Tag: architecture

Search Me: Designing Information Retrieval Experiences

May 15th, 2009 — 10:50am

I just posted slides from my talk at the recent Enter­prise Search Sum­mit in NY “Search Me: Design­ing Infor­ma­tion Retrieval Experience”

Here’s the abstract from the session:

This case study reviews the meth­ods and insights that emerged from an 18-month effort to coör­di­nate and enhance the scat­tered user expe­ri­ences of a suite of infor­ma­tion retrieval tools sold as ser­vices by a major invest­ment rat­ings agency. The ses­sion will share a method for under­stand­ing audi­ence needs in diverse infor­ma­tion access con­texts; review a col­lec­tion of infor­ma­tion retrieval pat­terns, look at con­cep­tual design meth­ods for user expe­ri­ences, and review a set of longer term pat­terns in cus­tomer behav­ior called life­cy­cles, and con­sider the impact of orga­ni­za­tional and cul­tural fac­tors on design decisions.

This ses­sion will presents reusable expe­ri­ence design tools and find­ings rel­e­vant for con­texts such as enter­prise search and infor­ma­tion access, ser­vice design, and prod­uct and plat­form management.

Thanks to every­one who came by!

Comment » | Enterprise, Information Architecture, User Experience (UX)

Frameworks Are the Future (Slides From EuroIA 2008)

October 8th, 2008 — 6:28am

In case you couldn’t make it to Ams­ter­dam for EuroIA 2008, or if you were in town but pre­ferred to stay out­side in the warmth of a sunny Sep­tem­ber Sat­ur­day than ven­ture into the mar­velous Tsuchin­ski the­ater, I’ve posted the slides from my talk Frame­works are the Future of Design.

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

Spring Reading

May 12th, 2008 — 10:44pm

The other day, over a hot corned beef sand­wich from the 2nd Avenue Deli, some­one asked what I’m read­ing now. As usual, I ended up mum­bling a few half com­plete book titles (not sure why, but I always have dif­fi­culty remem­ber­ing on the spot — prob­a­bly because I’ve got four or five things going at once…).
To help fill out the list, and because I’m still doing most of my writ­ing via other out­lets, here’s a snap­shot of the books scat­tered around my house. It’s divided into help­ful cat­e­gories, includ­ing ‘Books I’d Like To Start Read­ing Soon, But Shouldn’t, Because I’m Still Read­ing Other Stuff’, and ‘Books I’ve Been Mean­ing to Read Some­time Soon, But Prob­a­bly Won’t Won’t Get To In The Near Future.‘
Books I’m Read­ing Now

Books I’d Like To Start Read­ing Soon, But Shouldn’t, Because I’m Still Read­ing Other Stuff

Books Recently Finished

Books I’ve Been Mean­ing to Read Some­time Soon, But Prob­a­bly Won’t Get To In The Near Future

Bonus: Things I’m prob­a­bly Never Going to Start / Fin­ish Reading

3 comments » | Reading Room

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.)
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)

A New Kind of Architecture? JG Ballard on the Bilbao Guggenheim

October 9th, 2007 — 12:36pm

JG Bal­lard is one of the most archi­tec­turally ori­ented writ­ers I know. His writ­ing evokes the phys­i­cal and men­tal expe­ri­ences of spaces and places deftly and vividly. No acci­dent then that Ballard’s work is con­nected to psy­cho­geog­ra­phy by many (an idea I’ve men­tioned before as well). And so it is a plea­sure to read his piece on Gehry’s Bil­bao Guggen­heim, The lar­val stage of a new kind of archi­tec­ture, in Monday’s Guardian.
From the arti­cle:

More to the point, I won­der if the Bil­bao Guggen­heim is a work of archi­tec­ture at all? Per­haps it belongs to the cat­e­gory of exhi­bi­tion and fair­ground dis­plays, of giant inflat­a­bles and bouncy cas­tles. The Guggen­heim may be the first per­ma­nent tem­po­rary struc­ture. Its inte­rior is a huge dis­ap­point­ment, and con­firms the sus­pi­cion that the museum is a glo­ri­fied sales aid for the Guggen­heim brand. There is a giant atrium, always a sign that some corporation’s hand is slid­ing towards your wal­let, but the gal­leries are con­ven­tion­ally pro­por­tioned, and one can’t help feel­ing that they are irrel­e­vant any­way. The museum is its own work of art, and the only one really on dis­play. One can’t imag­ine the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo or Picasso’s Guer­nica ever being shown here. There would be war in heaven. Apart from any­thing else, these works have a dimen­sion of seri­ous­ness that the Guggen­heim lacks. Koons’ Puppy, faith­fully guard­ing the entrance to the enchanted cas­tle, gives the game away. Archi­tec­ture today is a vis­i­tor attrac­tion, delib­er­ately play­ing on our love of the bright­est lights and the gaud­i­est neon. The Bil­bao Guggenheim’s spir­i­tual Acrop­o­lis is Las Vegas, with its infan­til­is­ing pirate ships and Egypt­ian sphin­xes. Gehry’s museum would be com­pletely at home there, for a year at least, and then look a lit­tle dusty and jaded, soon to be torn down and replaced by another engag­ing mar­vel with which our imag­i­na­tions can play.

Nov­elty archi­tec­ture dom­i­nates through­out the world, pitched like the movies at the bored teenager inside all of us. Uni­ver­si­ties need to look like air­ports, with an up-and-away hol­i­day ethos. Office build­ings dis­guise them­selves as hi-tech apart­ment houses, every­thing has the chunky look of a child’s build­ing blocks, stir­ring dreams of the nurs­ery.

But per­haps Gehry’s Guggen­heim tran­scends all this. From the far side of the Styx I’ll look back on it with awe.

Comment » | architecture

Who Should Own How We Work? Collaboration, the New Enterprise Application

May 14th, 2006 — 11:55pm

Col­lab­o­ra­tion is the lat­est ral­ly­ing cry of soft­ware ven­dors hop­ing to embed new gen­er­a­tions of enter­prise class tools and user expe­ri­ences into the fab­ric of the mod­ern work­place. Microsoft, IBM, and other firms expect that con­trol or lead­er­ship in the mar­ket for col­lab­o­ra­tion, whether by own­ing the archi­tec­ture, sys­tems, or other solu­tion com­po­nents, will be lucra­tive. A recent Rad­i­cati Group study (qual­ity uncon­firmed…) of the mar­ket size for enter­prise col­lab­o­ra­tion offered an esti­mate of $1.6 bil­lion now, grow­ing 10% annu­ally to $2.3 bil­lion in 2010.
Beyond the sub­stan­tial money to be made cre­at­ing, sell­ing, installing, and ser­vic­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion solu­tions lies the strate­gic advan­tage of mar­ket def­i­n­i­tion. The vendor(s) that own(s) the col­lab­o­ra­tion space expect(s) to become an inte­gral to the knowl­edge economy’s sup­port­ing envi­ron­ment in the same way that Ford and Gen­eral Motors became essen­tial to the sub­ur­ban­ized con­sumer archi­tec­tures of the post WWII era by serv­ing simul­ta­ne­ously as employ­ers, man­u­fac­tur­ers, cul­tural mar­keters, cap­i­tal reser­voirs, and auto­mo­bile sell­ers. Col­lab­o­ra­tion ven­dors know that achiev­ing any level of indis­pen­si­bil­ity will enhance their longevity by mak­ing them a neces­sity within the knowl­edge econ­omy.
It’s worth tak­ing a moment to call atten­tion to the impli­ca­tions: by defin­ing the user expe­ri­ences and tech­no­log­i­cal build­ing blocks brought together to real­ize col­lab­o­ra­tion in large enter­prises, these ven­dors will directly shape our basic con­cepts and under­stand­ing (our men­tal mod­els and cog­ni­tive frames) of col­lab­o­ra­tion. Once embed­ded, these archi­tec­tures, sys­tems, and busi­ness processes, and the social struc­tures and con­cep­tual mod­els cre­ated in response, will in large part define the (infor­ma­tion) work­ing envi­ron­ments of the future.
And yes, this is exactly what these ven­dors aspire to achieve; the Microsoft Share­point Prod­ucts and Tech­nolo­gies Devel­op­ment Team blog, offers:
“Share­Point Prod­ucts and Tech­nolo­gies have become a key part of our strat­egy for deliv­er­ing a com­plete work­ing envi­ron­ment for infor­ma­tion work­ers, where they can col­lab­o­rate together, share infor­ma­tion with oth­ers, and find infor­ma­tion and peo­ple that can help them solve their busi­ness prob­lems.“
And IBM’s mar­ket­ing is not pitched and deliv­ered in a man­ner as sweep­ing, but the impli­ca­tions are sim­i­lar, as in the overview IBM® Work­place™: Sim­ply a bet­ter way]:
IBM Work­place™ Solu­tions are role-based frame­works to help cus­tomers apply IBM Work­place tech­nolo­gies faster and more pro­duc­tively… These solu­tions are designed to pro­vide ‘short-cuts’ for cre­at­ing a high per­for­mance role-based work envi­ron­ment, help­ing to accel­er­ate time-to-value.“
The Mod­els for com­mu­ni­ca­tion and rela­tion­ships built into our tools are very pow­er­ful, and often employed in other spheres of life. How many times have you started writ­ing a birth­day card for a friend, and found your­self instinc­tively com­pos­ing a set of bul­let points list­ing this person’s chief virtues, notable char­ac­ter traits, and the most impor­tant / amus­ing moments of your friend­ship. The creep­ing ubiq­uity of the rhetor­i­cal style of Pow­er­point (Tufte’s essay here) is just one exam­ple of the tremen­dous social impact of a habit­u­ated model of com­mu­nica­tive prac­tices that’s run amok.
What does the future hold, in terms of enter­prise ven­dor con­trol over every­day work­ing expe­ri­ences? I’ve writ­ten before on the idea that the days of the mono­lithic enter­prise sys­tems are num­bered, mak­ing the point along the way that these behe­moths are the result of a top-down, one-size-for-all approach. I think the same is true of the cur­rent approach to col­lab­o­ra­tion solu­tions and work­ing envi­ron­ments. And so I was happy to see Andrew McAfee of Har­vard Busi­ness School make sev­eral strong points about how enter­prise col­lab­o­ra­tion efforts will real­ize greater suc­cess by *reduc­ing* the amount of struc­ture imposed on their major ele­ments — roles, work­flows, arti­facts, and rela­tion­ships — in advance of actual use.
McAfee sees con­sid­er­able ben­e­fit in new approaches to enter­prise IT invest­ment and man­age­ment that reduce the top-down and imposed nature of enter­prise envi­ron­ments and solu­tions, in favor of emer­gent struc­tures cre­ated by the peo­ple who must work suc­cess­fully within them. McAfee advo­cates allow­ing staff to cre­ate the iden­ti­ties, struc­tures and pat­terns that will orga­nize and gov­ern their col­lab­o­ra­tion envi­ron­ments as nec­es­sary, in an emer­gent fash­ion, instead of fix­ing these aspects long before users begin to col­lab­o­rate.
McAfee says:
“When I look at a lot of cor­po­rate col­lab­o­ra­tion tech­nolo­gies after spend­ing time at Wikipedia, del.icio.us, Flickr, and Blog­ger I am struck by how reg­i­mented, inflex­i­ble, and lim­ited the cor­po­rate stuff seems, because it does some or all of the following:

  • Gives users iden­ti­ties before they start using the tech­nol­ogy. These iden­ti­ties assign them cer­tain roles, priv­i­leges, and access rights, and exclude them from oth­ers. These iden­ti­ties almost always also place them within the exist­ing orga­ni­za­tional struc­ture and for­mal cor­po­rate hierarchy.
  • Con­tains few truly blank pages. Instead, it has lots of templates–for meet­ings, for project track­ing, for doc­u­ments and reports, etc.
  • Has tons of explicit or implicit work­flow– seqences [sic] of tasks that must be exe­cuted in order.

How much of this struc­ture is nec­es­sary? How much is valu­able? Well, the clear suc­cess sto­ries of Web 2.0 demon­strate that for at least some types of com­mu­nity and col­lab­o­ra­tion, none of it is.“
The crit­i­cal ques­tion is then “what types of com­mu­nity and col­lab­o­ra­tion require which approaches to cre­at­ing struc­ture, and when?” As any­one who’s used a poorly or overly struc­tured col­lab­o­ra­tion (or other enter­prise) tool knows, the result­ing envi­ron­ment is often anal­o­gous to a feu­dal soci­ety designed and man­aged by crypto-technical over­lords; one in which most users feel as if they are serfs bound to the land for in per­pe­tu­ity in order to sup­port the leisure-time and war-making indul­gences of a small class of share­hold­ing nobil­ity.
Answer­ing these ques­tions with con­fi­dence based on expe­ri­ence will likely take time in the range of years, and require numer­ous failed exper­i­ments. There’s a larger con­text to take into account: the strug­gle of enter­prise soft­ware ven­dors to extend their reach and longevity by dom­i­nat­ing the lan­guage of col­lab­o­ra­tion and the range of offer­ings is one part of a much broader effort by soci­ety to under­stand dra­matic shifts in our ways of work­ing, and the social struc­tures that are both dri­ven by and shape these new ways of work­ing. And so there are sev­eral impor­tant ideas and ques­tions under­ly­ing McAfee’s assess­ment that social sys­tem design­ers should under­stand.
One of the most impor­tant is that the notion of “col­lab­o­ra­tion” is con­cep­tual short­hand for how you work, who you work with, and what you do. In other words, it’s a dis­til­la­tion of your pro­fes­sional iden­tity. Your role in a col­lab­o­ra­tion envi­ron­ment defines who you are within that envi­ron­ment.
More impor­tantly, from the per­spec­tive of growth and devel­op­ment, your sys­tem assigned role deter­mines who you can *become*. Knowl­edge work­ers are val­ued for their skills, expe­ri­ence, pro­fes­sional net­works, pub­lic rep­u­ta­tions, and many other fluid, con­text depen­dent attrib­utes. And so lock­ing down their iden­ti­ties in advance strips them of a sub­stan­tial pro­por­tion of their cur­rent value, and simul­ta­ne­ously reduces their abil­ity to adapt, inno­vate, and respond to envi­ron­men­tal changes by shift­ing their think­ing or prac­tices. In plain terms, deter­min­ing their iden­ti­ties in advance pre­cludes the cre­ation of future value.
Another impor­tant under­ly­ing idea is the impor­tance of prop­erly under­stand­ing the value and util­ity of dif­fer­ing approaches to sys­tem­ati­za­tion in dif­fer­ing con­texts. McAfee’s assess­ment of the unhealthy con­se­quences of impos­ing too much struc­ture in advance is use­ful for social sys­tem design­ers (such as infor­ma­tion archi­tects and knowl­edge man­agers), because it makes the out­comes of implicit design strate­gies and assump­tions clear and tan­gi­ble, in terms of the neg­a­tive effects on the even­tual users of the col­lab­o­ra­tion envi­ron­ment. For com­plex and evolv­ing group set­tings like the mod­ern enter­prise, cre­at­ing too much struc­ture in advance points to a mis­placed under­stand­ing of the value and role of design and archi­tec­ture.
Fun­da­men­tally, it indi­cates an over­es­ti­ma­tion of the value of the activ­ity of sys­tem­atiz­ing (design­ing) col­lab­o­ra­tion envi­ron­ments to high lev­els of detail, and with­out recog­ni­tion for evo­lu­tion­ary dynam­ics. The design or struc­ture of any col­lab­o­ra­tion envi­ron­ment — of any social sys­tem — is only valu­able for how well it encour­ages rela­tion­ships and activ­ity which advance the goals of the orga­ni­za­tion and it’s mem­bers. The value of a designer in the effort to cre­ate a col­lab­o­ra­tive com­mu­nity lies in the abil­ity to cre­ate designs that lead to effec­tive col­lab­o­ra­tion, not in the num­ber or speci­ficity of the designs they pro­duce, and espe­cially not in the arti­facts cre­ated dur­ing design — the tem­plates, work­flows, roles, and other McAfee men­tioned above. To sim­plify the dif­fer­ent views of what’s appro­pri­ate into two arti­fi­cially seg­mented camps, the [older] view that results in the pre­ma­ture cre­ation of too much struc­ture val­i­dates the design of things / arti­facts / sta­tic assem­blies, whereas the newer view valu­ing min­i­mal and emer­gent struc­tures acknowl­edges the greater effi­cacy of design­ing dynamic sys­tems / flows / frame­works.
The overly spe­cific and rigid design of many col­lab­o­ra­tion sys­tem com­po­nents com­ing from the older design view­point in fact says much about how large, com­plex enter­prises choose to inter­pret their own char­ac­ters, and cre­ate tools accord­ingly. Too often, a desire to achieve total­ity lies at the heart of this approach.
Of course, most total­i­ties only make sense — exhibit coher­ence — when viewed from within, and when using the lan­guage and con­cepts of the total­ity itself. The result is that attempts to achieve total­ity of design for many com­plex con­texts (like col­lab­o­ra­tion within enter­prises large or small) rep­re­sent a self-defeating approach. That the approach is self-defeating is gen­er­ally ignored, because the pur­suit of total­ity is a self-serving exer­cise in power val­i­da­tion, that ben­e­fits power hold­ers by con­sum­ing resources poten­tially used for other pur­poses, for exam­ple, to under­mine their power.
With the chimera of total­ity set in proper con­text, it’s pos­si­ble to see how col­lab­o­ra­tion envi­ron­ments — at least in their most poorly con­ceived man­i­fes­ta­tions — will resem­ble vir­tual retreads of Tay­lorism, wherein the real accom­plish­ment is to jus­tify the effort and expense involved in cre­at­ing the sys­tem by point­ing at an exces­sive quan­tity of pre­de­ter­mined struc­ture await­ing habi­ta­tion and use by dis­en­fran­chised staff.
At present, I see two diver­gent and com­pet­ing trends in the realm of enter­prise solu­tions and user expe­ri­ences. The first trend is toward homo­gene­ity of the work­ing envi­ron­ment with large amounts of struc­ture imposed in advance, exem­pli­fied by com­pre­hen­sive col­lab­o­ra­tion suites and archi­tec­tures such as MSOf­fice / Share­point, or IBM’s Work­place.
The sec­ond trend is toward het­ero­gene­ity in the struc­tures inform­ing the work­ing envi­ron­ment, vis­i­ble as vari­able pat­terns and locuses of col­lab­o­ra­tion estab­lished by fluid groups that rely on adhoc assort­ment of tools from dif­fer­ent sources (Base­Camp, GMail, social book­mark­ing ser­vices, RSS syn­di­ca­tion of social media struc­tures, com­mu­ni­ties of prac­tice, busi­ness ser­vices from ASP providers, open source appli­ca­tions, etc.).
But this itself is a short term view, when sit­u­a­tion within a longer term con­text is nec­es­sary. It is com­mon for sys­tems or envi­ron­ments of all sizes and com­plex­i­ties to oscil­late cycli­cally from greater to lesser degrees of struc­ture, along a con­tin­uüm rang­ing from homo­ge­neous to het­ero­ge­neous. In the short term view then, the quest for total­ity equates to homo­gene­ity, or even efforts at dom­i­na­tion. In the long term view, how­ever, the quest for total­ity could indi­cate an imma­ture ecosys­tem that is not diverse, but may become so in time.
Apply­ing two (poten­tial) lessons from ecol­ogy — the value of diver­sity as an enhancer of over­all resilience in sys­tems, and the ten­dency of mono­cul­tures to exhibit high fragility — to McAfee’s points on emer­gence, as well as the con­tin­uüm view of shift­ing degress of homo­gene­ity, should tell us that col­lab­o­ra­tion solu­tion design­ers would be wise to do three things:

  1. Adopt the new design view­point and focus on design­ing struc­tures that allow col­lab­o­ra­tors to cre­ate value
  2. Spec­ify as lit­tle struc­ture of any kind in advance as possible
  3. Antic­i­pate the emer­gence of new archi­tec­tural ele­ments, and allow for their incor­po­ra­tion under the guid­ance of the com­mu­nity of collaborators

The end result should be an enter­prise approach to col­lab­o­ra­tion that empha­sizes the design of infra­struc­ture for com­mu­ni­ties that cre­ate their own struc­tures. Big ven­dors be wary of this enlight­ened point of view, unless you’re will­ing to respond in kind.

4 comments » | Ideas

Enterprise Software is Dead! Long Live... Thingamy?

January 5th, 2006 — 3:04pm

Peter Mer­holz observes that enter­prise soft­ware is being eaten away from below, by appli­ca­tions such as Move­able Type, and inno­va­tors such as Social­Text.
“These smaller point solu­tions, sys­tems that actu­ally address the chal­lenges that peo­ple face (instead of sim­ply cre­at­ing more prob­lems of their own, prob­lems that require hir­ing ser­vice staff from the soft­ware devel­op­ers), these solu­tions are going to spread through­out orga­ni­za­tions and sup­plant enter­prise soft­ware the same way that PCs sup­planted main­frames.
I sure wouldn’t want to be work­ing in enter­prise soft­ware right now. Sure, it’s a mas­sive indus­try, and it will take a long time to die, but the pro­gres­sion is clear, and, frankly, inevitable.“
Indeed it is. Though there’s con­sid­er­able ana­lyst hoopla about ris­ing enter­prise con­tent man­age­ment or ECM spend­ing and IT invest­ment (see also In Focus: Con­tent Man­age­ment Heats Up, Imag­ing Shifts Toward SMBs), we’re in the midst of a larger and longer term cycle of evo­lu­tion in which cheaper, faster, more agile com­peti­tors to estab­lished mar­ket lead­ers are fol­low­ing the clas­sic mar­ket entry strat­egy of attack­ing the bot­tom of the pyra­mid. (The pyra­mid is a hier­ar­chi­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion of a given mar­ket or set of prod­ucts; at the top of the pyra­mid sit the more expen­sive and mature prod­ucts which offer more fea­tures, capa­bil­i­ties, qual­ity, or com­plex­ity; the lower lev­els of the pyra­mid include lower cost prod­ucts which offer fewer fea­tures.)
What’s most inter­est­ing about the way this pat­tern is play­ing out in the arena of enter­prise con­tent man­age­ment solu­tions is that the new com­peti­tors were not at first attack­ing from the bot­tom as a delib­er­ate strat­egy, think of Move­able­Type, but they have quite quickly moved to this approach as with the recent release of Alfresco. The dif­fer­ent ori­gins of Sixa­part and Alfresco may have some bear­ing on their dif­fer­ent mar­ket entry approaches: Sixa­part was a per­sonal pub­lish­ing plat­form that’s grown into a con­tent man­age­ment tool, whereas Alfresco’s intented audi­ence was enter­prise cus­tomers from day one. I’d wager the founders of Alfresco looked to Red­Hat as an exam­ple of a busi­ness model built on Open­Source soft­ware, and saw oppor­tu­nity in the enter­prise con­tent man­age­ment space, espe­cially con­cern­ing user expe­ri­ence annd usabil­ity weak­nesses in ECM plat­forms.
There’s an easy (if gen­eral) par­al­lel in the auto­mo­tive indus­try: from Amer­i­can dom­i­nance of the domes­tic U.S. mar­ket for auto­mo­biles in the post-WWII decades, suc­ces­sive waves of com­peti­tors moved into the U.S. auto­mo­bile mar­ket from the bot­tom of the pyra­mid, offer­ing less expen­sive or higher qual­ity auto­mo­biles with the same or sim­i­lar fea­tures. The major Japan­ese firms such as Honda, Toy­ota, and Nis­san were first, fol­lowed by Korean firms such as Hyundai and Dae­woo. It’s plain that some of the older com­pa­nies sit­ting at the top of the pyra­mid are in fact dying, both lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively: GM is finan­cially crip­pled and faces oner­ous finan­cial bur­dens — to the point of bank­ruptcy — as it attempts to pay for the health­care of it’s own aging (dying) work­force.
So what’s in the future?
For auto mak­ers it’s pos­si­ble that Chi­nese or South Amer­i­can man­u­fac­tur­ers will be next to enter the domes­tic U.S. mar­ket, using sim­i­lar attacks at the bot­tom of the pyra­mid.
For enter­prise soft­ware, I think orga­ni­za­tions will turn away from mono­lithic and expen­sive sys­tems with ter­ri­ble user expe­ri­ences — and cor­re­spond­ingly low lev­els of sat­is­fac­tion, qual­ity, and effi­cacy — as the best means of meet­ing busi­ness needs, and shift to a mixed palette of seman­ti­cally inte­grated capa­bil­i­ties or ser­vices deliv­ered via the Inter­net. These capa­bil­i­ties will orig­i­nate from diverse ven­dors or providers, and expose cus­tomized sets of func­tion­al­ity and infor­ma­tion spe­cific to the indi­vid­ual enter­prise. Staff will access and encounter these capa­bil­i­ties via a mul­ti­plic­ity of chan­nels and user expe­ri­ences; dash­board or por­tal style aggre­ga­tors, RIA rich inter­net appli­ca­tions, mobile devices, inter­faces for RSS and other micro-content for­mats.
David Wein­berger thinks it will be small pieces loosely joined together. A group of entre­pre­neurs thinks it might look some­thing like what Thingamy claims to be.
Regard­less, it’s surely no coin­ci­dence that I find a blog post on mar­ket pyra­mids and entry strate­gies put up by some­one work­ing at an enter­prise soft­ware startup…

Comment » | Ideas

New Urbanism In Practice After Katrina

December 8th, 2005 — 2:46pm

Katrina’s ill winds are bring­ing some good, in the form of increased aware­ness of and will­ing­ness to con­sider New Urban archi­tec­ture and urban plan­ning options for the rebuild­ing Gulf Coast towns.
I first encoun­tered New Urban­ism while read­ing William Kunstler’s The Geog­ra­phy of Nowhere. Kun­stler has writ­ten sev­eral addi­tional books explor­ing the cre­ation and evo­lu­tion of the mod­ern Amer­i­can sub­ur­ban­scape since The Geog­ra­phy of Nowhere, all of them mak­ing ref­er­ence to New Urban­ism. It’s recently popped up in two arti­cles the NY Times. The first, Out of the Muddy Rub­ble, a Vision for Gulf Coast Towns, by Brad­ford McKee, recounts the efforts of archi­tects and plan­ners from a vari­ety of per­spec­tives, includ­ing mem­bers of the Con­gress for the New Urban­ism, to put forth a viable plan for the healthy rede­vel­op­ment of dam­aged Gulf Coast towns.
If you’ve not heard yet, New Urban­ism advo­cates the cre­ation of walk­a­ble, human scale com­mu­ni­ties empha­siz­ing mixed use envion­ments with pat­terns and struc­ture that allow peo­ple to meet daily needs with­out reliance on auto­mo­biles. In short, New Urban­ism is an archi­tec­ture and plan­ning frame­work that actively opposes sprawl.
Sprawl ben­e­fits the short term at the expense of the long term. Crit­ics of New Urban­ism often choose to inter­peret it as a school that restricts the rights of indi­vid­ual prop­erty own­ers, rather than as a series of pos­i­tive guide­lines for how to design com­mu­ni­ties that are healthy in the long run. But of course that’s always been the short-term view of the long-term greater good…
The dra­mat­icly dif­fer­ing points of view in favor of and opposed to New Urban­ist approaches come through very clearly in this exchange:
The Miami archi­tect Andres Duany, a prin­ci­pal fig­ure in the New Urban­ism move­ment, urged the casino own­ers to inte­grate the casi­nos more seam­lessly among new clus­ters of retail stores and restau­rants rather than as iso­lated estab­lish­ments.
Describ­ing his vision, Mr. Duany said, “You step out onto a beau­ti­ful avenue, where you can get a chance to look at the water and the mar­velous sun­sets and the shops, and walk up and down to restau­rants and eas­ily find taxis to other places.“
But Mr. Duany’s design sharply clashed with the casino own­ers’ main pri­or­ity.
“A casino owner wants peo­ple to stay on the prop­erty,” said Bernie Burk­holder, pres­i­dent and chief exec­u­tive of the Trea­sure Bay Casino, in Biloxi.
“As running-dog cap­i­tal­ist casino own­ers, we need to under­stand that the com­mu­nity fits together,” he added, “but we need an eco­nomic unit that will hold the cus­tomer.“
The sec­ond: Gulf Plan­ning Roils Res­i­dents also by Brad­ford McKee, pub­lished a few days after the first on Decem­ber 8, 2005, cap­tures some of the reac­tions to the plans from Gulf Coast res­i­dents. Nat­u­rally, the reac­tions are mixed.
But it’s impor­tant to remem­ber that sprawl is a very tem­po­rary and sur­real sta­tus quo, one that cre­ated the utterly improb­a­bly eco­log­i­cal niche of the per­sonal rid­ing mower. If that’s not a hot-house flower, then what is?
Some links to resources about New Urban­ism:
Con­scious Choice
New Urban Time­lines
New Urban News
Con­gress For the New Urbanism

2 comments » | architecture, Civil Society

Tagging Comes To Starbucks

October 25th, 2005 — 7:56pm

Get­ting cof­fee this after­noon, I saw sev­eral pack­ages of tasy look­ing madeleines sit­ting in front of the reg­is­ter at Star­bucks. For the not small num­ber of peo­ple who don’t know that shell shaped pas­tries made with but­ter are called madeleines — not every­one has seen The Trans­porter yet — the pack­age was help­fully labeled “Madeleines”.
Prov­ing that tag­ging as a prac­tice has gone too far, right below the word madeleines, the label offered the words “tasty French pas­try”.
Just in case the cus­tomers look­ing at the clear plas­tic pack­age aren’t capa­ble of cor­rectly iden­ti­fy­ing a pas­try?
Or to sup­port the large pop­u­la­tion who can’t decide for them­selves what qual­i­fies as tasty?

Comment » | Information Architecture

Psychogeography Comes to Central Square

October 17th, 2005 — 8:43am

Art Inter­ac­tive and Glowlab, a local “net­work of psy­cho­geo­g­ra­phers” is using Cen­tral Square as an exhi­bi­tion and inves­ti­ga­tion space for the next nine weeks, con­duct­ing exper­i­ments with laugh­ing bicy­cles, art/clothing made from trash, and other psy­cho­geo­graphic phe­nom­ena.
Wikipedia says, “Psy­cho­geog­ra­phy is “The study of spe­cific effects of the geo­graph­i­cal envi­ron­ment, con­sciously organ­ised or not, on the emo­tions and behav­iour of indi­vid­u­als”, accord­ing to the arti­cle Pre­lim­i­nary Prob­lems in Con­struct­ing a Sit­u­a­tion, in Sit­u­a­tion­niste Inter­na­tionale No. 1 (1958) .“
I first heard the term psy­cho­geog­ra­phy while read­ing J.G. Ballard’s The Ter­mi­nal Beach, Con­crete Island, and Crash. Richard Calder is a more recent exam­ple of a writer work­ing with these ideas. (Note to the curi­ous: Calder’s writ­ings include some *unusual* tastes and fla­vors.) Calder may have optioned one of his nov­els for film pro­duc­tion. Of the mem­bers of the Sit­u­a­tion­ist Inter­na­tional men­tioned by Wikipedia, I’m most fami­lar with Guy Debord’s writ­ings, from quite a few sem­ina ses­sions on media the­ory, cul­tural the­ory, post­mod­ern the­ory.
Regard­less of psychogeography’s ori­gins, all roads lead to the inter­net now: a quick Google query turns up psychogeography.org.uk, which links to an essay titled Dada Pho­tomon­tage and net.art Sitemaps that com­pares Dadaist pho­tomon­tages to the fami­lar sitemap. The first two cita­tions in the piece are the Yale Style Guide, and Tufte’s Visu­al­iz­ing Infor­ma­tion.
The cir­cle closes eas­ily, since one of the link threads leads to socialfiction.org, where you find a page on [Gen­er­a­tive] Psy­cho­geogr­pahy. Ran­dom note; socialfiction’s ban­ner car­ries ref­er­ences to “cartho­graphic sadism * gab­ber avant-gardism * exper­i­men­tal knowl­edge * DIY urban­ism” — all likely cadi­dates for Amazon’s SIP sta­tis­ti­cally improb­a­ble phrases list­ings. Per­haps most intrigu­ing is “disco social­ism”. Now that might catch on in some pub­lic pol­icy cir­cles that could use a bit of help pick­ing a good back beat…
A quick selec­tion of events that looked inter­est­ing:
6:30PM — 8:30PM: N55 Artist Talk & Din­ner
Hosted with the Cen­ter for Advanced Visual Stud­ies at MIT
Dan­ish artists’ group N55 cre­ates mobile tools and sit­u­a­tions for every­day liv­ing: a work­place, a mod­u­lar boat, a shop, a fac­tory, a clean air machine, a com­mune, and even a per­sonal rocket. Food & Drink pro­vided. NOTE: This event is hosted at CAVS, 265 Mass Ave, 3Fl (Bldg N-52, Rm 390), Cam­bridge MA.
6PM9PM: Glowlab Party!
Hosted by the Boston Soci­ety of Archi­tects. All young artists, design­ers, archi­tects and their friends are invited to enjoy good food and cheer and become a part of a grow­ing net­work of young pro­fes­sion­als who are shap­ing the future of Boston. Free drinks & enter­tain­ment. RSVP to bsa@architects.org.
For those of you with fash­ion incli­na­tions (spurred by watch­ing too much InStyle?)
12PM5PM: DIY Wear­able Chal­lenge
Make an inter­ac­tive out­fit from Cam­bridge trash and dis­carded elec­tron­ics Led by Jonah Brucker-Cohen and Kather­ine Moriwaki.

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