Archive for August 2005


Technical Difficulties

August 28th, 2005 — 10:54pm

After months with­out com­ments — thanks to all the dili­gent spam­mers out there for car­ry­ing out their cor­ro­sive activ­i­ties with such thor­ough­ness, I’m open­ing the site up to feed­back again.
Of course, for the time being, Mov­able­Type just does not feel like coop­er­at­ing when it comes to comments…

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Hostile Error Messages: Peoplesoft

August 26th, 2005 — 4:51pm

I know that most enter­prise soft­ware pack­ages have shock­ingly, egre­giously bad user expe­ri­ences. One of the most tor­tu­ous aspects of the com­mon inex­cus­ably bad enter­prise soft­ware pack­age user expe­ri­ence is the stun­ningly use­less, hos­tile, and cryp­tic error mes­sages these mon­strosi­ties return when­ever users have the mis­for­tune to step out­side the bounds of their opaque, byzan­tine oper­at­ing logic.
Here’s a tasty exam­ple of the genre from an imple­men­ta­tion of Peo­ple­soft, that leaves me feel­ing like I’ve been barfed on by a machine.
Peo­ple­Soft Error:

1 comment » | User Experience (UX)

Enterprise Information Architects = "An artist, a guru, a coach, and a spy"

August 23rd, 2005 — 3:00pm

An artist, a guru, a coach, and a spy” is how David C. Baker and Michael Janiszewski describe enter­prise archi­tects in their arti­cle 7 Essen­tial Ele­ments of EA.
The full quote is, “An enter­prise archi­tect requires a unique blend of skills. At var­i­ous times he or she needs to employ the char­ac­ter­is­tics of an artist, a guru, a coach, and a spy.” Besides being pithy because it sounds like the intro to one of those ‘____ walk into a bar’ jokes, this rings true for enter­prise infor­ma­tion archi­tects. How­ever, humor­ous­ness aside, this isn’t ter­ri­bly use­ful. And over­all, the arti­cle is a fine break­down of what’s required to put enter­prise archi­tec­ture into prac­tice, but it only offers the pioneer’s per­spec­tive on where enterprise-level archi­tects come from.
Their take, “Enter­prise archi­tects grow from within the tech­ni­cal archi­tec­ture ranks, learn­ing how to be artists, gurus, coaches, and spies as they work their way from being tech­ni­cal spe­cial­ists, through appli­ca­tion or infra­struc­ture archi­tects, even­tu­ally to enter­prise archi­tects.“
This is an hon­est if after-the-fact apprasial of a self-directed career growth tra­jec­tory that is no stranger to vet­eran IAs. It’s not ade­quate as a way to expand the under­stood scope of infor­ma­tion archi­tec­ture roles to address the enter­prise per­spec­tive. I feel com­fort­able say­ing Infor­ma­tion Archi­tec­ture is accepted as rel­e­vant and use­ful in many areas of busi­ness activ­ity, from user research and expe­ri­ence design to prod­uct devel­op­ment and strat­egy, after a few lean years fol­low­ing the dot com crash. But I’m not com­fort­able say­ing we have appro­pri­ate rep­re­sen­ta­tion or even access to the enter­prise level. It’s here that the busi­ness and infor­ma­tion per­spec­tives come together in an archi­tec­tural sense, and also here where we should strive to make sure we’re val­ued and sought out.
We need to dis­cover, cre­ate and define the paths that lead Infor­ma­tion Archi­tects to enter­prise level posi­tions.
The alter­na­tive is being left behind.

Comment » | Information Architecture

The Tag Wars: Clay Shirky and Technological Utopianism

August 16th, 2005 — 4:39pm

Looks like Dave Sifry at Tech­no­rati has drunk the Clay Shirky Koolaid on tag­ging and social book­mark­ing. Here’s some­thing from Dave’s post­ing State of the Blo­gos­phere, August 2005, Part 3: Tags, that shows he’s clearly joined the acad­emy of received ideas.
“Unlike rigid tax­on­omy schemes that many peo­ple dis­like using, the ease of tag­ging for per­sonal orga­ni­za­tion with social incen­tives leads to a rich and dis­cov­er­able sys­tem, often called a folk­son­omy. Intel­li­gence is pro­vided by real peo­ple from the bottom-up to aid social dis­cov­ery. And with the right tag search and nav­i­ga­tion, folk­son­omy may out­per­form more struc­tured approches to clas­si­fi­ca­tion, as Clay Shirky points out…“
I’m dis­ap­pointed to see this. The qual­ity level of Shirky’s think­ing and writ­ing related to tag­ging is gen­er­ally low; too often he’s so com­pletely off the mark with much of what he’s said about tag­ging, social book­mark­ing, and cat­e­go­riza­tion in gen­eral that his main con­tri­bu­tion is in lend­ing a cer­tain amount of atten­tion by virtue of name recog­ni­tion to a sub­ject that used to be arcane.
There’s lit­tle need to rehash the many, many indi­vid­ual weak­nesses in Shirky’s writ­ings, just one exam­ple of which is his estab­lish­ment of a false dichotomy sep­a­rat­ing struc­tured cat­e­go­riza­tion sys­tems and social tag­ging prac­tices. Broadly, his approach and rhetoric show strong influ­ence from anar­chism, and utopian social the­ory.
From Shirky:
“There is no fixed set of cat­e­gories or offi­cially approved choices. You can use words, acronyms, num­bers, what­ever makes sense to you, with­out regard for any­one else’s needs, inter­ests, or require­ments.“
Fur­ther, “…with tag­ging, any­one is free to use the words he or she thinks are appro­pri­ate, with­out hav­ing to agree with any­one else about how some­thing “should” be tagged.“
Build­ing back on the crit­i­cique of com­put­er­i­za­tion, it’s clear that Shirky uses rhetor­i­cal strate­gies and posi­tions from both tech­no­log­i­cal utopi­anism and anti-utopianism.
Here’s Pro­fes­sor Rob Kling on tech­no­log­i­cal utopi­anism:
“Utopian images are com­mon in many books and arti­cles about com­put­er­i­za­tion in soci­ety
writ­ten by tech­nol­o­gists and jour­nal­ists. I am par­tic­u­larly inter­ested in what can be learned,
and how we can be mis­led, by a par­tic­u­lar brand of utopian thought — tech­no­log­i­cal
utopi­anism. This line of analy­sis places the use of some spe­cific tech­nol­ogy, such as
com­put­ers, nuclear energy, or low-energy low-impact tech­nolo­gies, as key enabling
ele­ments of a utopian vision. Some­times peo­ple will casu­ally refer to exotic tech­nolo­gies –
like pocket com­put­ers which under­stand spo­ken lan­guage — as “utopian gad­gets.“
Tech­no­log­i­cal utopi­anism does not refer to these tech­nolo­gies with amaz­ing capa­bil­i­ties. It
refers to analy­ses in which the use of spe­cific tech­nolo­gies plays a key role in shap­ing a
benign social vision. In con­trast, tech­no­log­i­cal anti– utopi­anism exam­ines how cer­tain broad
fam­i­lies of tech­nol­ogy are key enablers of a harsher and more destruc­tive social order.“
That Shirky would take speak from this stand­point is not a sur­prise; he’s iden­ti­fied as a “Decen­tral­iza­tion Writer/Consultant” in the descrip­tion of his ses­sion “Ontol­ogy is Over­rated: Links, Tags, and Post-hoc Meta­data” at etech, and it’s clear that he’s both tech­nol­o­gist and a jour­nal­ist, as Kilng iden­ti­fies.
Regard­less of Shirky’s bias, there is a big­ger pic­ture worth exam­in­ing. Tag­ging or social book­mark­ing is one poten­tial way for the com­mu­nity of social meta­data sys­tem users to con­front prob­lems of indi­vid­ual and group infor­ma­tion over­load, via a col­lec­tive and nom­i­nally unhier­ar­chi­cal approach to the emer­gent prob­lem of infor­ma­tion man­age­ment across com­mon resources (URIs).

Comment » | Social Media, Tag Clouds

OCLC WorldCat: Watching The Great Database In the Sky Grow

August 10th, 2005 — 9:06pm

On aver­age, a new record is added to the World­Cat data­base every 10 sec­onds. Watch it hap­pen live…” Watch World­Cat grow
Accord­ing to the About page:
“World­Cat is the world’s largest bib­li­o­graphic data­base, the merged cat­a­logs of thou­sands of OCLC mem­ber libraries. Built and main­tained col­lec­tively by librar­i­ans, World­Cat itself is not an OCLC ser­vice that is pur­chased, but rather pro­vides the foun­da­tion for many OCLC ser­vices and the ben­e­fits they pro­vide.“
Here’s what went into the sys­tem while I was typ­ing this entry out:
———————
The fol­low­ing record was added to World­Cat on 08/10/2005 9:08 PM
Total hold­ings in World­Cat: 999,502,692
OCLC Num­ber: 61245112
Title: The­o­log­i­cal and cul­tural stud­ies in honor of Simon John De Vries /
Pub­lisher: T. & T. Clark Inter­na­tional,
Pub­li­ca­tion Date: c2004.
Lan­guage: Eng­lish
For­mat: Book
Con­tributed by: SAINT PATRICK’S SEMINARY LIBR
———–
Some impres­sive World­Cat sta­tis­tics from the OCLC site:
Between July 2004 and June 2005:

  • World­Cat grew by 4.6 mil­lion records
  • Libraries used World­Cat to cat­a­log and set hold­ings for 51.9 mil­lion items and arrange 9.4 mil­lion inter­li­brary loans
  • Library staff and users con­ducted 34.7 mil­lion searches of World­Cat via First­Search for research and ref­er­ence, and to locate materials

Also:

  • World­Cat has 57,968,788 unique bib­li­o­graphic records
  • 53,548 par­tic­i­pat­ing libraries world­wide use and con­tribute to WorldCat
  • Every 10 sec­onds an OCLC mem­ber library adds a record to WorldCat
  • Every 4 sec­onds an OCLC mem­ber library fills an inter­li­brary loan request using WorldCat
  • Every sec­ond a library user searches World­Cat using FirstSearch

For us infor­ma­tion types, it beats the hell out of the old pop­u­la­tion clocks that the U.S. Cen­sus Bureau still runs for the US and the world.
BTW, for the curi­ous, “Accord­ing to the U.S. Bureau of the Cen­sus, the res­i­dent pop­u­la­tion of the United States, pro­jected to 08÷11÷05 at 01:24 GMT (EST+5) is 296,854,475″

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