer the benefit of developing a folksonomy (a.k.a. free-tagging, ethno-classification, distributed tagging) within a corporate environment. On the wicky wacky world wide web, the benefits seem obvious - flat metadata categories which help you to easily identify useful information (power laws usually meaning that only a restricted set of tags become wholeheartedly utilitarian) from the vast quantity (and quality) that is available. Tags let you let others do your spadework for you.
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 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 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.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Back from Thailand

Many thanks to everyone who emailed to see if we were OK after the Tsunami - your concern was greatly appreciated. Back in the UK in one piece, I suddenly remembered an inscription in our copy of "The Life of Pi" that Yann Martel wrote after spending the day with us in Glasgow: "May the ocean be merciful to you". I'm not a superstitious person, but this time I like to think of the inscription as having acted as a talisman, so thanks to Yann too.