Archive for September 2007

Building Blocks Definitions Published On

September 28th, 2007 — 11:41pm

Boxes and Arrows has pub­lished part 3 of the Build­ing Blocks series, describ­ing the Con­tainer blocks in detail. Next in the series is part 4, which describes the Con­nec­tors in the build­ing block sys­tem in detail.

If you’re work­ing on a por­tal, dash­board, or tile based design effort of any kind, the build­ing blocks read­ily serve as a com­mon lan­guage and struc­tural ref­er­ence point that allows effec­tive project com­mu­ni­ca­tion across tra­di­tional dis­ci­pline bound­aries. These two arti­cles in tan­dem (parts 3 and 4) pro­vide details on how the Build­ing Blocks can pro­vide a strong, flex­i­ble, and scal­able usr expe­ri­ence and infor­ma­tion archi­tec­ture frame­work for the long term.
My cur­rent plan is to release a toolkit at approx­i­mately the same time as part 4 of the series. Part 4 is in the edit­ing stage now, so this a good time to ask read­ers for sug­ges­tions on what should be part of the toolkit, and what form it should take. Suggestions?

Comment » | Building Blocks, Information Architecture, User Experience (UX)

links for 2007-09-13

September 13th, 2007 — 1:34am

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links for 2007-09-12

September 12th, 2007 — 1:35am

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links for 2007-09-11

September 11th, 2007 — 1:29am

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links for 2007-09-10

September 10th, 2007 — 1:26am

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Information Archaeology

September 9th, 2007 — 11:18pm

In addi­tion to the cus­tom­ary joys of DIY life in the new medi­a­verse — con­tend­ing with opaque and incom­plete doc­u­men­ta­tion, rec­on­cil­ing con­flict­ing con­tent mod­els and tem­plates, and the seem­ingly end­less repet­i­tive labor of man­u­ally nam­ing, tag­ging, and review­ing migrated items — chang­ing pub­lish­ing plat­forms means the oppor­tu­nity to explore what it will be like to be an Infor­ma­tion Archae­ol­o­gist in the future.
Oper­a­tively, this means dig­ging deep into the many lay­ers of cumu­la­tive infor­ma­tion strata beneath the gen­tle orange user expe­ri­ence that greets vis­i­tors to When per­formed on a web­site you’ve cre­ated and main­tained for almost 10 years, the expe­ri­ence is a mix of clean­ing out your attic, work­shop, or garage, and exca­vat­ing the foun­da­tions of a for­mer res­i­dence.
Such an effort yields a rich assem­blage of dig­i­tal arti­facts:

  • dozens of orphaned HTML pages com­pris­ing a design port­fo­lio, cre­ated by hand using dep­re­cated markup and tags
  • multi-ethnic” style-sheets cross-bred and reused for so many dif­fer­ent site looks or designs over the past ten years that delet­ing style ref­er­ences is like play­ing russ­ian roulette with your user experience
  • four or five derelict pub­lish­ing pack­age instal­la­tions (MT, Word­Press, etc.), span­ning tech­nolo­gies from PERL/CGI to PHP RUBY — the Info­verse equiv­a­lent of a col­lec­tion of aban­doned and decay­ing rust belt factories
  • hun­dreds of half-empty shell pages pop­u­lated with dummy con­tent, cre­ated dur­ing tests of pub­lish­ing tools
  • mul­ti­ple sets of over­lap­ping archives, accu­mu­lated over gen­er­a­tions of upgrades to blog­ging tools. the trend here is toward increas­ingly human-readable out­put files, away from the raw data­base style nam­ing of early blog­ging platforms
  • a score of mis­cel­la­neous doc­u­ments, audio / video files, and MS Office for­mat files stored on the server for tem­po­rary down­load, now com­pris­ing a ret­ro­spec­tive of out­dated resumes, drafts of deliv­er­ables for long-over projects, and back­ups from sys­tem crashes long-forgotten
  • numer­ous design tools and tem­plates, now linked from exter­nal pub­li­ca­tions, and indis­pens­able to unknown thou­sands of downloaders

Just like the older lay­ers of cities and habi­ta­tions uncov­ered dur­ing new con­struc­tion, these cumu­la­tive infor­ma­tion castoffs tell sto­ries within a larger con­text: chang­ing career plans and jobs, new tech­nolo­gies and tools, shifts in busi­ness and eco­nomic cli­mates, life events, aspi­ra­tions and inter­ests, hard­ware fail­ures.
What will the infor­ma­tion archae­ol­o­gists of the future find when exca­vat­ing our vir­tual habi­ta­tions and work­places? How will they map and under­stand what they find? What mean­ings will they make, and what insights into our lives will they draw, from the infor­ma­tion (waste? pol­lu­tion? byprod­ucts?) we cre­ate at such stu­pen­dous rates?
Like so many life forms before us, we are very busy liv­ing in the moment, not think­ing overly much about the vast deposits of infor­ma­tion detri­tus we leave behind in the course of sav­ing dozens of ver­sions of text files, book­ing air travel, shar­ing pho­tos, or obey­ing reg­u­la­tory com­pli­ance direc­tives for med­ical archives.
But in the long view, all this will mat­ter in some way. Wit­ness the fact that 10% of the land area of the for­mer Soviet Union is con­t­a­m­i­nated with radioac­tiv­ity or indus­trial pol­lu­tion.
What is the dif­fer­ence between pol­lu­tion, waste, and recy­clable and reusable mat­ter in the info­verse?
Can we make use of these vast deposits of infor­ma­tion in new ways?
The Gara­mantes of the Sahara relied on deeply buried reserves of fos­sil water to sus­tain a brief empire, a cul­ture that flow­ered and per­ished entirely in line with it’s abil­ity to exploit finite reserves of irre­place­able ground­wa­ter (pale­owa­ter)stored in aquifers.
Liv­ing off the fruits of past accu­mu­la­tion is a habit we’ve not shaken yet in North Africa (Libya’s Great Man Made River project sup­ply­ing 6,500,000 m³ of fresh­wa­ter per day to the cities of Tripoli, Beng­hazi, Sirt and else­where is the largest engi­neer­ing effort in the world), or here in the United States, as we drain the enor­mous Ogal­lala Aquifer — that sup­ports nearly one-fifth of the wheat, corn, cot­ton, and cat­tle pro­duced in the United States — at an alarm­ing rate.
As (it seems, always…), Ster­ling has vis­ited this future, in his novel >Holy­fire, which men­tions wild­cat­ters who get rich dis­cov­er­ing lost land­fills rich in plas­tics and other rare mate­ri­als, in for­mer East­ern Europe.
Mov­ing past the arche­o­log­i­cal hori­zon brings us to the geo­logic time scale.
Will future vir­tual economies depend on the indus­trial style extrac­tion, pro­cess­ing and mass con­sump­tion of these new infor­ma­tional strata we are lay­ing down today, in the same way that we depend upon fos­silized forests of the Car­bonif­er­ous era to power our new hydro­car­bon age?
The vast oil and coal deposits that power our econ­omy exist because the bac­te­ria and other decom­poser organ­isms of the time were unable to effec­tively break down plant cell mate­ri­als. We recre­ate this cycle by min­ing assorted fos­sil fuels, turn­ing them into plas­tics that exist­ing decom­posers are unable to break down, and then dis­pers­ing these new proto-fossilized non-degrable mate­ri­als widely through­out our own envi­ron­ment (yield­ing con­tem­po­rary phe­nom­ena such as plas­tic micro-particulate con­t­a­m­i­na­tion of tidal waters, and dat­ing of land­fills by the plas­tic mate­ri­als pre­served in them.

Comment » | Ideas, Information Architecture

links for 2007-09-09

September 9th, 2007 — 1:25am

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links for 2007-09-08

September 8th, 2007 — 1:25am

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links for 2007-09-07

September 7th, 2007 — 1:27am

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links for 2007-09-06

September 6th, 2007 — 1:38am

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