August 29, 2002

Polar Bear Arrives

A great day here, the O'Reilly's 2nd edition of Information Architecture arrived today. I have only perused it lightly, but will spend a little more time with it in the next few days. It looks like Lou and Peter really knocked themselves out. I have two other books that I am really enjoying and will write reviews of in the near future: the wonderful Constructing Accessible Web Sites and Usability: The Site Speaks for itself, which is great for learning how to think about making usable sites and not just following commandments from guru that do not apply to all situations.
August 28, 2002

Home sweat Home, really

In less than two days we will be home owners. We are very excited and are now streching and limbering up as we plan to start updating outlets, pulling panelling in the basement, and pulling ivy from the yard beginning day one. There will be much to get done by the end of September when we move in. We have already dealt with the flakey contractors who have not made it to appointments for estimates the first or rescheduled times. Being who we are we have matrix running for products and services and have timelines started. Now if it will all come together.

I mentioned to Jeff and Bryan that we had a Tiki bar in the basement, but it may have a short life as it sits under the stairs and may become a server closet. Yes, they threatened me, but it could have been the burbon.

This new endevour has brough two new categories to track "home" and "gardening".

August 27, 2002

Mobile info

It took $5.29 for 5 minutes on an internet kiosk to get to the right Vision.

Call it gadget issues or information problems, but I really needed access to info stored in an e-mail this evening. I was going to meet friends at a happy hour at Visions in DC. The problem was it was not Visions theater, but International Visions at 2629 Connecticuit, NW. I knew of Visions the cinema/bar/restaurant, but not the gallery. I checked the information in an e-mail before leaving and verified Visions on Connecticuit and went to the Visions just off Conn. I was wrong and did not print out the e-mail. I eventually found a Internet kiosk and paid $5.29 for a half hour to dig out the e-mail an figure out I am 10 blocks and a bridge away from the right place. Eventually I made it and had a great time.

My solution is to sent the pertinent information in a text message to my phone or write it in my Palm. Better yet do both. I synch my Palm once a day and I could set an e-mail address that only that device would get. This would allow me to not have to pull all my e-mail onto my Palm and only that which I really wanted. Days like today would require much more forethought or just send a snippet to the phone.

All this gets back to having the information you need at your fingertips when you want or need it. It is that roughly magnetized cloud of information that I want to follow me.

Enjoying Possession

We saw Posession this afternoon and enjoyed it very much. The scenery and story were very enjoyable, a little predictable, but good none the less. I would encourage you to see the movie, but not in a theater that has an action flick playing in the next multiplex slot.

Apache 2.0 builds for OS X

Hmmm... Yesterday I was looking at Apache and the other two pieces of the triumvirate PHP and MySQL. Today I ran across what could be an improved option, Server Logistics' Apache 2.0 along with Perl, PHP, MySQL, and Postgres. Apache 2.0 provides multithreading and other improvements to the incredibly stable and supreme Web server All of this is set to build and run on Mac OX 10.
August 24, 2002

One bad switch story

This past week I ran across Salon's Mac switcher remose story about an Episcopal priest who had purchased a Mac and found the change over was rather difficult. For those switching to a new OS there is a learning curve. I had some of the same difficulties with keyboard differences and learning new keystroke shortcuts. I did get MS Office right away to ease that transition. I have found everything else I have done on the Mac to be a much better experience than anything on the Window's side of the world. I also love the lack of the flood of serious security holes from that other platform. Getting over the hurdle, which is a rather low hurdle for most people, I and many others have never been happier. The key is easing the transition a little more. I know of some things on the horizon that could help with this transition.

Jaguar at night

Since I did not go to the Jaguar release gatherings I have been reading the O'Reilly's James Duncan Davidson discussion of the Palo Alto release party, more stories and photos from Palo Alto, and MacCentral's great coverage and discussion boards.

Once I pickup and load Jaguar I will be going to Mark's trove of Jaguar links, the ones in the Hands-on reports and the Hard-core geek section will be top on my list.

Mac server on a laptop

I did not go to the OS X 10.2 Launch last night (I was having a wonderful time at Fred and Paula's birthday gathering), but I may be picking up Jaguar shortly. When I do so I will revert back to the base Apache build in OS X. After this it will on to O"Reilly Net's Setting up a Site Server article and Marc Liyange pages. It seems when I upgraded the base Apache build on OS X the PHP builds from Liyange were not running properly as they are based on the default builds from OS X.
August 22, 2002

OS X Launch

I am strongly considering hitting the local Apple store tomorrow evening for the 10:20 release party for OS X 10.2. I would have never thought of going to a Widows release. I did go to a relase of MS Office and was copletely unimpressed. I have not met a Mac user I did not like. Now with UNIX in the underpinnings the geeks have entered the fun, which seems to bring together a crowd I really like: creative, smart, geeky.
August 21, 2002

New skin for xBlog

xBlog from Xplane redesigns. The change is more sparse and simple, which leads to an easier read, at least I think. There have been a great resource for links, but in the last few months it has really slowed down. It looks like it could be worth checking a few times a week.
August 19, 2002

iPhone possible

The NY Times discusses the possibility of an Apple iPhone. The signs are in Apples upgrage to their OS X (10.2) that indicate a PDA/phone could be in the works. If this is so I really would like it combined with much of what is in the iPod. Many Gigs of music or other data, great usability, but with a better screen with color and I an there. Getting the sucker to synch with AvantGo, Vindigo, etc. would get me on board in a heart beat. I love my Palm/HandSpring, but from the sounds of the NYTimes article that does not seem to likely, bummer. I am enjoying my mobile phone with Internet access and text messaging, which I use on a regular basis (reading on a tiny phone screen is not the greatest experience, but it is better than not having great resources at your finder tips. [hat tip Damien]
August 18, 2002

Hierarchy of Information Needs

Lou discusses the relationship between information architecture and technology, which sparked the following brain dump on my part:

This subject of information and technology has been of interest with me for quite sometime. The term "IT" has been vastly dominated by the technology portion of the term. Oddly, in organizations that have Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and with out Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) the CIOs role is largely focused on technology to serve the information (this is fine), but the stress has been technological solutions. As nearly all of us in the IT field know, the technical solutions are far from perfect (I know nothing is life is perfect) and many times require reworking business processes to take advantage of the technologies best traits. This is much akin to Keith's point about technology companies selling products and not whole solutions.

In my work I came to it from the information and communication side many years ago and along with it I married the technology side, as it was a wonderful pairing with great promise. Over the years I have heard more than anybody's fair share of, "we don't have to worry about knowing the information, we can code around it". This is the point, I learned when you pull in the reins on the technical team. This is what drew me deeper into the realm of the technical side.

If we look at information from the communication viewpoint and what role the information will play as it transfers information to humans and to other machines for use and also reuse. We have to understand the information as its basic levels, similar to Maslow's "Hierarchy of Needs". What are the human elements thatare intended, i.e. what purpose does the information serve? What properties does the information need in order to transmit this information for best use? If the information is corporate sales trends and assessing and tacking variables that impact these trends, then we have to identify the human audiences that will be using this information. The basic level of "Information Need" is do we have the proper data or information to be able to create this type of report. Do we have the information types to provide usable information for the various audiences and do we understand the vocabulary of these audiences (vocabulary in this sense can be textual and visual as some audiences may best understand the information in charts and graphs, while others will best understand textual quantitative indicators). Do we have the basics to begin building this content, which will be tied to a technological question as to how the data and information is captured and stored? Once we can answer yes to these information, human, and technical questions we can move up the "Information Needs” hierarchy. It is also at this point that we know we can publish some information to have some folks make use of it, but we know the use of the information at this point will be far from optimal and the information may not be used in its proper method.

The next level would be questions of information use. We have established we have the data and content to build the information, but how will the information be used and who/what will be using the information. These questions will help shape the information structures and the medium(s) used to convey the information. The information may require different vocabularies that need to be established or used so the different audiences can best understand and make use of the information. What is the environment that the information will be used in and in what context? When these answers are established, only then can the technology to be used for the varying mediums be established. This level gives a great level certainty that the information and its use will be effective.

Far too often the technology is chosen with out asking these questions and the medium is used is driven by the technologies limitations, which limits the information's use and efficiency. Many organizations found that their reliance on storing all information in Adobe Acrobat did not fit their efficient information needs. Acrobat works best for replicating print versions of information and has other properties that work passably, like searching the text, providing information that is accessible to those that are handicapped, quickly accessing sections of that information over a network connection, etc. Many corporations found it was best or even desired to not store their information in Acrobat, but to offer the information in Acrobat as an output of another information storage methods that provided far greater information use and reuse (this does not apply to every organization as their are some organizations that make proper and efficient use of Acrobat and it serves that organization perfectly). These organizations came to the conclusion that the information was the primary importance and the information and its use should drive the technology.

The next step is to determine how the information can be optimized to take advantage of the mediums being used. This will allow the information to have the most impact. As the medium and technologies have been chosen to best present the information, at this point there are steps that can be taken to improve the marriage between the medium and the information. For example, we know that one of the mediums for the information will be Web pages; the information will need to be structured in a manner that takes advantage of the possibilities with that medium. The Web browser gives us the ability to present textual information and charts together, while providing relatively easy access to more detailed information and/or an interactive media presentation that permits the user to see the charts change over time based on the selection of these different variables (done with Flash, DHTML, etc.). Similar information could be offered in a PDF of the printed report that would print on 8.5 by 11 inch paper and one for A4 paper (the international standard paper size).

The last phase it validating and testing the information dissemination. We continually need to test to ensure we have identified all the audiences that are using the information, we are capturing all the data and information is required and makes sense to have for the information's use, we are capturing and storing the information in a means that is efficient for our needs to use the information, we are providing the audiences the information in a means that is most usable and efficient for them, and the information is being found and used.

This Information Needs hierarchy allows the marriage of technology to information where and when it makes sense. This Information Needs seems to be the basis for the user centered design, information architecture, knowledge management, experience design, etc. There is an understanding of the balance that is required between the creators of the information; the information itself; the technology to capture, store, process, and present the information; and the users of the information.

In the past few years the technology and not the information nor the user of the information were the focal points. Money has been spent on technologies that have failed the purchasers and the technology and the whole of the information technology industry gets blamed. There is a great need for people that are willing to use their minds to create the foundation for information, its use, and the technologies that can help make this more efficient. The balance and the steps in the proper order must be there to give information and technology a chance.

August 17, 2002

Interface and the customer

Adam Greenfield wrote a great article in Losing (inter)face: Customer experience and its discontents. This is a wonderful correlation and has sparked quite a great perspective on interface.

Communication relies on a transfer of information. I have been going through battles with the UPS driver lately and it is all based on that UPS sticky note that is your communication with your driver and the package you hope will arrive. This week a driver left a blank sticky, which UPS customer service stated was not possible, funny because I have it. The driver did not return the following day. The UPS site fails when the driver does not do their part and customer service can not perform properly when the commication fails. Information needs a transaction vehicle, breaking this transaction can lead to a breakdown in trust.

August 15, 2002

Close call

The vacation was nearly much tougher. Last Thursday I was walking to get my morning coffee and as I went to cross a street walking down Woodmont a Beemer wizzed around the corner and I stepped out carefully making sure the car behind him was going to stop and let me cross. The car stopped and as I got in front of it I heard loud screaching of brakes, a thud and plastic shatter just as I felt a strong rush of air push across the hair on my legs. I looked down and saw the bumper as it was beginning to tease the hair on my left leg and I jumped back. The car kept coming for another foot or so. The air I felt on my leg was the air from the trunk of the Acrua as a large delivery truck collapsed it. It is a nasty corner for pedestians where I make my turn on mornings I drive into work. The strangest thing about the whole incident was I did not get the shakes or any adrenaline rush. Yes, I waited for the police woman to arrive and be a witness.

Found it in the paper

I learned another thing on vacation, The New York Times is a great paper. Yes, the offers great news and all the content, but the actual paper is a great asset. I spent this past week reading the paper version of the Times and found great stories that informed and even entertained in each day's paper. I never see this in the digital version as it is not as easy to flip through the digital pages as it is the paper version. The Web version groups the information by like kind, but finding the nuggets is not as easy. I usually read the highlights using AvantGo, which may limit my closeness ot the nuggets I found I really miss. I subscribed to the paper version for years, but thought I found the digital version more streamlined, but now I realize what would make my morning coffee better.
August 14, 2002

Ah vacation

It is good to be home, well I wish I was still at the shore. We had a great time in Spring Lake, New Jersey staying at the Normandy Inn, as we always do. I lost a watch and two left contacts in the Atlantic Ocean, but we found some new great places. There are a couple new ice cream places in Spring Lake, iscream and Sunday Times are great new additions. We also found a great restraunt in Asbury Park, Moonstruck (it used to be in Ocean Grove and moved to a great larger space) the waitstaff was great as was the atmosphere, but the food was amazing. Joy had honey mustard pork chops with garlic mashed potatoes and I had salmon with a spicy sweet Thai sauce over brown rice. Both were extremely good. We also went to our favorites Spring Lake Gourmet Pizza, Kleins Seafood Cafe in Belmar, and to Strollo's Italian Ice in Belmar. We had lunch in the Cucina Cafe, which always has great salads, other midday snacks, and brings in awesome piniole cookies from Brooklyn. We also took a trip up to Pennington and Princeton to visit friends, which was another nice diversion.

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