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Exploring the information space

Category Archives: Event

Adaptive content modelling for omnichannel UX (Congility 2014 workshop)

This is the second time I have attended Noz Urbina’s adaptive content modelling workshop. And while it is a subject I know very well myself, he still managed to spring some surprises on me – thoughts, concepts that had not previously formed in my mind; background research information of no insignificant value. Read more of this post


The biological imperative (ICC2014)

The highlight of Intelligent Content Conference – at least for me – was Noz Urbina’s presentation that caps over two years of research into how the mind works, and the consequences of this on how we communicate… on how we need to design our communications so they are most effective.

To influence behaviour, we must understand behaviour. And behaviour begins and ends in the mind.

So, to the mind. As humans, we are born with our brains unformed. The new-born’s brain is a single large mass: not yet divided into hemispheres, the cortex lacking the crinkles we expect to see. That definition of the brain’s structure comes from learning. And learning is the construction of semantic models. Indeed, we have a natural need to create models. (Infants who are aware there are models they could be creating, but denied access to the experimentation to build them – e.g. they can only watch others play, not participate themselves – will express their frustration loudly.)

But… Read more of this post

Why technology and humanity must work together (ICC2014)

The day-two keynote at Intelligent Content Conference saw Barry Slaughter Olsen look at the world of translation, to show how computer-driven services may be expanding the resources we have available to us, but they are not a threat to real professional services.

Have you ever read Tolstoy? Can you imagine his work being translated by Google? The nuances of language – the expressions of human experience, the emotional subtext – cannot be understood or captured by a computer. The process of creating, especially where what we create is intended to stir emotional resonance, is an inherently human activity. On this basis alone, there are some things that computers as they currently function will never be able to handle, so the people skilled in those disciplines will always out-perform them.

This does not mean that humanity and technology cannot work together. They can. We see it happening all around us. Read more of this post

… in “static” and “mobile” contexts (ICC2014)

Though Christiaan Lustig’s session was actually titled “Dealing with top tasks in ‘static’ and ‘mobile’ contexts,” the most important point was not about the top tasks per se, but a better understanding of what the term “mobile context” should really mean.

We hear repeatedly (from the likes of Karen McGrane) that mobile is massive – that a huge portion of the population only have mobile devices, and that for many it is their only means of accessing the web. Consequently, they say, the mobile context is really important.

Christiaan’s take is different. Starting with an example of checking train times in a Dutch site, he explained how the night before, his need was to find the right route, and understand how long the journey would be. But on the day of travel, while stuck on a train that was delayed by 10 minutes, his use of the same site related to understanding the impact of that delay on a journey he was in the middle of – how the missed connection would impact the remainder of his trip. Read more of this post

Breaking down barriers (ICC2014)

As part of the general events at Intelligent Content Conference, Ann Rockley (AR) moderated a panel discussion on the wider aspects of content, breaking down the barriers between content strategy, content marketing and the technology that supports them. The panellists were: Kristina Halvorson (KH), Joe Pulizzi (JP), Buddy Scalera (BS), and Cleve Gibbon (CG).

Starting from the strategy perspective, Kristina reminded us that the deluge of useless stuff we are experiencing on the internet is largely a result of the “get content, get customers” mind set. Which we all know does not work. Instead, she suggests, we need to focus on strategy, and the mechanism whereby it focuses us by removing inappropriate options.

Buddy raised the interesting, and germane, point that analytics is a skewed approach to understanding what our customer base wants, and how we can best serve them. If we focus solely on those who come to us, and predominantly on those who interact, we are missing the voices of the majority who do not. The experiences and opinions gathered are distorted by the interactions we have made available; the messages we have used to communicate.

Also, he pointed out that the general metaphor of a “marketing funnel” used so freely by those in marketing is inherently flawed. If you tried to fill up the car using a “funnel” that only got 10% of your fuel into the tank… Read more of this post

Unlock your Content’s Potential (ICC2014)

Joe Pulizzi’s opening keynote at Intelligent Content Conference was dominated by the marketing aspects of content. Looking at the subject from the human perspective of packrat behaviour, Joe compared this to corporate web sites: the accumulation of junk that just keeps on filling space. (And no one cares about.)

Instead of simply creating more stuff, a louder noise, in the hopes of being heard, Joe suggests having a content mission statement against which all content is measured. That which does not meet the identified criteria simply does not get created (and certainly does not get posted). For this to work, the mission statement must be realistic.

A core aspect of the mission statement approach is identifying your audience. As Joe put it, “You cannot boil the ocean.” You must look to excite a specific, defined and limited audience. Read more of this post

Using co-creation to make design solutions that work (Euro IA 2013)

With a title that includes a potentially ambiguous word, Koen Perters‘ talk started with intrigue. It went on to deliver meaningful value, inspiration, and ideas on ways of… letting go.


Co-creation is an approach to consultancy that builds not on being the genius-expert with all the answers to every question, but a facilitator who can tease the meaningful answers out of the client. On the one hand, it delivers results that the client feels more attached to, because they participated in defining them. On the other, it can leave them feeling they actually did all the work.

In order to work, it is a mindset that needs to be maintained throughout a project’s lifespan; if it is abandoned after the initial sessions, it is no more than a kick-off workshop. This requires far more commitment of key client stakeholders, team members and users than other approaches based on handing off the work and receiving back a set of deliverables. It helps cross-pollinate, exposing different parties to each others’ ideas and challenges. Read more of this post

We are the Architects (Euro IA 2013)

Any talk about information that kicks off with references to chaos theory is bound to be good. Lisa Welchman‘s opening keynote at EuroIA was just such a talk, and it didn’t stop with the chaos.


We live in a society that has been permeated by digital communications. As key participants in this relatively new, but rapidly evolving, ecosystem, Information Architects need to be stepping up and leading. We are not passengers: we are the drivers who will shape the future. But it is not an easy world to navigate; not only do we lack a map – we are breaking the first trails – but the system is far from linear.

Much of the environment we are operating in is a legacy from the industrial age: big organisations with top-down hierarchies. These are not conducive to designing and implementing meaningful digital presences. The people tasked with crafting these things often sit at the lowest point of the organisation, minions responsible for avoiding failures, but without the authority to make decisions (and, obviously, never credited properly when things go right). But this organisation model is not where the industrial revolution started; when the individual artisan was replaced with larger enterprises, the first organisational charts were designed with lines of reporting and responsibility, empowering the individuals at the tips to make decisions because they were the experts, while the trunk managed overall strategic direction. The inversion of the model came about as a result of megalomania, and those running organisations based on this model clearly fear change – their power is at risk. Read more of this post

Usable Usability (EuroIA 2013)

Kicking off EuroIA in Edinburgh, I attended Eric Reiss‘ workshop – really, as he admitted, a master class – on Usable Usability. The theme echoed his book of the same name, released last year.


Eric didn’t hold back with his class; it was heavy with information, ideas and practical approaches to improve usability; not by focusing on any specific, but largely by poking fun at the endless stream of counter-examples.

In all, usability is about people interacting with things. While it is easy to claim that usability stops at the point of “does it make the action achievable?” (whatever it is that is supposed to be done with it), the reality is that there is far more to something being considered usable. It is about the ease with which it can be used. Read more of this post