Tag: Tools


Jumpchart Sitemap Service: 3 Months Free

October 11th, 2007 — 12:52pm

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!

Comment » | Information Architecture, Tools

Intranet Review Toolkit Version 1.1

April 1st, 2006 — 7:48pm

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.

Comment » | Tools

Intranet Review Toolkit: Quick Heuristics Spreadsheet

December 2nd, 2005 — 12:30am

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.

Comment » | Information Architecture, Intranets, Tools

Lotus Notes User Experience = Disease

September 22nd, 2005 — 10:13pm

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:
angry_red_micro_notes.png
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.

22 comments » | User Experience (UX)

New Web Service for Sparklines

June 27th, 2005 — 3:57pm

From some­one else named Joe, a free ser­vice that gen­er­ates sparklines:

http://bitworking.org/projects/sparklines/

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: Training Children to Build Ontologies?

May 31st, 2005 — 11:51am

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.”

Comments Off | Modeling, Semantic Web

Survey on Social Bookmarking Tools

April 20th, 2005 — 3:56pm

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.

Comments Off | Social Media

mSpace Online Demo

February 20th, 2005 — 2:48pm

There’s an mSpace demo online.

Comments Off | Modeling, Semantic Web, User Experience (UX)

Two Surveys of Ontology / Taxonomy / Thesaurus Editors

February 18th, 2005 — 2:46pm

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.

Comments Off | Modeling, Semantic Web, User Experience (UX)

mSpace: A New (Usable?) Semantic Web Interface

February 18th, 2005 — 10:56am

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.”

Comments Off | Semantic Web, User Experience (UX)

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