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Category Archives: Information Architecture

On third-party transclusion

On 25 August 2014, Sorin Pintilie (@sorpeen, http://www.sorpin.com/) published an article on The Pastry Box Project, discussing a mechanism that would allow content to be transcluded into a web page, by applying an href="…" attribute to a <p> tag. This article is a response to that.

Transclusion is the inclusion of a small element of content from one source into other material, by reference. The transcluded content is presented as an integral part of the final material – at the point of reference – while remaining dependent on its primary source. It is included at presentation time. The principle of transclusion was part of the original description of hypertext, as published by Ted Nelson in 1965.

There are two variants to transclusion. The first, as envisaged by Nelson, is the easier: content reuse within a single publishing environment. Sorin’s article, and this one, deal with the second type: including a snippet of someone else’s content into your publishing. 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.

Summary:

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.

Summary:

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.

Summary

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

Deblobbling in the Real World (CS Forum 2013)

What must have been – at least from my perspective – one of the two best talks at CS Forum 2013 was delivered by one of the most turned-on people I know – Jeff Eaton – tackling the beautifully thorny challenge of structured content.

Summary:

Content is not just a tool for self-promotion. Content is an asset, with intrinsic value; for many, it is a core product.

In order to leverage the value of content, it needs to be eminently reusable; repurposable. This is not just that it can be shared socially. It needs to be sufficiently fluid that is can move easily between formats and platforms, remoulding itself to suit the situation. Content that is baked into a particular format is about as reusable as an ingredient in a served cake. The only solution is to store content in a structured format.

Of course, even a well-conceived structure is not infallible. To paraphrase Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke, “No model survives contact with real content.” Read more of this post

Semantic long-form

Long form: it’s been the basis of communication for millennia. We tell stories; we’ve been successfully sharing concepts with others this way for as long as we’ve been recording history – indeed, long-form communications is perhaps the fundamental enabler of the very concept of history.

Why, then, do we have such trouble migrating this most basic form of communication to the digital realm? What about how we create, manage, maintain and distribute long-form content makes it machine-unreadable?

Personally, I blame Xerox.

Space Diner, by Chris Shipton Read more of this post