Information Design: The Understanding Discipline

Yet another article presenting yet another definition of information design. Perhaps the most interesting part of which is the lively discussion that follows.
But within the article there are some valuable, if somewhat basic, points:
“Remember that information only has value when it is successfully communicated. If it cannot be accessed or understood it does not have value.”
I would change that to say that data has no value until it is designed and it’s value is enhanced when successfully presented within the context.
“Understand the information domain. … context is critical to providing strong information solutions. … Participants are influenced by history, by the market and by cultural factors.”
Yes most certainly but as well what gives me certain pause in pursuing information design more aggressively within the definition I support in my place of work is the fact that you must become quite intimate with the data. You must thoroughly understand the data being represented. Unfortunately technical elements of biotechnology are far removed from my life experience.
In terms of a definition of information design as a great integrator or an umbrella term for all design…. I cannot agree. I much prefer the mantle introduced in the discussion that of product design. We are creating a product, so lets call it that, of which information design is but one component needed to create it. I much prefer to form teams around the type of product being developed filled with people that have the competencies required to successfully complete the project. The term product design, when used to describe something like a website elicits some confusion at first but when explained becomes easily understood. Building a product is something that most business people here can understand – building great information design is not.
Link:Information Design: The Understanding Discipline

The Power of Process, The Perils of Process

“The power of a well-defined process is the creation of order amidst chaos. When it works, it can be like a fine-tuned machine, and our design work is better for it.
On the flip side, problems happen when people get complacent about the structure they are working within. Expanding phases excessively, becoming rigid about the order or duration of each phase, or even over-documenting the elements within a phase can backfire on a team. There are also problems when one team decides to work in a totally different way than another within the same group. Suddenly, no one knows what to expect, what the level of thinking or quality of the product will be, and internal fighting over whose process is best ensues.”
Link: The Power of Process, The Perils of Process

Music as a Metaphor for Thesis Writing

“In the final throws of writing a doctoral thesis the struggle was to find a structure for presenting the vast amounts of literature that had to be integrated and synthesised to form a coherent whole and linking psychology and music, the basis for my thesis. As a systems theorist and adherent to social constructionist views, the metaphor plays an important role in constructing realities, and the framework that came to mind for structuring and presenting my thesis was that of the concerto from the Western classical music genre. In this paper I will explain how this metaphor was used for organising and structuring my research and presenting a systems paradigm as a coherent whole.”
Link: Music as a Metaphor for Thesis Writing

Weblogs for corporate knowledge sharing and management

I’m still giving considerable thought to weblogs as so much has changed since
I first was so excited about this concept. For me weblogs comprise a large part of my interaction with the Internet and it has become an indespensible tool for research, learning, sharing and convenient means for self expression.
Weblogs use the web for what it is good for – connecting and interacting.
For the longest time weblogs have been a closely held secret of mine on how to find information on the web. Google is great and very effective but imagine for a moment that you have this network of people who you share common interests with all looking for information on these same topics, all sharing what they found, all adding there own perspective and you see that the possibilities for research and learning are far more promising than simply relying on Googles search algorythms. All these human editors and researchers networked together actively, whether they know it or not, working towards the same goal – acquiring knowledge. Witnessing these sites connect together
into a singled threaded conversation, across cultures, across experiences, and across continents is absolutely amazing.
I could have really used this ability when I was a student of music. Instead I had to travel to conferences, competitions, and hang out in smokey bars all to acquire a minuteamount of information as compared to what is available to me now.

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RSS simplifies the reading of large numbers of weblogs

The amount of information avaliable from weblogs is incredible. How can a user keep track of it all? If you rely on an increasingly large number of weblogs it seems impossible to stay in touch with more than a hand full each day. Fortunately, a solution exists to simplify the process of reading large numbers of blogs: RSS (rich (or RDF) site summary).
Some articles detailing RSS/syndication and aggregators:
“Content developers make their RSS files available by placing them on their web server. In this way, RSS


I’m pretty much interested in any device that allows for interaction with or creation of information in a usable way. This is especially true if it in anyway can intersect with the web. So it’s unfortunate that of late my schedule at work and school hasn’t allowed me to keep up with all the latest cool info. artifacts that have been appearing.
I was involved with weblogs very early – now it has exploded and has become mainstream (even in Taiwan); I love my wap account and sms but that is old news for kids here; I tried mobile pdas but never could use them for more than reading news – who wants to read news on a pda?; my house in Hsinchu has become a public wireless access point – but it’s a secret; and now I am convinced that mobile “blogging” is going to a great great thing – but I am late to this party as well. Well I am anxious to catch up with this new trend.
So what is mobile blogging or “moblogging’? From the IMC website, “Moblogging is a blanket term that covers a variety of related practices. At its simplest, moblogging (from “mobile web logging”) is merely the use of a phone or other mobile device to publish content to the World Wide Web, whether that content be text, images, media files, or some combination of the above.
Location-specific content goes one step further – it relates and connects to the specific physical place where it was created and published. This permits any particular set of real-world coordinated to be “tagged” with relevant information, from instant restaurant reviews to ski-slope hazard warnings to contextual jokes.”
Apparently the term moblogging was first termed by Adam Greenfield back in November of 2002.
Unfortunately, despite being in existence for sometime there are not an abundance of tools that allow for easy interfacing with my chosen content management system, MoveableType. In fact there do not seem to be a great deal of tools at all. Most of the tools available use email as the posting mechanism. Here are the tools that I have identified to have the greatest chance of success with my set-up and needs:
Wapblogger is a WAP interface to popular weblog tools Blogger ,LiveJournal and any other weblog-style tool supporting the XML-RPC Blogger API. Post to your weblogs with a WAP enabled cell phone!”
Pop2blog was created specifically out of a desire to take the jpeg images which the Danger Hiptop (aka T-Mobile Sidekick ) is able to capture and email and post them as entries in a MovableType weblog. It can be seen in use on this site’s main blog page . Because it makes use of MovableType’s XML-RPC, it should be easy to adapt this script to work with any weblog backend that uses the Blogger API. ”
Mfop2 allows you to moblog without setting up any special scripts on your own mail server. To use Mfop2, all you have to do is register some of your blog details and you will be able to post to your blog from your mobile by emailing your blog entry with images attached to”
I much prefer to install something on my own server instead of using a “free” or trial service. The scripts themselves that are available are quite easy to configure and install but unfortunately all require which extra CPAN modules which seem to be causing me some problems. It may require a more technical mind than mine to get this up and running.
All this makes for a great new product — software accessible from a mobile device and installable on your own server with a minimum of fuss. Either as a compliment to or a replacement for moveabletype.

Automated music critic

Looking for a second opinion on my previous recommendation of The Bad Plus? Look no further than the Automated Music Critic for a review of this band and of your favourites. Here is the review I got for The Bad Plus:
“What do I think about These Are The Vistas by The Bad Plus? I don’t think you are going to like this…
The chorus of Smells Like Teen Spirit will haunt me for years to come, sounding as it does like a drunk, urine soaked, pus stained tramp’s idea of a catchy tune that people will donate all their spare change to stop hearing. If you’ve just bought These Are The Vistas, take my advice and get a big black marker and scrawl all over track five, 1972 Bronze Medalist *before* you play it. If you’ve already played it, you no doubt know all about the gentle sound of a boil on backside of Black Lace’s back catalogue it produces from your speakers. The sound of the little ticking noise that maggots make as they feed is nothing compared to the dire Heart Of Glass.
Silence Is The Question reminds me of a coked-up Andrew Lloyd-Webber writing a never-ending stream of musical obscenities dribbling through my ears and out onto the carpet. I wish it wouldn’t.
In fact, I’m scared The Bad Plus will reproduce and foist a new generation of crud on us.”
Link: Automated Music Critic

The Bad Plus

You really must check these guys out. Their style certainly isn’t timeless but their inventiveness will leave a smile on your face.
“The Bad Plus is comprised of bassist Reid Anderson, pianist Ethan Iverson, and drummer David King, three post-modern jazz iconoclasts who combine keen wit, dynamic musical contrasts, and an original sensibility in what’s been called “the loudest piano trio ever.” Drawing inspiration from the worlds of dance, pop, and rock, The Bad Plus gracefully avoid the stigma of “fusion,” instead deconstructing their influences in a steadfastly pure jazz idiom all their own.
Link: The Bad Plus
Buy: These are the Vistas
Buy: Motel

Weblogs as a good example of information design

“We are being pummeled by a deluge of data and unless we create time and spaces in which to reflect, we will be left with only our reactions. I strongly believe in the power of weblogs to transform both writers and readers from “audience” to “public” and from “consumer” to “creator.” Weblogs are no panacea for the crippling effects of a media-saturated culture, but I believe they are one antidote.”
rebecca blood
september 2000

Are you a workaholic?

“If you are spending a lot of hours working, is it passion or workaholism that’s driving you? Chang, author of The Passion Plan, says that if your work is motivated by guilt, other’s people’s messages, or the desire to avoid doing something else, then it’s workaholism. Other signs include feeling emotionally and physically drained at the end of the day and not having a good work/personal life balance.
“Passion leads to pleasure. Workaholism leads to burnout,” says Lisa Stone, President of Fit for 2, Inc. When you discover the work that fuels your passions, the resulting energy and fulfillment will tell you you’ve hit the mark.” Accredited to Jugglezine.
Link: Passionate or Work Addicted?

On Men

From Daring Fireball. “Less markup. Less scripting. Fewer navigation elements. Fewer colors. Fewer graphics. Omit needless words. This is how you make a good web site. I know this for a fact.
Such design goals, however worthy, are notoriously difficult to sell to clients. A good web site costs a lot of money, and for a lot of money, most clients want a lot of web site. Lots of scripts. Lots of graphics. Lots of needless words.”
“The web is where independents shine. Independent web sites tend to look better and are better produced. Their URLs are even more readable. This isn

Teams within an IT department

Whenever I finish a project (certainly large ones) I usually spend some time analysing my own failures and successes, and any problems I may have encountered within the team I might be working with. In the past we would take this personal analysis and share it within the team in the hope that the next project could improve upon the last.
Having just finished a rather long agonizing project I have been going through this same process, albeit unfortunately alone.
One of the things I have been doing is reviewing some basic literature about IT teams. They don’t directly relate to the type of people I work with on a day to day basis but they provide some interesting fundamental lessons.
“The team needs a dedicated project room to conduct all meetings and display all project artifacts. The room should have several large whiteboards and be equipped with a high quality conference phone. It must be dedicated for the duration of the project, including its retrospective. The room should openly display any artifact that is needed by the team. Over the years I

Technology Intoxication

A quote sourced from Richard Saul Wurman’s, Information Anxiety 2.
The symptoms of a Technologically Intoxicated Zone are:
1. We favor the quick fix, from religion to nitrition.
2. We fear and worship technology.
3. We blur the distinction between real and fake.
4. We accept violence as normal.
5. We love technology as a toy.
We Live our lives distanced and distracted.
-John Naisbitt, High Tech High Touch: Technology and Our Search for Meaning

Ten Commandments of Interactivity

  1. Interfaces and Content Should Encourage and Reward Movement
  2. Participant’s Actions Elicit an Immediate and Identifiable Response
    No participant should ever wonder. ” Am I controlling this, or not?”
  3. No Instructions Allowed
    Learning to “work” the interactive zones must be intuitive and simple. There should be adequate feedback for the participants to intuit if they are interacting “correctly” or “incorrectly”.
  4. People Do Not Need To Be Experts to Participate
  5. No Thinking Allowed
    Euphoria occurs when participants get lost in the moment, focusing on their intuitive natures.
  6. Actions Receive Aesthetically Coherent Responses
    Participants should navigate through and affect several “good” choices – choices that are visually pleasing and sound musical to the average ear.
  7. Keep it Simple, Immediate, and Fun
  8. Responsiveness is More Important then Resolution
    In computer graphics, this translates to “greater speed is better than polygons.” A simple visual object that reacts quickly to participants’ input is better than a complex visual object that reacts too slowly.
  9. Think Modularly
    Everything is a component.
  10. Observe and Learn
    Let people try it and watch what they do. They will almost always interact in ways one never expected.

Quoted from: “The Interactive Dance Club: Avoiding Chaos in a Multi-Participant Environment” by Ryan Ulyate and David Bianciardi which appeared in the Computer Music Journal Vol. 26, No. 3.

Get a clue

Some quotes from the Cluetrain Manifesto a book made popular during those heady dot com days. It now seems so cliche but in Taiwan it’s probably still quite new.
“Most corporations, on the other hand, only know how to talk in the soothing, humorless monotone of the mission statement, marketing brochure, and your-call-is-important-to-us busy signal. Same old tone, same old lies. No wonder networked markets have no respect for companies unable or unwilling to speak as they do.
But learning to speak in a human voice is not some trick, nor will corporations convince us they are human with lip service about “listening to customers.” They will only sound human when they empower real human beings to speak on their behalf. ”
Some which appear particularly relevant here:
Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.
Org charts worked in an older economy where plans could be fully understood from atop steep management pyramids and detailed work orders could be handed down from on high.
Today, the org chart is hyperlinked, not hierarchical. Respect for hands-on knowledge wins over respect for abstract authority.
Command-and-control management styles both derive from and reinforce bureaucracy, power tripping and an overall culture of paranoia.
Paranoia kills conversation. That’s its point. But lack of open conversation kills companies
Link to the 95 thesis: the cluetrain manifesto

Pandora’s Portal

“It begins with a seductive whisper into the ear of an IT manager.
Wouldn’t you like to control the chaos that is your intranet? Haven’t you dreamed of providing unified access to all corporate knowledge? Come with me. I have the answer. Right here in this tiny box.
Power. Knowledge. Groovy Gadgets. How could any mortal resist this techno-utopia? Maybe just a peek. A pilot project. What harm could it possibly do?
In the true spirit of vicarious curiosity, let’s focus on the three most interesting evils befalling the portal-peeking IT manager.
1. Definition
2. Knowledge Management
3. Information Architecture”
Link: Pandora’s Portal