Archive for March 2008


The Organizational Architecture of Failure

March 23rd, 2008 — 12:42am

The cul­ture, struc­ture, and work­ings of an orga­ni­za­tion often pose greater chal­lenges for User Expe­ri­ence prac­ti­tion­ers than any tech­ni­cal or design ques­tions at hand. If you’d like to know more about the fac­tors behind these sit­u­a­tions, be sure to check out We Tried To Warn You: The Orga­ni­za­tional Archi­tec­ture of Fail­ure, by Peter Jones, just pub­lished by Boxes and Arrows.
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Peter is an inde­pen­dent con­sul­tant with deep exper­tise in research, prod­uct design, and strat­egy. His talk for the panel on fail­ure at the 2007 IA Sum­mit was insight­ful and in-depth, and this two-part series offers quite a bit more very use­ful mate­r­ial on the roots and warn­ing signs of orga­ni­za­tional fail­ure (by com­par­i­son, con­sider the very brief post I put up on the same sub­ject a few years ago.)
Peter’s is the sec­ond writ­ten fea­ture to come out of the fail­ure panel (my mis­sive on the par­al­lels between entre­pre­neur­ial and soci­etal fail­ure was the first). I’m look­ing for­ward to part two of We Tried To Warn You, as well as addi­tional fea­tures from the remain­ing two pan­elists, Chris­t­ian Crum­lish and Lorelei Brown!
Here’s a snip­pet, to whet your appetite:
How do we even know when an orga­ni­za­tion fails? What are the dif­fer­ences between a major prod­uct fail­ure (involv­ing func­tion or adop­tion) and a busi­ness fail­ure that threat­ens the orga­ni­za­tion? An organizational-level fail­ure is a rec­og­niz­able event, one which typ­i­cally fol­lows a series of antecedent events or deci­sions that led to the large-scale break­down. My work­ing def­i­n­i­tion: When sig­nif­i­cant ini­tia­tives crit­i­cal to busi­ness strat­egy fail to meet their highest-priority stated goals.”

Comment » | Enterprise

Hybrids: Architectures For The Ecology of Co-Creation

March 21st, 2008 — 4:38pm

Com­mon mod­els for par­tic­i­pa­tion in social and con­trib­u­tory media invari­ably set ‘con­tent cre­ators’ — the group of peo­ple who pro­vide orig­i­nal mate­r­ial — at the top of an implied or explicit scale of com­par­a­tive value. Bradley Horowitz’s Con­tent Pro­duc­tion Pyra­mid is one exam­ple, Forrester’s Social Techno­graph­ics Lad­der is another. In these mod­els, value — usu­ally to poten­tial mar­keters or adver­tis­ers exter­nal to the domain in ques­tion — is usu­ally mea­sured in terms of the level of involve­ment of the dif­fer­ent groups present, whether con­sumers, syn­the­siz­ers, or cre­ators.
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By the num­bers, these mod­els are accu­rate: the vast major­ity of the con­tent in social media comes from a small slice of the pop­u­la­tion. And for busi­nesses, con­tent cre­ators offer greater poten­tial to com­mer­cial­ize / mon­e­tize / trade influ­ence.
It’s time to evolve these mod­els a bit, to bet­ter align them with the sweep­ing DIY cul­tural and tech­no­log­i­cal shift hap­pen­ing offline in the real world, as well as online.
The DIY shift man­i­fests in many ways:

The essen­tial fea­ture of the DIY shift is co-creation: the pres­ence of many more peo­ple in *all aspects* of cre­ation and pro­duc­tion, whether of soft­ware, goods, ideas, etc. Co-creation encom­passes more than straight­for­ward on-line con­tent cre­ation — such as shar­ing a photo, or writ­ing a blog post — acknowl­edged by the archi­tec­ture of par­tic­i­pa­tion, user-generated con­tent (and ugly term…), crowd-sourcing, and col­lec­tive and con­trib­u­tory media mod­els.
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Co-creation includes active shap­ing of struc­ture, pat­tern, rules, and mech­a­nisms, that sup­port sim­ple con­tent cre­ation. This requires activ­ity and involve­ment from roles we often label edi­tor, builder, designer, or archi­tect, depend­ing on the con­text. The pyra­mid and lad­der mod­els either implic­itly col­lapse these per­spec­tives into the gen­eral cat­e­gory of ‘cre­ator’, which obscures very impor­tant dis­tinc­tions between them, or leaves them out entirely (I’m not sure which). It is pos­si­ble to plot these more nuanced cre­ative roles on the gen­eral con­tin­uüm of ‘level of involve­ment’, and I often do this when I talk about the future of design in the DIY world.
A bet­ter model for this world is the ecol­ogy of co-creation, which rec­og­nizes that the key dif­fer­ence between indus­trial pro­duc­tion mod­els and the DIY future is that the walls sep­a­rat­ing tra­di­tional cre­ators from con­sumers have fallen, and all par­ties inter­con­nect. Judge­ments of value in ecolo­gies take on very dif­fer­ent mean­ings: Con­sider the dif­fer­ing but all vitally impor­tant roles of pro­duc­ers, con­sumers, and decom­posers in a liv­ing ecosys­tem.
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What will an ecol­ogy of co-creation look like in prac­ti­cal / oper­a­tional form? In The Bot­tom Is Not Enough, Kevin Kelly offers, “…now that crowd-sourcing and social webs are all the rage, it’s worth repeat­ing: the bot­tom is not enough. You need a bit of top-down as well.“
An ecol­ogy of co-creation that com­bines top-down archi­tec­ture and design with bottom-up con­tri­bu­tion and par­tic­i­pa­tion will take the form of a delib­er­ate hybrid.
I’ll quote Kelly again (at some length):
Here’s how I sum it up:  The bottom-up hive mind will always take us much fur­ther than even seems pos­si­ble. It keeps sur­pris­ing us in this regard. Given enough time, dumb things can be smarter than we think.
At that same time, the bottom-up hive mind will never take us to our end goal. We are too impa­tient. So we add design and top down con­trol to get where we want to go.
The sys­tems we keep will be hybrid cre­ations. They will have a strong root­stock of peer-to-peer gen­er­a­tion, grafted below highly refined strains of con­trol­ling func­tions.  Sturdy, robust foun­da­tions of user-made con­tent and crowd-sourced inno­va­tion will feed very small sliv­ers of lead­er­ship agility. Pure plays of 100% smart mobs or 100% smart elites will be rare.
The real art of busi­ness and orga­ni­za­tions in the net­work econ­omy will not be in har­ness­ing the crowd of “every­body” (sim­ple!) but in find­ing the appro­pri­ate hybrid mix of bot­tom and top for each niche, at the right time. The mix of control/no-control will shift as a sys­tem grows and matures.
[Side note: Metaphors for achiev­ing the appro­pri­ate mix of control/no-control for a sys­tem will likely include chore­o­graph­ing, cul­ti­vat­ing, tun­ing, con­duct­ing, and shep­herd­ing, in con­trast to our cur­rent direc­tive fram­ings such as dri­ving, direct­ing, or man­ag­ing.]
Knowl­edge at Whar­ton echoes Kelly, in their recent arti­cle The Experts vs. the Ama­teurs: A Tug of War over the Future of Media
A tug of war over the future of media may be brew­ing between so-called user-generated con­tent — includ­ing ama­teurs who pro­duce blogs, video and audio for pub­lic con­sump­tion — and pro­fes­sional jour­nal­ists, movie mak­ers and record labels, along with the deep-pocketed com­pa­nies that back them. The likely out­come: a hybrid approach built around entirely new busi­ness mod­els, say experts at Whar­ton.
No one has quite fig­ured out what these new busi­ness mod­els will look like, though exper­i­men­ta­tion is under way with many new ven­tures from star­tups and exist­ing orga­ni­za­tions.
The BBC is putting hybridiza­tion and tun­ing into effect now, albeit in lim­ited ways that do not reflect a dra­matic shift of busi­ness model.
In Value of cit­i­zen jour­nal­ism Peter Hor­rocks writes:
Where the BBC is host­ing debate we will want the infor­ma­tion gen­er­ated to be edi­to­ri­ally valu­able. Sim­ply hav­ing suf­fi­cient resource to be able to mod­er­ate the vol­ume of debate we now receive is an issue in itself.
And the fact that we are hav­ing to apply sig­nif­i­cant resource to a facil­ity that is con­tributed reg­u­larly by only a small per­cent­age of our audi­ences is some­thing we have to bear in mind. Although of course a higher pro­por­tion read forums or ben­e­fit indi­rectly from how it feeds into our jour­nal­ism. So we may have to loosen our grip and be less wor­ried about the range of views expressed, with very clear label­ing about the BBC’s edi­to­r­ial non-endorsement of such con­tent. But there are obvi­ous risks.
We need to be able to extract real edi­to­r­ial value from such con­tri­bu­tions more eas­ily. We are explor­ing as many tech­no­log­i­cal solu­tions as we can for fil­ter­ing the con­tent, look­ing for intel­li­gent soft­ware that can help jour­nal­ists find the nuggets and ways in which the audi­ence itself can help us to cope with the vol­ume and sift it.
What does all this mean for design(ers)? Stay tuned for part two…

1 comment » | Social Media

Discount Code For Rosenfeld Media

March 17th, 2008 — 9:32am

Use the dis­count code FOJOEL10 to receive 10% off Rosen­feld Media books pur­chased online. Every­one loves a bargain!

Comment » | Reading Room

New Books: 'Tagging' and 'Mental Models'

March 12th, 2008 — 11:00am

If you’re inter­ested in tag­ging and social meta­data, social book­mark­ing, or infor­ma­tion man­age­ment, be sure to check out Gene Smith’s Tag­ging: People-Powered Meta­data for the Social Web recently pub­lished by from New Rid­ers. I reviewed some of the early drafts of the book, and it’s come together very nicely.
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Tag­ging takes a very prac­ti­cal approach, and pro­vides an ample set of exam­ples in sup­port of the insight­ful analy­sis. After an overview of tag­ging and its value, the book addresses tag­ging sys­tem design, tags in rela­tion to tra­di­tional meta­data and clas­si­fi­ca­tion sys­tems, and cov­ers the user expe­ri­ence of cre­at­ing and nav­i­gat­ing tag clouds.
Gene likes to build things, so Tag­ging includes a chap­ter on tech­ni­cal design com­plete with sug­gested tools and tuto­ri­als for cre­at­ing your own tag­ging apps.
All in all, Tag­ging is a wor­thy intro­duc­tion to the sub­ject, and a guide for deeper explo­ration.
While we’re talk­ing books, kudos to Rosen­feld Media on the pub­li­ca­tion of their first book, Men­tal Mod­els; Align­ing Design Strat­egy with Human Behav­ior, by the very tal­ented Indi Young!
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Men­tal Mod­els is richly illus­trated, filled with exam­ples, lucid, and accom­pa­nied by a con­sid­er­able amount of addi­tional con­tent from the Rosen­feld Media web­site.
Indi has con­sid­er­able expe­ri­ence teach­ing oth­ers the tech­niques and meth­ods behind cre­at­ing insight­ful men­tal mod­els for audi­ences and cus­tomers. Cog­ni­tive / frame­worky meth­ods can feel a bit heady at times (espe­cially how-to’s on those meth­ods), but Men­tal Mod­els is straight­for­ward read­ing through­out, and an emi­nently prac­ti­cal guide to using this impor­tant tool for user expe­ri­ence design and strat­egy.
Men­tal Mod­els is avail­able elec­tron­i­cally as a .pdf for indi­vid­ual and group licenses, or in hard copy; it’s choose your own medium in action.

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User Experience and the Security State: JetBlue's New Terminal

March 11th, 2008 — 5:58pm

The design of JetBlue’s new ter­mi­nal at JFK as reported in the NY Times is a good exam­ple of the inter­sec­tion of user expe­ri­ence design, and the spe­cific tech­ni­cal and polit­i­cal require­ments of the post-9/11 security-oriented state. The lay­out of the new ter­mi­nal is focused on direct­ing pas­sen­gers as quickly as pos­si­ble through a screen of 20 secu­rity lanes, and includes thought­ful fea­tures like wide secu­rity gates to accom­mo­date lug­gage and wheel­chairs, and rub­ber floor­ing for areas where peo­ple end up bare­foot.
I’m of two minds about design­ing expe­ri­ences and archi­tec­tures specif­i­cally to enable secu­rity pur­poses. Any­thing that improves the cur­rently mis­er­able expe­ri­ence of pass­ing through secu­rity screen­ings is good. (I am wait­ing for reports on peo­ple who show up at the gate wear­ing only a speedo one of these days, just to make a point.)
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But in the long run, do we really want expe­ri­ence design to help us become cul­tur­ally accus­tomed to a security-dominated mind­set? Espe­cially to the point where we encode this view of the world into our infra­struc­ture? Lurk­ing not so qui­etly below the sur­face of the design of the new Jet­Blue ter­mi­nal is Bentham’s Panop­ti­con (full con­tents here). The new terminal’s floor plan is a clas­sic fun­nel shape, dis­turbingly sim­i­lar in con­cept to the abat­toir / apart­ment block described in the famous Monty Python Archi­tect Sketch.
Pace lay­er­ing makes clear that archi­tec­tures change slowly once in place. And author­i­ties rarely cede sur­veil­lance capa­bil­i­ties, even after their util­ity and rel­e­vance expire. Should expe­ri­ence design make an archi­tec­ture ded­i­cated to sur­veil­lance tol­er­a­ble, or even comfortable?

Comment » | architecture, Ethics & Design, User Experience (UX)

Video of My BlogTalk Presentation

March 11th, 2008 — 2:26pm

Video of my BlogTalk pre­sen­ta­tion ‘What hap­pens when every­one designs social media? Prac­ti­cal sug­ges­tions for han­dling new eth­i­cal dilem­mas’ is avail­able from Ustream.tv. The res­o­lu­tion is low (it was shot with a web­cam) but the audio is good: fol­low along with the slides on your own for the full expe­ri­ence.

More videos of BlogTalk ses­sions here.

Comment » | Ethics & Design, Networks and Systems, User Experience (UX)

"Enhancing Dashboard Value and User Experience" Live at Boxes and Arrows

March 5th, 2008 — 5:12pm

Boxes and Arrows just pub­lished Enhanc­ing Dash­board Value and User Expe­ri­ence, part 5 of the build­ing blocks series that’s been run­ning since last year. This install­ment cov­ers how to include high-value social and con­ver­sa­tional capa­bil­i­ties into por­tal expe­ri­ences built on top of archi­tec­tures man­aged with the build­ing blocks. Enhanc­ing Dash­board Value and User Expe­ri­ence also pro­vides an explicit user expe­ri­ence vision for por­tals, meta­data and user inter­face rec­om­men­da­tions, and as tips on mak­ing por­tals eas­ier to use and man­age / admin­is­trate.
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Thanks again to all the good peo­ple who vol­un­teer their time to make Boxes and Arrows such a high qual­ity publication!

Comment » | Building Blocks, Dashboards & Portals, Information Architecture

IA Summit Talks on Ethics, Experience Design, Social Networks

March 4th, 2008 — 6:52am

Thanks to Facebook’s pub­lic mis­takes and apol­ogy to those affected by Bea­con , as well as a num­ber of other ham-handed attempts to mon­e­tize the social graph, the inter­sec­tion of ethics, design, and social net­works is receiv­ing over­due atten­tion. Two talks at this year’s Infor­ma­tion Archi­tec­ture Sum­mit in Miami will look at ethics as it applies to the daily work of cre­at­ing social net­works, and user expe­ri­ences in gen­eral.
First is Design­ing for the social: Avoid­ing anti-social net­works, by Miles Rochford, descrip­tion below.
This pre­sen­ta­tion con­sid­ers the role of tra­di­tional social net­works and the role of IAs in address­ing the chal­lenges that arise when design­ing and using online social net­works.
The pre­sen­ta­tion dis­cusses philo­soph­i­cal approaches to shar­ing the self, how this relates to offline social net­works and human inter­ac­tions in dif­fer­ent con­texts, and pro­vides guid­ance on how online social net­work­ing tools can be designed to sup­port these rela­tion­ships.
It also cov­ers eth­i­cal issues, includ­ing pri­vacy, and how these can con­flict with busi­ness needs. A range of exam­ples illus­trate the impact of these dri­vers and how design deci­sions can lead to the cre­ation of anti-social networks.

Related: the social net­works anti-patterns list from the microformats.org wiki.
The sec­ond is The impact of social ethics on IA and inter­ac­tive design — expe­ri­ences from the Nor­we­gian woods, by Karl Yohan Saeth and Ingrid Tofte, described as fol­lows:

This pre­sen­ta­tion dis­cusses ethics in IA from a prac­ti­cal point of view. Through dif­fer­ent case stud­ies we illus­trate the impact of social ethics on IA and inter­ac­tive design, and sum up our expe­ri­ences on deal­ing with ethics in real projects.

If you’re inter­ested in ethics and the prac­ti­cal­i­ties of user expe­ri­ence (and who isn’t?), both ses­sions look good. I’ll be talk­ing about other things at the sum­mit this year. In the mean­time, stay tuned for the sec­ond arti­cle in my UXMat­ters series on design­ing eth­i­cal expe­ri­ences, due for pub­li­ca­tion very soon.

Comment » | Ideas, Information Architecture, Networks and Systems

Blogtalk 2008 slides available

March 3rd, 2008 — 7:12am

My slides from Blogtalk 2008 are avail­able online now: I went through a lot of ideas quickly, so this is a good way to fol­low along at your own pace…
FYI: This ver­sion of the deck includes pre­sen­ters notes — I’ll upload a (larger!) view-only ver­sion once I’m back from hol­i­day in lovely Éire.

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