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Reaction to NextD

"NextD takes a slash at "Findability Information Architecture" is a hot topic on the IA Institute member mailing list. Excerpts from IA’s Unidentical Twins (Revisited) [PDF - only long-term direct link that is available, ack] is the trigger. By GK VanPatter. The response has ranged from:

  • "#$%@ him, he is a moron."
  • Agreement on the basic points (since others with the IA community have been saying the same thing).
  • The tone and the inflammatory nature gets in the way of the message - there are some valid points but it is hard to address them because of the way it is written. Not exactly an invitation for conversation.
  • Where are these other "twins" like "Design 3.0" and "Human-Centered Innovation" and "Strategic Information Architecture" - e.g., show me the books to buy to learn about them.

My reaction: NextD represents a view on IA I am not familiar with (I know about RSW of course but I do not recognize this "NextDesign Leadership Institute"). I try really hard to stay up on the broad touch points of the field, but this is a group / set of writings I am not familiar with. Most likely, I stumbled across NextD a long time ago but have forgotten that I ever saw it ("old fart's disease"). But now that I have found it, I am obligated to learn about it, understand what this NextD thing is about, find connections to my professional background, and become a better IA as a result.

Here are the things I am doing in my spare time to learn about NextD:

  1. Read some of the other writings at - hopefully they are more helpful and educational than the trigger article. The Journal has some interesting articles at first glance. Design 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 [again, only as PDF, ack] caught my eye.
  2. Find connection points to people I am familiar with: the interviews with Peter Merholz and Patrick Whitney look promising. Rethinking Wicked Problems [PDF, ack] is also interesting, since I just re-discovered Jeff Conklin (one of the fathers of the hypertext field) on my own.
  3. Scanning the blogosphere for posts that reference
  4. Like Richard Dalton has done, look into some of these "twins" that were mentioned. Not having much luck either - which I think speaks volumes. But I am not giving up. I have been trying to poke around in as much "Innovation" literature that I can - at least the part that connects with the human experience side of it. So I am probing my personal "Innovation network" to see where NextD fits in.

All of this learning will take time. I will let others continue the conversation until I digest it all more.

I would recommend 1 thing for the IA Community to consider: invite someone from the NextDesign Leadership Institute to speak at the 2008 IA Summit (Miami, Florida, USA, April 10-14). We have a history of giving our biggest critics a voice at our main event - Mark Hurst and Mark Bernstein are just 2 examples. Time to find our long-lost twins.

IA Summit report on what matters

Did not have any energy to blog during the IA Summit. Have lots of notes to go thru and share. But I want to do 1 quick posting on the one part of the conference that matters most.

The people who are more than just colleagues and professional contacts.

My highlights:

  • Argus family (the bonds are as strong as ever)
  • Being mentioned in Jess's emotional 5-minute madness. I am a very proud "older brother."
  • Being there to help Lou with his UX Zeitgeist demo and discussion. Worked together seemlessly like old times.
  • Kent State crew
  • Brian and Lincoln, two IBMers who hunted me down to introduce themselves
  • The folks who brought their kids, reminding us what matters more than work

And of course, seeing folks I had not seen in a year. And meeting new people.

I will report on the less important stuff later - what was presented, what I learned.

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Quick Nexus wrap-up

I had to leave the Nexus for change conference early today so that I could rest a little before my trip to Vegas for the IA Summit - need some energy to travel. Nexus was a great event. As a fellow IT person said at lunch - "I have learned a lot but I have no idea what it is yet." It will take a while for this intensive 2-days with the leading change methods experts to sink in.

"Get everyone in the same space at the same time" is my over-simplification of what these professionals do every day. The conference was about getting them all in the same physical space, of course, but the conference web site served as that virtual place before and it will support the community afterwards.

Although only a handful of attendees were into the "Web 2.0" thing as an enabler for getting everybody into the same virtual space for conversations, I was excited that most saw the need for better technology adoption by the group as a whole. Unfortunately, there was a missed opportunity for Nexus to hook up with a Web 2.0 talk that was happening on the BGSU campus at the same time:

Technology Trends and Web 2.0, Erick Schonfeld, Business 2.0.

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Nexus for Change

I dipped my toe into the field of organization development last year when I attended a workshop on Management by discovery. Despite being a total outsider (I was among people who had advanced degrees in this), people seemed interested in my stories of how large organizations were adapting to the challenges triggered by the web. It only takes a few examples for people to see how designing a user-centered web site can expose gaps in how the business is organized. And how businesses are changing in order to survive. It is sorta a corollary to Conway's Law:

Organizations which build web sites are constrained to produce information architectures which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations

(Thanks to Steve Portigal for helping me find that Conway article from 1968. I started looking for it 6 months ago. Our local library has it stashed away somewhere, but would not send me a copy - who has time to go visit a library?)

I am going to dip a larger body part into "organization development" in two months. I will be attending Nexus for change, March 22-23, at BGSU. "An unprecedented conference bringing together practitioners, researchers, leaders, activists, and educators to advance participative change methods."

I won't be the only user experience person there. Peter Jones of Redesign Research and fellow UXnet local ambassador in Ohio is presenting.

A few hours after this event is over, I will be getting on a plane for the IA Summit in Las Vegas, so I am hoping I will be able to synthesize something from these worlds.

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Web Science

Related to the IA research agenda from the IA Summit, now comes the Web Science Research Initiative with its plans for "web science" and a web research agenda:

There is...a growing realization among many researchers that a clear research agenda aimed at understanding the current, evolving, and potential Web is needed. ...The Web is an engineered space created through formally specified languages and protocols. However, because humans are the creators of Web pages and links between them, their interactions form emergent patterns in the Web at a macroscopic scale. These human interactions are, in turn, governed by social conventions and laws. Web science, therefore, must be inherently interdisciplinary; its goal is to both understand the growth of the Web and to create approaches that allow new powerful and more beneficial patterns to occur.

I know, the web is not IA and IA is not the web, but I see many similarities. For example, from Creating a Science of the Web, I see topics that interest me as an information architect:

  • moving from text documents to data resources
  • reuse of information
  • "policy aware" systems

The Framework for Web Science has more about this research agenda. Where would an IA research agenda overlap, where would it differ?

(Josh has more excerpts, links, and his social web design angle.)

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Party like its 1968

I love it when pieces of classic hypertext systems make their way onto the web. Now we have Douglas Engelbart's NLS/Augment making an appearance as HyperScope.

You can learn more about Augment/NLS here:

I was only 3, so I missed the mother of all demos in 1968 where Douglas kicked off interactive computing with NLS.

Boot camp - Faceted navigation

The Taxonomy Boot Camp (November 2-3, 2006, San Jose, CA, USA) includes 2 back-to-back sessions on faceted navigation.

Semi-Automated Creation of Faceted Hierarchies, Marti Hearst, Professor, School of Information, University of California, Berkeley
Faceted navigation for information collections is gaining wide acceptance. However, a considerable impediment to the wider adoption of faceted interfaces is the creation of the faceted hierarchies and the assignments of terms from the hierarchies to the information items. Marti Hearst and her colleague, Emilia Stoica have designed an algorithm called Castanet that semiautomatically generates hierarchical faceted metadata from textual description of items. Using an existing lexical database (such as WordNet), the algorithm carves out a structure that reflects the contents of the target information collection. Learn how the algorithm has been successfully applied to collections as diverse as recipes, biomedical journal titles, and art history image descriptions. The resulting category hierarchies require only small adjustments to achieve intuitive results with good coverage.
Getting the Best of Both: Taxonomies & Faceted Navigation, Tom Reamy, Chief Knowledge Architect, KAPS Group
Faceted navigation has been getting a lot of press, but it is important to understand what facets really are, how facets are different from categories, and how to combine facets and categories to create powerful but easy-to-use information access. The right balance of taxonomies and facets combines the best of browsing and advanced search in ways that users will actually use. This session presents the results of a recent project that combined two standard hierarchical taxonomies and then set up a mechanism for dynamically mapping them across two facet dimensions to enable users to zero in on content faster and easier than with just facets or categories.

I am sure I will not be able to go, but if you do attend, let me know what you learn. It is great to see detailed concepts related to faceted finding, searching and browsing being covered. This is more than just "fun" now.

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IA around the world: September 30 - October 1

The weekend of September 30th and October 1st will be a big one in the Information Architecture world:

  • EuroIA is having its 2nd European summit in Berlin, Germany
  • Oz-IA will be the first "down under" conference/retreat on IA, in Sydney, Australia

Perhaps there could be some sort of video hook-up between them? Or at least some internet conference / live chat during the hours when both sets of attendees are awake and coherent? Using this meeting planner for Berlin and Sydney, the best time appears to be:

  • 9am Saturday morning in Berlin is 5pm Saturday evening in Sydney

The Aussies could end their first day by helping the Europeans kick off their first day.

Depending on how late people would be up (drinking?), there are other possible times. But could the 2 events sync up?

Faculty position at IAKM - Kent State University

Kent State's Information Architecture and Knowledge Management program is looking for another professor. I have hung out with Thomas Froehlich and David Robins at a few IA Summits and enjoy hearing about their program. I have yet to go visit them on the other side of Ohio (but I will soon, I promise). In the spirit of supporting them from the western part of the state, here is their faculty posting.

Kent State University
Assistant Professor Position
Information Architecture and Knowledge Management

In recognition of the significant growth and development of the Master's Program in Information Architecture and Knowledge Management (IAKM), Kent State University has allocated a new tenure-track faculty position at the level of Assistant Professor. The position is available Fall 2006 or January 2007.

The Master's Program in Information Architecture and Knowledge Management is a unique, innovative, interdisciplinary program inaugurated in Fall 2001. It has three concentrations: Information Architecture, Information Use and Knowledge Management. It features a progressive curriculum (PDF) that has been extensively revised for the Fall 2006. The program is a collaborative effort of the Department of Computer Science, the Graduate School of Management, the School of Communication Studies, the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the School of Visual Communication Design, and the School of Library and Information Science. The School of Library and Information Science administers the IAKM program.

Facilities include a state-of-the-art usability lab, fully-digital classrooms with the most current hardware and software, state-of-the-art distance education tools, whether through interactive television or web-based synchronous or asynchronous learning objects, and instructional designer support.

The successful candidate is expected to teach at least three of the required courses in the concentrations of Information Architecture or Information Use. These courses include Information Architecture, Research Methods for Information Architecture, Information and Visual Design, Usability I, Usability II, and User and Task Analysis. Preference will be given to those with educational training and teaching, work (or consulting) and research experience in these or related areas.

Teaching competencies, teaching experience, work experience or research experience or interest are also sought in several of the following areas:

  • Information Architecture
  • Usability Testing or Engineering
  • User Prototyping: Personas, etc.
  • Information Seeking Behavior and the Web
  • Human Information Processing
  • Interaction Design
  • Project Management for Information Architecture or for Usability Testing
  • Document Engineering/Management
  • Content Management Systems

Qualifications include a Masters degree in Information Science, Computer Science or a related field and a completed doctorate or substantial progress toward completion of a doctorate in Information Science, Computer Science or a related field. Experience and/or interest in synchronous or asynchronous digital distance learning is desirable. Nine-month appointment; summer teaching and workshops may be available. Salary is competitive; benefits are excellent. The position is available for the Fall 2006 (though dependent on the needs of the successful candidate, Spring 2007). Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.

To better work with the growing demands of the information economy, Kent State University launched a unique, new college, the College of Communication and Information in July, 2002. It is composed of the School of Communication Studies, the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the School of Library and Information Science (including IAKM), and the School of Visual Communication Design. Ohio is a recognized leader in information networks and has undertaken major funding commitments to use information technologies to promote economic development.

Applicants should submit a letter of application, resume, copies of transcripts from all colleges and universities attended (official transcripts will be required in the event of employment), and names of at least three references to:

Prof. Thomas J. Froehlich, Ph.D.
Chair, Search Committee
Information Architecture and Knowledge Management
Kent State University
P.O. Box 5190
Kent, Ohio 44242-0001
Phone: (330) 672-2782
Fax: (330) 672-7965

Kent State University supports equal opportunity, affirmative action and diversity in education and employment. Applications from minority group members and women are encouraged.

IA Research and Practice

Karl Fast's The Confluence of Research and Practice in Information Architecture is a recap of IA and research from the summit. If you were at the panel discussion you will remember Karl as the guy in the audience who had more / better stuff to say than those of us on the panel.

I like his point about the difference between researchers and academics, and I look forward to the 2007 Summit.

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