Archive for March 2005

Paper blogging: A New Medium? Retro? Old School? Arts and Crafts?

March 23rd, 2005 — 10:25am

Prov­ing that satire is one of humanity’s fun­da­men­tal instincts, Pack­e­trat strikes a blow for (wood)fiber-based com­mu­ni­ca­tions net­works with paperblog­ging, or plog­ging.

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Minnesota Researchers Debunk Metcalfe's "Law"

March 15th, 2005 — 2:54pm

A recent arti­cle from ZDNet — Researchers: Metcalfe’s Law over­shoots the mark — reports that two researchers at the Uni­ver­sity of Min­nesota have released a pre­lim­i­nary study in which they con­clude that Metclafe’s law sig­nif­i­cantly over­es­ti­mates the rate at which the value of a net­work increases as its size increases. The study was pub­lished March 2, by Andrew Odlyzko and Ben­jamin Tilly of the university’s Dig­i­tal Tech­nol­ogy Cen­ter.
Here’s some snip­pets from the paper:
“The fun­da­men­tal fal­lacy under­ly­ing Metcalfe’s (Law) is in the assump­tion that all con­nec­tions or all groups are equally valu­able.“
I’m always happy to find a dec­la­ra­tion in sup­port of qual­ity as a dif­fer­en­tia­tor. Of course, qual­ity is a com­plex and sub­jec­tive mea­sure­ment, and so it is no sur­prise that Odlyzko and Tilly first recall it to rel­e­vance, and then con­tinue to say, “The gen­eral con­clu­sion is that accu­rate val­u­a­tion of net­works is com­pli­cated, and no sim­ple rule will apply uni­ver­sally.“
It makes me happy when I see smart peo­ple say­ing com­pli­cated things are com­pli­cated. Odlyzko and Tilly are aca­d­e­mics, and so it’s in their inter­est for mostly every­one else to believe the things they study are com­pli­cated, but I think that there’s less dan­ger in this than in bas­ing your busi­ness plan or your invest­ment deci­sions on a fal­la­cious assump­tion that a very clever entr­pre­neur trans­mo­gri­fied into an equa­tion — which some­how by exag­ger­a­tion became a ‘law’ — in a moment of self-serving mar­ket­ing genius. I know this from expe­ri­ence, because Im guilty of both of these mis­takes.
Mov­ing on, as an exam­ple, Odlyzko and Tilly declare,“Zipf’s Law is behind phe­nom­ena such as ‘con­tent is not king’ [21], and ‘long tails’ [1], which argue that it is the huge vol­umes of small items or inter­ac­tions, not the few huge hits, that pro­duce the most value. It even helps explain why both the pub­lic and deci­sion mak­ers so often are pre­oc­cu­pied with the ‘hits,’ since, espe­cially when the total num­ber of items avail­able is rel­a­tively small, they can dom­i­nate. By Zipf’s Law, if value fol­lows pop­u­lar­ity, then the value of a col­lec­tion of n items is pro­por­tional to log(n). If we have a bil­lion items, then the most pop­u­lar one thou­sand will con­tribute a third of the total value,
the next mil­lion another third, and the remain­ing almost a bil­lion the remain­ing third. But if we have online music stores such as Rhap­sody or iTunes that carry 735,000 titles while the tra­di­tional brick-and-mortar record store car­ries 20,000 titles, then the addi­tional value of the ‘long tails’ of the down­load ser­vices is only about 33% larger than that of record stores.” {cita­tions avail­able in the orig­i­nal report}
This last begs the ques­tion of value, but of course that’s also a com­plex and sub­jec­tive judge­ment…
And with this they’ve intro­duced con­text as another impor­tant cri­te­rion. Con­text of course can take many forms; they make most use of geo­graphic local­ity, and then extend their analy­sis by look­ing at how com­mon inter­est in con­tent on the part of aca­d­e­mics func­tions as another index of local­ity, say­ing, “Com­mu­ni­ca­tion net­works do not grow inde­pen­dently of social rela­tions. When peo­ple are added, they induce those close to them to join. There­fore in a mature net­work, those who are most impor­tant to peo­ple already in the net­work are likely to also be mem­bers. So addi­tional growth is likely to occur at the bound­aries of what exist­ing peo­ple care about.“
The ref­er­ences alone make this paper worth down­load­ing and scan­ning. Read more of Odlyzko’s work.

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Plant a (Virtual) Tree With Your Cell Phone

March 11th, 2005 — 6:12pm

For those who would rather plant trees than cell phone tow­ers:

The Cana­dian Film Centre’s Habi­tat New Media Lab in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the SEED Col­lec­tive will unveil an inno­v­a­tive inter­ac­tive art instal­la­tion, SEED, dur­ing the scope­New York Art Fair, March 11th to 14th at Fla­to­tel, 135 West 52nd in New York City. This pub­lic inter­ac­tive art instal­la­tion invites par­tic­i­pants to use their cell phones to plant “seeds” to grow a vir­tual for­est.
SEED explores the con­ver­gence of rich media and wire­less tech­nol­ogy in the cre­ation of a col­lab­o­ra­tive and evolv­ing work of art. Through sound and imagery users cre­ate and pop­u­late a for­est together. By dial­ing a par­tic­u­lar num­ber, each audi­ence mem­ber will be given a “seed” to grow using the key­pads of their cell phones. With each punch of the key­pad, audi­ences have the abil­ity to grow their seeds, choose the type of trees they want to plant, and change their tex­ture and colour. After the three days at the scope­New York Air Fair, the end effect is that all trees cre­ated by audi­ence mem­bers will reveal a vir­tual forest.

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Executive Dashboards Poster From The IA Summit

March 11th, 2005 — 5:16pm

Thanks to all who stopped by to ask ques­tions and express inter­est in some of the con­cepts cen­tral to exec­u­tive dash­boards, por­tals, or to sim­ply say hello dur­ing the poster ses­sion at the IA Sum­mit in Mon­tréal. Many of you took cards, and I look for­ward to hear­ing from you soon. Based on the level of inter­est, I’m talk­ing with the good peo­ple at Boxes and Arrows about how to share some of this expe­ri­ence and these ideas in more depth. Stay tuned.
Mean­while, until the sum­mit site offers a full set of pre­sen­ter mate­ri­als, you can find the.pdf ver­sion (it’s a lar­gish ~6MB) here.
The pubished descrip­tion of the poster is below:
Exec­u­tive Dash­boards: Sim­ple IA Build­ing Blocks Sup­port A Suite of Sophis­ti­cated Por­tals
This poster depicts how a small set of stan­dard­ized Infor­ma­tion Archi­tec­ture struc­tures and ele­ments was used to cre­ate an effec­tive suite of inter­con­nected Exec­u­tive Dash­boards at low cost and with­out sub­stan­tial redesign effort.
This suite of dash­boards meets the diverse infor­ma­tion needs of senior deci­sion mak­ers work­ing within many dif­fer­ent busi­ness units in a global phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany. These dash­boards incor­po­rate a wide vari­ety of data types and func­tion­al­ity, but present every­thing within a con­sis­tent and usable User Expe­ri­ence by employ­ing mod­u­lar tiles and nav­i­ga­tion struc­tures.
This set of mod­u­lar tiles and nav­i­ga­tion struc­tures met the diverse infor­ma­tion needs of senior deci­sion mak­ers oper­at­ing within sev­eral dif­fer­ent busi­ness units.
The poster shows how the basic IA com­po­nent or ‘atom’ of a tile or port­let, with a stan­dard struc­ture, ele­ments, and label­ing can con­tain a tremen­dous vari­ety of con­tent types. The con­tent types include qual­i­ta­tive and quan­ti­ta­tive visual and tex­tual data dis­plays, as well as com­plex func­tion­al­ity syn­di­cated from other enter­prise appli­ca­tions. It also shows how tiles are eas­ily com­bined with other tiles or portlets to cre­ate larger scale and more sophis­ti­cated struc­tures that are still easy for users to com­pre­hend, allow­ing them to syn­the­size and com­pare for­merly siloed infor­ma­tion views to guide strate­gic deci­sions.
The poster shows how sim­ple infor­ma­tion archi­tec­ture com­po­nents com­mon to all the dash­boards allow rapid access to a tremen­dous amount of infor­ma­tion, from many sources. The poster shows how this IA frame­work scaled well and responded to chang­ing busi­ness needs over time, allow­ing the addi­tion of large num­bers of new tiles, views, and types of infor­ma­tion to exist­ing Dash­boards with­out sub­stan­tial redesign or cost.
The poster demon­strates how a set of IA com­po­nents allows design­ers to present crit­i­cal busi­ness infor­ma­tion by oper­at­ing unit, geog­ra­phy, topic, or spe­cific busi­ness met­ric, at vary­ing lev­els of detail, based on the needs of spe­cific audi­ences.
The poster shows how this set of IA com­po­nents allowed numer­ous design teams to inno­vate within a frame­work, thus cre­at­ing an exten­sive library of reusable tiles and views avail­able for syn­di­ca­tion through­out the suite of Exec­u­tive Dash­boards.
The end result of this approach to solv­ing diverse design prob­lems is a series of well inte­grated User Expe­ri­ences offer­ing sub­stan­tial busi­ness value to a wide audi­ence of users.

1 comment » | Building Blocks, Dashboards & Portals, Information Architecture, User Experience (UX)

IA Summit Photos

March 9th, 2005 — 7:02pm

I’ve added a batch of pho­tos to the Flickr group for the IA Sum­mit here. More com­ing soon…

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