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Happy New Year from Adaptive Path

In what is becoming a tradition, our 2005 inaugural essay lists resolutions from each member of Adaptive Path. There’s some good stuff in there — check it out!

Separately and additionally, don’t forget Jeff Veen and I are teaching our “Make Your CMS Work For You” content management workshop in our offices in San Francisco on January 25. Use promotional code FOPM and get 15% off the registration fee.

  1. Hi Peter,
    It’s calling my attention how the kind of things you’re bringing out here resonate strongly with what I’ve been working on and will present at the upcoming summit.
    Not long ago, you were asking “What is Communication” in relation to people saying that the strongest use for the Internet is communication. The point I’m working on is the same, to reinforce the fact that the Internet is primarily a communication medium and therefore, when we as IAs design web systems, we are intrinsically designing communication systems.
    Of course this will depend on how you define communication, my favorite definition is that reached by a team of biologists who say “Communication is behavior coordination”, what means that communication happens when the interaction among two entities allows them to coordinate their behavior (work in a common problem or task). It later struck me how you were explaining this same notion in your own words “Content is interesting only in the way it allows readers to successfully perform some task, while creators achieve an organizational goal.”
    Furthermore, you also state in your resolutions how “I resolve to approach the user experience design of websites not as a matter of managing content, but as a matter of nurturing and maturing relationships.”, which is basically the same point I’m bringing up on this material, by explaining how the websites we design allow companies to communicate with their customers, allowing them to solve their problems in ways that help build a strong relationship. What we do IS communication, and if we acknowledge that, we’ll have a stronger discipline.
    When I presented this as a poster last year in Austin, you were attracted by the typeface I picked :-P, I hope to see you discussing actively at our presentation, since we’ll be leaving lots of space for discussion.
    BTW: I will be quoting you as an example of how I’ve found many colleagues pointing in the same direction.

  2. Primary use of Internet is communication?

    I’m afraid that can easily be interpreted in the old outmoded “broadcast”, unilateral sense.

    I prefer to think of the Internet as computers interacting with each other to enable humans to interact with each other, resulting in information exchange and task completions.

    I like Peter’s emphasis on accomplishing tasks.

    Yet, communication is a word often deteriorating into blabbering, random chatter that merely kills time and lessens loneliness–as in the vanity blogs of digital diaries, which are doomed to perish soon from lack of readership and lack of stamina of the vanity bloggers.

    As a Blogologist, this is my focus: blogs being what web sites were supposed to be, highly interactive, frequently updated, easily usable, quick to navigate hubs of information and modes of task accomplishment (e.g., ordering a product, contributing user generated content, etc.)

  3. Hmm, that’s an interesting perspective. I would never interpret the broad term “communication” to mean the more restrictive mode of communication, “broadcast”. Communication, at it’s root, is merely the conveyance or transmission of information, which is inarguably what the web exists to do.You say that you prefer to think of the internet as “computers interacting with each other to enable humans to interact with each other, resulting in information exchange and task completions”. That is, in a certain way of looking at it, perfectly accurate. But the issue is not what the internet IS, it’s what the internet is primarily USED for. The internet is a tool, a resource, a venue to communicate. That communication may be intended to help someone accomplish their goals, complete tasks, or exchange information. It can be, and often is, also used to simply kill time, to get a laugh, to browse around, to be scared, amused, disgusted… the internet can be used to accomplish nothing, and as interaction or user experience designers it’s definitely not our job to pass judgment on these goals. You can be irritated by the “random chatter” and blabbering, but as a UE designer, no one cares what you think. The only people that matter here are the users, and many times users online have goals with no defined tasks, or no tasks at all. Many people don’t want an equal exchange with anything, they want to be fed stimulus.Browsing and shopping, roaming and poking around, these are at least partially creative processes. Users are often knowledge workers, collecting information from various sources in order to make an analysis or reach a decision. This type of activity begs for a “broadcast” mode of communication, a way to absorb a lot of information with the least amount of work or contribution. The relationship between a visitor and a web site, or a user and an application, is nuanced and personal. In this context, I would have to disagree with the notion that “Content is interesting only in the way it allows readers to successfully perform some task”, but I guess that would depend on your definition of “task”. The definitions of “task” that I find all follow a similar theme, “a piece of work assigned or done as part of one’s duties”. If you can take a step back and look at users goals, that’s different. “Goal” has fairly consistent definitions as well, most being “The purpose toward which an endeavor is directed.” Seeing these definitions, I would agree that “Content is interesting only in the way that it relates to a users endeavor or goal.” I would hate to restrict users to “doing their duties”, but then it has never been my duty to watch movie trailers or read amusing fiction, or read fark.

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