I was sadly unable to attend the Italian IA Summit again this year, but I agreed to make some introductory remarks via Skype. This was done at midnight my time last week, as Thursday turned into Friday. In Pisa, it was 8 am (more or less) and the conference was just getting started. I could feel the excitement and energy behind the scenes as we got the technology sorted out.
Andrea Resmini, an organizer of the conference and a fellow board member of the Information Architecture Institute managed to “bootleg” the talk in an oblique black and white format. It’s cut off a little at the beginning and seems to run into a glitch around the 5:12 mark, but until some better recording materializes, this murky artifact is the only surviving record of my talk, which I called “Why I Am an Information Architect”:
In the talk, I discussed my personal history and relationship with the concept of IA and the role of the information architect and celebrated what I view as a maturation process and reintegration of various strains of information architecture thinking (the relationship between built architecture and information, the mapping of information systems and relationship, visual thinking, information design, and of course the IA aspects of user experience design) into a coherent disciplinary whole.
When I first started curating the Yahoo! Design Pattern Library, I put “tags” near the top of my list of user interaction patterns to investigate. By that time, Yahoo! had already acquired several pioneers in the tagging realm, Flickr and Delicious, and there were some subtle distinctions in how they implemented the experience.
We got down in the weeds on these and did a lot of research, ultimately settled on offering high-level guidance, and finished the patterns in the course of writing the social patterns book, where we filed tagging under the group of patterns known as Collecting, under Social Objects.
Tagging and other forms of collecting are also an example of social design patterns that mimic game dynamics. Collecting objects is a core “easy fun” activity in many games, and similarly these extremely lightweight social interactions around gathering or tagging objects enable a form of self-interested behavior that creates aggregate value and potentially richer forms of engagement.
Our three new tagging patterns are Tag an Object, Find with Tags, and the somewhat controversial Tag Cloud, which some people view as an “anti-pattern.” Drop by, check them out, and let us know if we can make them any better.
Gavin Bell draws on his extensive experience to offer a well structured guide to adding community elements to a website or application. His book will help any professional planning a social strategy, designing a set of social features, determining the types of relationships to foster among users, and even determining how best to manage change in an existing site or online structure.
Bell covers a wide gamut of issues that a site planner will need to consider, from developing the data schema for people, relationships, and objects; to how best to expose APIs to third-party developers; to the process of rolling out a new product or feature. Anyone developing a social website or app should keep this book handy throughout the process.
Bell and I share a publisher and our titles cover some similar issues. When I first picked up Bell’s finished book I gritted my teeth with envy. As I quickly devoured the book, though, I was relieved (or, at least I convinced myself) that our books are complementary and are each useful in their own way.
If you’re looking for one book to guide you through the entire process, from conception to launch and into the life of a social web application, then this is the book for you.
This week we’ve begun a two-week-long interview in the Well’s public Inkwell conference. The interview is being led by Jon Lebkowsky my friend and longtime co-host of the Well’s blog conference.
The cool thing about these interviews is that because they take two weeks and are published “live” they can cover a lot of interesting tangents, and so far Jon (along with Well denizens who’ve read the book, such as Brian Dear) has been asking me great, probing questions.
Gail Williams, an online community expert in her own right, has already quoted one of my throwaway lines:
“a filing cabinet has a user interface but a telephone is a social interface”
Even if you aren’t a member of the Well (and why aren’t you?), you can submit questions for the interview via [an email address that I'll track down and post here pronto].