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thoughts and observations about design, information architecture and design history
Friday 05|25|01

Just discovered a new list for your reading pleasure. If you are interested in Information Design, then this should be added to your collection. The Information Design Cafe list comes out of the Netherlands and the discussion topics are of high quality. Semiotics, Pattern Language, History of Information Design and other heady stuff are some of the recently discussed topics. Makes a good supplement to these other IA/Design/UI topical lists: asis&t SIGIA-L , CHI-WEB, AIGA Advance for Design.

Posted by erin at 04:28 PM | in Sites of Note :: | Link

Thursday 05|24|01
Revisiting the Past

I started this column after attending the AIGA Looking Closer conference on Design History and Design Criticism back in February of this year. The AIGA has just recently posted notes from the conference, PDF files of some of the presentations as well as recommended readings, design history archive collections and suggested curricula for educators. I highly recommend taking a look at Jeremy Aynsley's presentation - presented as a PDF - if you are interested in German Graphic Design from 1890-1945. In addition to the notes, each presenter has contributed a reading list. Good stuff.

Posted by erin at 09:37 PM | in Conference Review :: | Link

Wednesday 05|23|01
Interesting Research Groups at Microsoft

I have recently come across a couple of interesting groups that are part of the Microsoft Research programs. The Social Computing Group explores the social aspects of multi-user computer systems. The work includes multi-user social applications, social interaction, virtual worlds, trust and reputation, collaboration, and story telling. Pretty interesting stuff with info about the history of the group, examples and explanation of current projects and links to associated articles, presentations and papers. I think some of this is very relevant when researching how people behave within community spaces.

Another interesting group in Microsoft Research is the Collaborative and Multimedia Systems research group. These people are researching and exploring aspects of online communication, collaboration, and communities and how technology can improve and enable better access and involvement. Again links to papers, projects and other material is available here. I am most specifically interested in the work they are doing around this topic:

"Social Analysis of Online Communities: Interfaces to social cyberspaces, such as discussion boards, email lists and chat rooms, present limited information about the social context of the interactions they host. Basic social cues about the size and nature of groups, reputations of individuals and quantity and quality of their contributions are all missing. Discovery, navigation and self-regulation are growing challenges as the size and scope of these cyberspaces expand. The Netscan project uses sociological principles and data mining techniques to address these challenges for newsgroups and discussion boards. Interfaces built using this meta information provide incentive structures that can catalyze the online social spaces through competitive cooperation and increase content quality and user satisfaction."

This touches on some research I am currently doing around Identity - especially within online spaces - as well as just trying to create knowledge about the socialogical aspects of online group behavior. This information behind motivation and behavior can help us create better tools and spaces.

I think it is terrific that Microsoft is publishing this info that we all can benefit from. Of course, this is not everything and they don't expose how they are using all this information. But some sharing is better than none.

Posted by erin at 11:32 AM | in Community :: | Link

Friday 05|18|01
Artifacts have a new home!

I have had continued requests for the AltaVista project process diagram my team developed while at AltaVista and as these weblog entries scroll away, the file is getting harder and harder to find. So I have created an Artifacts page that will have a permanent home in the side navigation, along with my recommended sites and reading list.

I will add items from time to time. The Process diagram is there, as well as an artifact that I presented at the Advance for Design summit last summer. This PDF shows samples of userflow diagrams, written notes and annotations, wireframes, more written notes, mockups and final published screen for the AltaVista registration process that I worked on over the course of a year. These screens are just a few samples to show the iterative process and how the items were used when working with engineering, marketing and other team members.

I hope to develop a couple of case studies around some of this past work in the near future.

Posted by erin at 05:53 PM | in Techniques :: | Link

Saturday 05|12|01
Porn is Community?

Read the San Jose Metro this week (May 11) and came across Annalee Newitz 's "Work" column for the week. She states: "On the Internet, pornography and community go hand in hand, if you'll pardon my turn of phrase." And goes on to present good arguments as to why this is true. It is an interesting notion.

On a side note, Yahoo is in the process of evaluating their adult content and this includes their clubs and groups products. A couple of commentators have much to say on this. Annalee Newitz speaks out about this and a number of protest sites have cropped up. Now, I am not necessarily advocating porn, but the free service areas like Yahoo clubs, groups, photo albums - much like the ones we had at AltaVista - are probably populated with a large majority of adult and porn material. This is a large amount of traffic and a huge community. To remove this or make it impossilbe to find, seems very shortsighted for the company. Isn't there a better way to address the critics than a knee jerk reaction?

Posted by erin at 12:27 PM | in Community :: | Link

Monday 05| 7|01
What makes a site Community?

I was reading a thread on MetaFilter today where people were discussing the Webby Award nominees for Community and there was a lot of dissent over the definition of what makes a site a community.

I found it interesting that some people didn't think that if there were dollars involved or the site was mostly advertising driven that it didn't count as being a place for community. In my mind, community does not necessarily equal non-profit. I also believe that a site can have a community and be a community without that having been its first intention.

This whole discussion has me thinking again about what makes a community and where is the value to our audience in this as designers. What makes a successful community. If you build spaces like we do here at AOL or like the Community products at Yahoo and others (The Globe, Koz, Homestead etc) does that really make community? If you build the tools, will that empower people to come and create their own communities. How much is enough and when is the market saturated. Does making a homepage constitute community? The big commercial sites - Homestead, AOL, MSN, Yahoo GeoCities think so. Does self publishing and sharing with others consitute community?

What about all those sites nominated for a webby? BeliefNet and ChickClick have components that encourage community and group participation, but are they community sites? Are message boards enough to say "We have a community on our site?" Craig'sList is the eptitome of a people helping people - like the traditional co-ops in college towns, its success is solely on the people who contribute and participate in the postings - but it really is a large classifieds site. So is it really a community site?

This notion of Community seems to be a tricky one. As I posed in a past posting, does publishing for many to see, constitute community or does it take a two way conversation? Must the participants all be interested in the same things. I like to read many types of sites - Plastic, Slashdot, MetaFilter, PeterMe, Elegant Hack, Cnet, F***edCompany, Amazon, The Library of Congress Image Archives - but that doesnt mean I have anything in common with people who post/publish there other than the fact that we both visit the site. Is that enough or to have meaningful community spaces there must be more - real relationships with people coming back often and participating therefore creating a rich tapestry of information and sharing. I don't have the answers and it is interesting to see that others don't really either.

Posted by erin at 07:42 PM | in Community :: | Link | Comments (4)

Saturday 05| 5|01
Thinking about the NEW new user

How do you design interactive spaces for people who have never even used a computer before? Thus is the dilemna of designing for the AOL member. As designers with a lot of experience and a lot of net/computer saavy, what skills, techniques and strategies need to be used to remove oneself from the equation and to design for someone with no skills and computer saavy.

I have been thinking about this all week while in Virginia visiting the AOL headquarters. This particular problem hammers home the principles that you/me (the designer) is not a user and that testing and designing with users in a true user centered design process are especially important and necessary for success.

Many of us, on the web, dismiss the AOL user, but they are out there, growing in number and lessening in experience as the age of early adoption has passed, and they are accessing the web. How does this knowledge effect us? How does it change the way we design? Should it?

How many of us look at our work through AOL or MSN where the experience and navigation is presented within the context of another experience and set of navigation principles? It changes your perception and complicates the tasks for the end user. What is the reality and what is the on the edges? It reminds me of a couple of years ago when people were experimenting with framesets but hadn't mastered them yet - so you would have a new site - complete with its context and navigation, appearing within another site with its outer navigation within the browser with its set of tools. Confusing at best - impossible for someone who doesn't understand the construction and technical side.

Just some food for thought on a beautiful saturday morning.

Posted by erin at 06:53 PM | in AOL :: | Link

Switched to GreyMatter

If you are observant, you will have noticed that I have made the switch to GreyMatter today. This was an interesting process to setup and test and still try to have the Blogger postings available for reading.

I hope everyone thinks it is worth it and participates in the conversation. I look forward to hearing from you.

Posted by erin at 03:08 PM | in Techniques :: | Link

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Talking With Jesse James Garrett

The Tool Makes the (Wo)man

AIGA Experience Design Summit #5 - Recap

AIGA Experience Design - past, present and future: An interview with Terry Swack and Clement Mok

Summit Beginnings: Saturday

Chicken Run: Summit Closing: Sunday

design history articles
Foreseeing the future: The legacy of Vannevar Bush

Learning from the Powers of Ten

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