Fringe IA: Understanding complex organizational, data, & technical issues
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Fringe IA: Understanding complex organizational, data, & technical issues

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When approached with a question, librarians create context for understanding using communication skills and their ability to navigate available resources. IAs can do a similar thing for co-workers......

When approached with a question, librarians create context for understanding using communication skills and their ability to navigate available resources. IAs can do a similar thing for co-workers inside an organization.

Using my ongoing experience in Special Projects, we’ll look at how IA tools, processes, and thinking can be used to solve support and maintenance issues in an organization. I’ve worked with people in different product groups and roles, including those with direct customer interaction, developers, testers, and various levels of management. I’ve helped them see connections between existing products and technologies, design a complex future product as part of a “task force”, and generally answer (and be able to ask!) all sorts of questions.

Along the way, I’ve discovered and added various tools to my bag of tricks. We’ll take a look at these unexpected tools and how they can be used to explore certain types of information problems.

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  • In my session we'll take a look at experimentation, tool building, and discovery in IA and some related examples from my own work.
  • First, I just wanted to mention a couple of themes from the workshop that may tie in to my session…
  • I stumbled onto this incredible book recently, and I think it relates as much to IA as to science.
  • WhileBeveridge was attempting to get people to recognize the art in (and necessary for) science, I think we should probably consider the reverse in the IA world – the science of IA!
  • I’m not talking about the generally accepted notion of information science. I’m talking about applying some of the concepts of scientific discovery to information architecture. I don’t have any brilliant suggestions at this point, but I encourage you to read and ponder this book. Plus, it’s completely free to download online!
  • I feel like we’re lacking a bit in the “tools” area. I don’t include things like Omnigraffle or the Adobe products. Those are more general purpose tools. I mean the kind of tools we make while we’re figuring things out. They might be temporary, or maybe they become more generally useful. Scientific discovery relied on all sorts of homemade apparatus, and I think we could benefit from something like that too. An example might be Dan Klyn’s performance continuums.
  • While working on it, I felt like we needed a better way to discuss parts of it. Email didn’t seem good enough.
  • Found an HTML 5 example, hacked it a little, and used it to annotate the mashup and share my feedback.
  • Titus was thrilled. But something to note: I didn’t tell him what I was going to do before I did it. I wasn’t even sure if I could get something together quickly and with minimal effort. When it was nearly done, I pointed him to it.
  • Also, though I didn’t have it in mind at the start, this turned out to be a nice presentation tool, after I removed the comments.
  • This is where I work.
  • The great physicist Richard Feynman disliked titles in general, and thought that to truly understand a thing, you needed to investigate it and see what it was doing. Names usually don’t help you understand.
  • I know I’m an Information Architect. I love this depiction by Abby and Dan, and have tried to keep it in mind as a philosophy for what I do.
  • The configuration info defined how to pull real-time availability information from each library’s catalog system. That’s lets us show whether the book (or other resource) is checked out or not. Also, I chose INFORMATION (and not data) here for a reason that you’ll see later…
  • We needed to understand relationships among the configurations, estimate how long the work would take, track progress, and so on… Can’t get that by manually reading/editing thousands of files!
  • I was familiar with Tiddlywiki technology since I used it to create a simple thesaurus (or taxonomy) creation tool back in grad school. It’s like a database…
  • Used a Perl script to place the data into the Tiddlywiki. It provided summary info; timeline at right; links across top that slice and dice the configuration in different ways; ALL DATA DRIVEN and dynamic.
  • Since I had all the GIT repository information, were the configurations were stored, I used the information about changes to show recent churn.
  • Tables (sortable) and graphs were already built in to tiddlywiki, or I added existing plugins. As long as I put the data in the right format, this stuff just magically worked. And it helped us play with the configurations to better understand and group them.
  • The code to make it happen as pretty simple. This is how the pie chart was defined – most of the code there is the data itself.
  • There was a view into each client too. With links to the related config files. Similar config files that had already been migrated were listed, and I added a simple process with some checks that you could run through to do the migration.
  • Again, through a plugin (with some minor tweaks), I added visual diffs between the files, all inside the tiddlywiki.
  • Tiddywikis also offer fast and powerful search. That’s also built in, and I didn’t have to do anything to enable it except put the configuration information into the Tiddlywiki.
  • The last thing I added was a color coding mechanism. As I learned more about the similarities between config files, I added some code to identify and group the configs based on certain properties. Then I could given each group a unique hash (ID) and assign a color. Made it easier to work through them in similar chunks.
  • All you need is a simple spreadsheet (CSV file) in a certain format (nodes, edges) and you can generate visualizations like this.
  • It also makes really pretty things. 
  • Gource was created to visualize changes to source control systems over time. But it just takes a certain format of CSV or spreadsheet too. If you can get your data in the right format, you can see changes over time in just about anything.
  • Google Refine is a great tool for cleaning up information in spreadsheets, and for finding patterns in that information. It can generate facets in data on a given column, and support lots of useful discovery and cleanup options.
  • I agree with Feynman – you can’t learn or understand much from a title.

Transcript

  • 1. @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13 Understanding complex organizational, data, & technical issues Michael Adcock IA Summit 2013 Baltimore, MD
  • 2. Related themes from #ReframeIA “Architect” vs. “Builder” “Meaning” (Do we discover it, create it, or both?) @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13
  • 3. IA as Scientific Discovery Discovery should come as an adventure rather than as the result of a logical process of thought. - Theobald Smith @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13 http://archive.org/details/artofscientifici00beve
  • 4. IA as Scientific Discovery "...intuitions always appear at the fringe of consciousness, not at the focus.“ "...the great scientist must be regarded as a creative artist and it is quite false to think of the scientist as a man who merely follows rules of logic and experiment." @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13 http://archive.org/details/artofscientifici00beve
  • 5. IA as Scientific Discovery “the most difficult mental act of all is to re-arrange a familiar bundle of data, to look at it differently and escape from the prevailing doctrine.” - Professor H. Butterfield @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13 http://archive.org/details/artofscientifici00beve
  • 6. Tools and Structures Tools for discovering Meaning vs. Structures to create Context @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13
  • 7. A quick example… As some of you may know, I’m a mashup fanboy. I commissioned Titus Jones to produce a mashup for this “Fringe IA” session. @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13
  • 8. A quick example: feedback @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13
  • 9. “This was awesome... I love when you do shit like this... something I would have never thought of. That's a very powerful tool for audio collaboration. It would be cool if different people/users could add comments (almost like soundcloud lets you select a time in the track, and add your comment?) Regardless though... I really liked being able to read your feedback at each point in the song. Very cool. ” - Titus Jones A quick example: feedback @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13
  • 10. A quick example: presentation @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13
  • 11. Ok, but what do I do at work? @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13
  • 12. I’m here: @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13
  • 13. Company Background • SaaS solutions for libraries • Electronic Resource Management • Bibliographic & publisher metadata @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13
  • 14. Technical Support Analyst Global Customer Experience & Service My Role @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13
  • 15. Titles? Bullcorn! @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13
  • 16. @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13
  • 17. Fine, but what do I do at work? Here’s an example: Given nearly 1000 client configurations stored in multiple XML and JSON files, “migrate” the information over from an old technology to a new implementation. @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13
  • 18. RTA Migration Oh, and by the way: Some files are for legacy/inactive clients. @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13
  • 19. RTA Migration Oh, and by the way: Some files are for legacy/inactive clients. Some files are for trial/demo clients. @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13
  • 20. RTA Migration Oh, and by the way: Some files are for legacy/inactive clients. Some files are for trial/demo clients. Not sure how many clients must be migrated. @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13
  • 21. RTA Migration Oh, and by the way: Some files are for legacy/inactive clients. Some files are for trial/demo clients. Not sure how many clients must be migrated. It’s NOT a matter of “mapping” or “copying”. @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13
  • 22. RTA Migration So, um… yeah. Can we do that? @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13
  • 23. RTA Migration: Approach We needed a tool to help us understand. Something that could put all this stuff in a meaningful context. I decided to use a TiddlyWiki at the core, and build onto it. @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13
  • 24. RTA Migration: Resulting Tool @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13
  • 25. RTA Migration: Resulting Tool @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13
  • 26. RTA Migration: Resulting Tool @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13
  • 27. RTA Migration: Resulting Tool @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13 Under the hood:
  • 28. RTA Migration: Resulting Tool @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13
  • 29. RTA Migration: Resulting Tool @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13
  • 30. RTA Migration: Resulting Tool @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13
  • 31. RTA Migration: Resulting Tool @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13
  • 32. Other tools: Gephi @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13
  • 33. Other tools: Gephi @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13
  • 34. Other tools: Gource @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13
  • 35. Other tools: Google Refine @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13
  • 36. Summary Thoughts Freedom to experiment and play is needed. Sometimes we need to be tool builders to solve certain problems. We could learn some things from the realm of scientific discovery. @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13
  • 37. Thanks! "What you must understand, is that as scientists we must embrace every possibility. No limitations, no boundaries, there is no reason for them.“ - Walter Bishop U.S. Army Research Headquarters, 1986 @adcockm #FringeIA #IAS13