April 28, 2000
I am going to L.A. this weekend. Email
me if you want to hang out.
April 27, 2000
Late-ish night memetics thoughts. Excuse any logical leaps.
had 5000 hits by the time I came in Wednesday, and by 10 a.m.
it was 20,000. Before noon it was almost 100,000, and by Wednesday
night we had 600,000 hits."
So, you know, there's
gotta be something of sociological import in the development, publication,
and reception of the Elian
Wazzup video. It's such a remarkable crystallization point of
the Now of pop culture. The development points to how almost natural
satire is becoming in modern discourse as a method of communicating
ideas. The publication demonstrates the ease and speed with which
fairly normal Joes can create and distribute their ideas. The reception
illuminates the awesome capability of the internet to foment a literal
overnight phenomenon (I must have received at least 4 links to the
page... ). The cease-and-desist letter provides a classic example
of how The Old Ways just
Most delightfully, this is a story of how two schmucks were able
to turn the government (Janet Reno's minions), the press (AP photo),
and Big Corporations (Anheuser-Busch) on their heads with a bit
of creative splicing. And don't forget, there are dot coms filled
with venture capital and dozens of employees that would kill for
those hit numbers.
You paying attention, Phil?
Little. Yellow. Puffy.
Peeps® are given T.W.I.N.K.I.E.S.
project-like treatment. New for 2000: Fear
response. Goofy kollidge kids with way too much free time
on their hands. Strawberry
Pop-Tart blow torches anyone?
I'm sure you're all *fascinated* with my dietary intake. So
far today I've had two bowls of Kellogg's®
Corn Pops®, three Krispy
Kreme® Original Glazed Yeast-Raised doughnuts, and an In-and-Out
style" (dig all those 'special' styles!) with fries and
a Dr. Pepper.
April 26, 2000
Bobbing and weaving. Betsy Martens, my new muse, points to Future
Looms, a meditation on women, textiles, and computers, as
an example of emotionally resonant information architecture.
April 23, 2000
Hoisted by your own Minard. Tufte-ites are well-familiar with
Minard's famous graphic representation of Napoleon's March.
Using new information visualization and manipulation techniques,
folks at CMU
have developed alternative ways of presenting the data. (Select
one of the links under SAGE). Worth a clicksee.
April 22, 2000
Out of my control. Sitting at the local coffeehouse, I'm surprised
and pleased to hear Frank's
Wild Years start up on their stereo. I bought that album
after hearing "Cold Cold Ground" in the movie Leolo,
and it's been a favorite ever since. It's as close to perfect as
a record can be.
Humming along while I'm
reading, the album progresses to "Innocent When You Dream,"
a song with an amazing power over me. Listening to it, I inevitably
choke up. Tears begin to well. Tom Waits has composed and produced
a song that bypasses my rationality and plays directly to my limbic
system. The experience defines "melancholy." When I lived
in New York, after breaking up with a girlfriend, I had that song
stuck in my head for a week. It was an oddly exquisite torture.
April 20, 2000
Oooh, that smarts! Bicycling
to lunch today, I rode over a wooden plank covering a groove in
the asphalt. Exactly what happened next is a blur, as my front tire
pops off causing my handlebars to tilt down throwing me forward
as I land on my stomach the wind knocked out of me and my whole
body dully sore. Laying there awhile I slowly regain my composure
make sure that I'm not wounded or broken stumble back home with
a bike with a broken front wheel.
I came away largely unscathed,
just some scratches and abrasions and soreness in my stomach muscles.
I suspect I'll pay for this tomorrow.
Whenever I get in such
a scrape (as a bicyclist, it happens a few times a year, though
rarely this dramatically), I recall the line from Drugstore
Cowboy, "There's nothing more life-affirming than
getting the shit kicked outta ya'."
April 19, 2000
Genuflect, genuflect, genuflect. A
feature on the (still alive!) Tom Lehrer.
Jason points us to this
fabulous little Java applet.
April 17, 2000
Experience design. Thanks to Jorn,
I've been sifting through archived
articles on Gamasutra, a remarkably intelligent resource on
video game design. I've been particularly taken with "Environmental
Storytelling", from a conceptual designer who has worked
in both theme park and video game design.
Edward Gorey. My parents owned Amphigorey
and Amphigorey Too, and as an inquisitive child riffling
through our bookshelves, I was inevitably drawn to the books--they
had pictures! I read and re-read such favorites as The Beastly Baby,
The Gashlycrumb Tinies, The Chinese Obelisks, The Pious Infant,
The Hapless Child. I didn't know from 'perverse,' then, and simply
thought the stories were fun (well, except The Unstrung Harp, which
I didn't 'get' until I was an adult). If I were ever to get a tattoo,
it would likely be of the Doubtful Guest, his red-and-white scarf
blowing behind him, his sneakered-feet pointing in opposite directions.
Gorey's delicately macabre tales (well, I suppose Kate's death wasn't
so delicate) proved an essential element in the formation of my
sensibilities--a treasure I'll happily pass along to my children.
April 14, 2000
My point, exactly.
Um, what's the 'information architecture' of Napster?
April 13, 2000
An epiphany. So, (I wonder how many of these things I start
with "So,") I presented at the mentally invigorating Defining
Information Architecture conference. In an attempt to tie together
some thoughts triggered by previous speakers, I eschewed my prepared
talk in favor of an extemporaneous thoughtwander on the dynamism
of information. To whit:
You have to be careful
to about too closely associating information architecture with its
namesake, architecture. By and large, an architect's product is
a fixed entity. This means the architect can design and develop
it in a studio and simply pass it on to the owner.
To be more specific, I should say that architect's design their
products as fixed entities, though, as Stewart Brand's brilliant
Learn points out, the owners of the buildings continue
to tailor them to meet their needs.]
that practice information architecture take this approach, desiging
"the best" information architecture and handing it off
to clients. Given the always-changing nature of the Web, the information
architect's product cannot be fixed--the IA can try to develop
a stable structure in which content is poured, but even that needs
to be highly flexible.
In his conference keynote,
Lou Rosenfeld made a brief mention of how information architecture
is far from being automated, because "you can't crack the IA
nut until you've cracked the AI [artificial intelligence] nut."
If information truly is dynamic, that makes the AI approach all
the more difficult.
However, the Web provides
access to another, and potentially more powerful, intelligence--social
intelligence. [A search on "social
intelligence" at Google turns up all kinds of interesting
links, some of which suggests I'm improperly using an established
term. Oh well. It also led me to Bruce
Edmond's home page, which I'll want to revisit--tasty thoughts
on 'socially situated intelligence.'] The information architecture
of my current favorite site, Launch.com,
is most relevant when based on the relationships between information
as devised by the community of users. I don't need a classification
scheme to find music I like--I simply need to find a few people
whose tastes are similar.
Launch.com's model won't help me perform directed research. But
a social intelligence still bears on such tasks. Amazon's "People
who bought ... also bought ..." makes meaningful relationships
between information points, relationships likely not addressed
in typical classifications.]
The dynamism of our information
spaces are what makes megalithic hierarchies so fundamentally limiting.
Not only does information change, but my relationship to that information
changes, and trying to catalog it typically forces it into a lowest-common-denominator
structure that serves no one by trying to serve everyone. This is
why I go on about basic-level categories and heaps of metadata--by
reducing information to its most basic level, we can build it back
up on-the-fly depending on the user's context.
After I blathered about
this stuff, there was a line of folks at the microphone, most of
them wanting to cart me off for labeling librarians as fans of restrictive
hierarchies (which I didn't do, but I think my ramble got misinterpreted).
Then Betsy Martens came up to the mic, and in addressing my thoughts,
uttered a phrase that caused me to see light break through the auditorium
ceiling and illuminate her:
calculus of information
point I stopped thinking.
stopped thinking in the moment. Look at that phrase. It's very powerful.
And it so beautifully crystallizes what I was rambling about.
was developed because we live in a dynamic world, and the tools
of the time, Cartesian coordinates and Euclidean geometry, were
limited to describing static phenomena. Iin order to successfully
model, monitor, and predict dynamism, new methods were required,
methods to track the rate of change over time.
we're crossing that point with information spaces. We need to move
away from the Cartesian-like models of information classification,
and toward systems that allow us to better deal address this new
April 10, 2000
The talk I didn't give. So, I was slated to give a presentation
at the ASIS conference last weekend. However, I couldn't let go
a couple of statements from previous speakers, so I did an off-the-cuff
riff on the dynamism of information and the utility of a social
intelligence to classify and make relationships between different
bits of information (subjects which I promise to address here soon).
And I never got around to my presentation. So, here it is. Some
of this will be familiar to regular readers.
Blast of Thoughts on Designing with Information
Methods of Designing with Information
- Let the data ‘speak’
- Tufte-esque design
2. Editorial Design
- Lead people through
- Get them to a
level of understanding
I was the IA on this project when I worked at Phoenix-Pop. Going
to college is a fairly well-understood process. We modeled the
information architecture after those discrete steps.
Overcome the tyranny
- Megalithic top-down
- As taxonomy expands,
becomes unwieldy to traverse
- Different people
classify the world differently
- Top-down: “This
is how things are.”
Is there a bottom-up
- Basic-level categories
– most immediately understandable to human perception
- Assign attributes
(metadata) and use that to create relationships
- Allow people to
personalize the information so it’s relevant to them
Blast Three:A model
I came up with this
in my consultant days. It demonstrates how the agency model needs
to change to encourage a two-way discussion from client to user
(as opposed to older models (from advertising or graphic design),
where the client simply sent messages to the user.
Here, an agency mediates
the communication between the client and the user. The point was
to emphasize the need for two advocates
The Client Advocate,
aka the project manager, is a well-understood role. They translate
the client's needs to the team.
The User Advocate,
aka the information architect, is a new role. They translate the
user's needs to the team and to the client advocate.
a tension between the client's needs and user's needs, which is
handled by the project manager and the information architect.
This model developed somewhat organically, in that it came out
of my realization that both PMs and IAs are both process junkies,
and are often the two roles most in contact anyway.
April 6, 2000
Oh dear god. I just listened to a voicemail from a recruiter.
Looking for a creative art director. For an exciting company called
April 5, 2000
Funny how it doesn't take much to highlight the meaninglessness
of that over which we obsess.
All over the map.
This weekend I'm attending a conference titled "Defining Information
Architecture," where folks from the traditional library science
world are beginning a dialogue with Web design types, trying to
figure out what we can all learn from each other. Per usual, my
thoughts are scattered. Trying to cohere notions of user-centered
design vs. information-centered design. The single task of 'research'
that librarians support, versus the multiple tasks that information
architects address. The strengths and weaknesses of classification
April 3, 2000
What the heck *is* information architecture? As
increasing numbers attempt to define the discipline, Jesse
throws his hat in the ring with this thoughtful
one-pager on the discipline. [PDF document, Acrobat
A good place to start
from, I'm looking forward to the dialogue it instigates. In order
for information architecture (or whatever) on the Web to succeed,
it must bridge the duality Jesse identifies--Web as software interface
and Web as hypertext system. This isn't as easy as it might at first
seem. Software tends to be far more task-driven--folks have goals
they want to accomplish. Hypertext (and, more generally, publishing)
is less focused. Even if you're doing research, hypertext isn't
meant to drive you to a particular point--it's designed for exploration
One site that bridges
well is Launch.com. Their software
interface is obvious--lots of clicking and rating and choosing going
on. The thing is, it's an interface that causes the relationship
of content--it essentially helps build meaningful hypertext. This
is not unlike what we're attempting at Epinions. (A main drawback
of both Launch and Epinions being neither allows users to make direct
hyperlinks themselves. Oh <A HREF>, where art thou?)
A website that does
what it should! Launch.com,
and it's Launchcast application in particular, does not suck. It
serves up some interesting musical selections I hadn't heard, based
on things I've told it. The interface is fairly simple. There's
a bit of a curve at the beginning. And it tends to crash too frequently.
But it's what I've been listening to at work all day. Delightfully
wide range of music available, too. No idea if it's worthwhile at