March 24, 2002

Metaphor of Attraction

Beginning with a discussion with Stewart on Peterme and the encouragement of Lane in another discussion to look for a metaphor other than navigation that could better explain what we do on the Web. Seeing Stewart walk by at SXSW after I had seen some of Josh Davis visual plays I combined the discussion with Stewart with the magnetic attraction Josh showed, which began my thinking about a metaphor of attraction. Magnetism seems like what happens when we put a search term in Google, it attracts information that is draw to the term on to your screen.

Come see where else this metaphor can go in this poorly written for draft of the metaphor of attraction. This is posted to begin a collaboration to dig back and move forward, if that is where this is to go. The writing will improve and the ideas will jell into a better presentation over the next few weeks.



Posted Comments

Yes, this is a draft, as I know there are going to be some incomprehensible sentences and poor thought structures as this is an extended brain dump. The finished product is weeks away.

This was posted to get feedback early and allow others to collaborate and input. In a sense this is an open source thought process, the thoughts can be used as long as they are attributed and new ideas added back to the pile. All those adding become "contributors".

The next step involves the "needs" being addressed and a background lit search performed. The next step is to clean up the current work and add some historical research.

Thomas, I'm not convinced. There's nothing here that the "scent of information" theory doesn't explain using, to me, a simpler metaphor.

You say towards the end: "Information grouping does not provide distinct scents, but rather commingles scents, which can mask the scent." That just sounds like bad design, not a failure of the idea of "Scent" altogether. Surely "attracted" information would also be commingled in some way? How would the contents of the "cloud" of information not be comingled?

A couple of other points:
If you're going to abandon the spatial metaphor, you have to do it absolutely, or else clearly state why you've retained some concepts from it. It's quite hard to *not* write about essentially spatial things like: "structure".

Sentences like "...that the Internet is a *far reaching* conduit that allows users with various frames of reference *coming to* their digital presence for the organization's information or product" (work on that sentence anyway--much too convoluted) use words ("far reaching") that are *inherently spatial.* Slipping back into a spatial metaphor, even on trivial things like this, weakens the argument. Even short phrases like "the user is at the center..." damage the overall idea by putting us right back into the spatial metaphor.

There seem to be several meanings attatched to "attraction": 1) stuff is attracted like filings to a magnet, information is drawn to a user 2) People are attracted to each other based on interest.

These two are quite different--not least because it's not terrible user-centered to describe a computational process of information filtering in the same terms that you describe a human relationship.

This term "setting an attraction" needs a much much clearer definition. Don't forget that the word "set" is the most ambigious in English with something like 122 meanings. Perhaps a specific description of an interface that controls "setting attraction" would help. How is it different than a search box? Or another standard interface convention?

Also, dumb grammer things:
1). When you write "a user will request information of interest to them" it should be "a user will request information of interest to him or her." "User" is obviously singluar--and so the pronoun must be. A nice technique is to alternate between using "he" and "she" in your examples.
2) Be careful of confusing "it's" with "its." Seems dumb, but there are many IAs with backgrounds in writing that see this kind of thing as unforgivable sloppiness in writing.
3) Overall, I'd suggest reading your writing out loud to yourself--there are some very very awkward sentences that probably can be stated more simply. Often, reading aloud can catch these easily. Sometimes you can write a clearer sentence by speaking it aloud first, since speaking complex clauses often feels uncomfortable.

Wow, your comment field stripped all my paragraph breaks. Now it looks like a crazy rant.

That is very helpful Andrew and exactly the type of critisism I have been looking for. Thanks.

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