Jumpchart - the online sitemap service — is about to move from beta to subscription pricing.
Anyone who like to try it out, or who wants 3 free months of service should drop me a line to get an invite code.
Good luck to the Jumpchart team!
Jumpchart - the online sitemap service — is about to move from beta to subscription pricing.
Congratulations to James Robertson and StepTwo Designs for releasing an updated version of the Intranet Review Toolkit, just before this year’s IA summit in lovely Vancouver (obligatory flickr link).
Version 1.1 of the Intranet Review Toolkit includes a heuristics summary designed for quick use; it’s based on a condensed version of the complete set of heuristics you may remember I offered a while back. StepTwo was kind enough to credit my modest contribution to the overall effort.
Other additions include a collaboration / community of use destination site http://www.intranetreviewtoolkit.org.
Update: Version 1.1 of the Intranet Review Toolkit is available as of 03/20/2006, and now includes a summary spreadsheet.
Thanks go to James Robertson for very gently reminding me that the licensing arrangements for the Intranet Review Toolkit preclude republishing it as a summarized form, such as the spreadsheet I posted earlier today. In my enthusiasm to share a tool with the rest of the community, I didn’t work through the full licensing implications…
Accordingly, I’ll be removing the spreadsheet from harms way immediately, while hoping it’s possible to make it available in a more legally acceptable form.
Apologies to James and the rest of the Toolkit team for any unintended harm from my oversight.
Lotus Notes has one of the most unpleasant and unwelcoming User Experiences this side of a medium-security prison where the warden has aspirations towards interior design and art instruction. One of the most painful aspects of the Notes experience is the default settings for font size and color in the email window. The default font size (for Macs) is on the order of 7 point type, and the default color for unread messages is — ironically — red. The combination yields a user experience that resembles a bad skin rash. I call it “angry red microNotes” disease, and it looks like this:
Overall, it has an unhealthy affect on one’s state of mind. The undertones of hostility and resentment running throughout are manifold. And naturally, it is impossible to change the default font size and color for the email reader. This is further confirmation for my theory that Notes has yet to escape it’s roots as a thick client for series of unconnected databases.
After three weeks of suffering from angry red microNotes, I realized I was literally going blind from squinting at the tiny type, and went to Google for relief. I found niniX 1.7, a utility that allows Mac based Lotus Notes users the ability to edit the binary format Notes preferences file, and change the font size of the email client. I share it in the hopes that others may break the chains that blind them. This will only solve half the problem — if someone can figure out how to change the default color for unread messages to something besides skin rash red, I will happily share with the rest of the suffering masses (and apparently there are on the order of 118 million of us out there).
But will it always be this (horrible) way?
In Beyond Notes 7.0: IBM Lotus sketches ‘Hannover’ user experience Peter Bochner of SearchDomino.com says this of the next Notes release, “Notes has often been criticized for its somewhat staid user interface. According to IBM’s Bisconti, in creating Hannover, IBM paid attention “to not just the user interface, but the user experience.“
Okay… So does that mean I’ll have my choice of diseases as themes for the user experience of my collaboration environment?
According to Ken Bisconti, IBM Lotus vice president of Workplace, portal and collaboration products, “Through improvements such as contextual collaboration and support for composite apps, we’ve gone above and beyond simple UI enhancement”.
I think simple UI enhancement is exactly what Ken and his team should focus on for the next several years, since they have so much opportunity for improvement.
Now I can plot the truly disatisfying long-term performance of my 401ks using a convenient networked infrastructure service…
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Concept maps popped onto the radar last week when an article in Wired highlighted a concept mapping tool called Cmap. Cmap is one of a variety of concept mapping tools that’s in use in schools and other educational settings to teach children to model the structure and relationships connecting — well — concepts.
The root idea of using concept mapping in educational settings is to move away from static models of knowledge, and toward dynamic models of relationships between concepts that allow new kinds of reasoning, understanding, and knowledge. That sounds a lot like the purpose of OWL.
It might be a stretch to say that by advocating concept maps, schools are in fact training kids to create ontologies as a basic learning and teaching method, and a vehicle for communicating complex ideas — but it’s a very interesting stretch all the same. As Information Architects, we’re familiar with the ways that structured visualizations of interconnected things — pages, topics, functions, etc. — communicate complex notions quickly and more effectively than words. But most of the rest of the world doesn’t think and communicate this way — or at least isn’t consciously aware that it does.
It seems reasonable that kids who learn to think in terms of concept maps from an early age might start using them to directly communicate their understandings of all kinds of things throughout life. It might be a great way to communicate the complex thoughts and ideas at play when answering a simple question like “What do you think about the war in Iraq?“
Author Nancy Kress explores this excact idea in the science fiction novel ‘Beggars In Spain’, calling the constructions “thought strings”. In Kress’ book, thought strings are the preferred method of communcation for extremely intelligent genetically engineered children, who have in effect moved to realms of cognitive complexity that exceed the structural capacity of ordinary languages. As Kress describes them, the density and multidimensional nature of thought strings makes it much easier to share nuanced understandings of extremely complex domains, ideas, and situations in a compact way.
I’ve only read the first novel in the trilogy, so I can’t speak to how Kress develops the idea of thought strings, but there’s a clear connection between the construct she defines and the concept map as laid out by Novak, who says, “it is best to construct concept maps with reference to some particular question we seek to answer or some situation or event that we are trying to understand”.
Excerpts from the Wired article:
“Concept maps can be used to assess student knowledge, encourage thinking and problem solving instead of rote learning, organize information for writing projects and help teachers write new curricula. “
“We need to move education from a memorizing system and repetitive system to a dynamic system,” said Gaspar Tarte, who is spearheading education reform in Panama as the country’s secretary of governmental innovation.“
“We would like to use tools and a methodology that helps children construct knowledge,” Tarte said. “Concept maps was the best tool that we found.”
The April issue of D-Lib Magazine includes a two-part Survey of social bookmarking tools.
Social bookmarking is on the collective brain — at least for the moment –and most of those writing about it choose to take one or more positions for, against, or orthogonal to its various aspects. Here’s the position of the D-Lib survey authors:
“Despite all the current hype about tags — in the blogging world, especially — for the authors of this paper, tags are just one kind of metadata and are not a replacement for formal classification systems such as Dublin Core, MODS, etc. [n15]. Rather, they are a supplemental means to organize information and order search results.“
This is — no surprise from “a solely electronic publication with a primary focus on digital library research and development, including but not limited to new technologies, applications, and contextual social and economic issues” — the librarians’ view, succinctly echoed by Peter Morville in his presentation during the panel ‘Sorting Out Social Classification’ at this year’s Information Architecture summit.
The D-Lib authors’ assessment dovetails nicely with Peter’s views on The Speed of Information Architecture from 2001, and it shows how library science professionals may decide to place social bookmarking in relation to the larger context of meta-data lifecycles; a realm they’ve known and inhabited for far longer than most people have used Flickr to tag their photos.
I found some of the authors’ conclusions more surprising. They say, “In many ways these new tools resemble blogs stripped down to the bare essentials.” I’m not sure what this means; stripped-down is the sort of term that usually connotes a minimalist refactoring or adaptation that is designed to emphasize the fundamental aspects of some original thing under interpretation, but I don’t think they want readers to take away the notion that social bookmarking is an interpretation of blogging.
Moving on, they say, “Here the essential unit of information is a link, not a story, but a link decorated with a title, a description, tags and perhaps even personal recommendation points.” which leaves me wondering why it’s useful to compare Furl to blogging?
A cultural studies professor of mine used to say of career academics, “We decide what things mean for a living”. I suspect this is what the D-Lib authors were working toward with their blogging comparison. Since the label space for this thing itself is a bit crowded (contenders being ethnoclassification, folksonomy, social classification), it makes better sense to elevate the arena of your own territorial claim to a higher level that is less cluttered with other claimants, and decide how it relates to something well-known and more established.
They close with, “It is still uncertain whether tagging will take off in the way that blogging has. And even if it does, nobody yet knows exactly what it will achieve or where it will go — but the road ahead beckons.“
This is somewhat uninspiring, but I assume it satisfies the XML schema requirement that every well-structured review or essay end with a conclusion that opens the door to future publications.
Don’t mistake my piqué at the squishiness of their conclusions for dis-satisfaction with the body of the survey; overall, the piece is well-researched and offers good context and perspective on the antecedents of and concepts behind their subject. Their invocation of Tim O’Reilly’s ‘architectures of participation’ is just one example of the value of this survey as an entry point into related phenomena.
Another good point the D-Lib authors make is the way that the inherent locality, or context-specificity, of collections of social bookmarks allows them to provide higher-quality pointers to resources relevant for specialized purposes than the major search engines, which by default index globally, or without an editorial perspective.
Likely most useful for the survey reader is their set of references, which taps into the meme flow for social bookmarking by citing a range of source conversations, editorials, and postings from all sides of the phenomenon.
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There’s an mSpace demo online.
While researching and evaluating user interfaces and management tools for semantic structures — ontologies, taxonomies, thesauri, etc — I’ve come across or been directed to two good surveys of tools.
The first, courtesy of HP Labs and the SIMILE project is Review of existing tools for working with schemas, metadata, and thesauri. Thanks to Will Evans for pointing this out.
The second is a comprehensive review of nearly 100 ontology editors, or applications offering ontology editing capabilities, put together by Michael Denny at XML.com. You can read the full article Ontology Building: A Survey of Editing Tools, or go directly to the Summary Table of Survey Results.
The original date for this is 2002 — it was updated July of 2004.
mSpace is a new framework — including user interface — for interacting with semantically structured information that appeared on Slashdot this morning.
According to the supporting literature, mSpace handles both ontologically structured data, and RDF based information that is not modelled with ontologies.
What is potentially most valuable about the mSpace framework is a useful, usable interface for both navigating / exploring RDF-based information spaces, and editing them.
From the mSpace sourceforge site:
“mSpace is an interaction model designed to allow a user to navigate in a meaningful manner the multi-dimensional space that an ontology can provide. mSpace offers potentially useful slices through this space by selection of ontological categories.
mSpace is fully generalised and as such, with a little definition, can be used to explore any knowledge base (without the requirement of ontologies!).
Please see mspace.ecs.soton.ac.uk for more information.“
From the abstract of the Technical report, titled mSpace: exploring the Semantic Web“
“Information on the web is traditionally accessed through keyword searching. This method is powerful in the hands of a user that is experienced in the domain they wish to acquire knowledge within. Domain exploration is a more difficult task in the current environment for a user who does not precisely understand the information they are seeking. Semantic Web technologies can be used to represent a complex information space, allowing the exploration of data through more powerful methods than text search. Ontologies and RDF data can be used to represent rich domains, but can have a high barrier to entry in terms of application or data creation cost.
The mSpace interaction model describes a method of easily representing meaningful slices through these multidimensional spaces. This paper describes the design and creation of a system that implements the mSpace interaction model in a fashion that allows it to be applied across almost any set of RDF data with minimal reconfiguration. The system has no requirement for ontological support, but can make use of it if available. This allows the visualisation of existing non-semantic data with minimal cost, without sacrificing the ability to utilise the power that semantically-enabled data can provide.”