Michael Adcock: Fringe IA


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Scientific Discovery, Tools and Context, all of which contribute to making the unclear clear.

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  • What do I mean by Fringe IA? Is this it? No…
  • I’ll be speaking about “fringe" in several senseshere:in terms of SCIENCE via the TV showthe idea that some of the value of IA is on the fringe of OTHER DISCIPLINESthe idea that people within the IA community, who are perhaps on the fringe of it, are bringing useful ideas from their other areas of interest and expertisehttp://4.bp.blogspot.com/-CFUoODoy9eg/TXq2gK2nhbI/AAAAAAAABU4/MaOkbDxn6Ps/s1600/Fringe%2BWallpaper.jpghttp://www.prodality.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/edge-of-cliff.jpghttp://www.thistlehillweavers.com/MenuDemo/images/bed-fringe-RW_000.jpghttp://3.bp.blogspot.com/-smni4m3_UGQ/T8YifMUWKcI/AAAAAAAAAhA/4tJZjB6L1TE/s1600/outer+edge.jpg
  • But first I need to define what information architecture is… Or rather, I need to provide some context.Jorge Arango: it’s concerned with the structural integrity of meaning across contextsIn other words, it looks at the CONNECTIONS between information, people’s needs, stakeholder intentions, and how all that stuff relates to the meaning and structure of information which helps to create, or at least allows, experiences within a context.Jorge’s complete post: http://www.jarango.com/blog/2013/06/28/for-the-world-wide-web/From Dan Klyn’s presentation at UXPA 2013 – Understanding Information Architecturehttp://understandinggroup.com/2013/07/presentation-at-uxpa-2013-understanding-information-architecture/
  • But where do we start, here, right now?I recently became aware of a guy by the name of James Burke, who has spent much of his life as a science historian. If you’ve ever seen his BBC show Connections, from the late 1970s, you might recognize him here. He was looking at connections too. Except that he was trying to figure out how people have discovered things and improved things, and have advanced human science and technology over all of human history.
  • He decided that the only way to start to understand how scientific advancement works, in a general sense, is to look to the past. And as it happens, thanks to technology, we can ask Burke for some advice right now!
  • Mr. Burke, do you have any advice for all these smart folks here at World IA Day Portland in 2014?** PLAY VIDEO **
  • Well, that was interesting, wasn’t it?Before I jump into some IA thinking, let’s keep in mind an idea from Feynman. Names and titles don’t tell you much about what a thing is. So let’s look instead at what the IA community is doing (and thinking), rather than what title happens to be on their business cards.
  • Remember that realization from Burke that there’s so much more we don’t know? Ten years later, Wurman gave it a name and wrote a book about it.Published January 21st 1989
  • What do I mean when I say “IA”? I’m going to borrow from some IA thinkers here...Wurman quotes from Dan Klyn’s Information Architecture course: http://si658.danklyn.com/Class-5-Fall-2013
  • Wurman drew a distinction between WHAT and HOW. Dan Klyn uses this in his IA course in Michigan – in short, information architects tend to be “WHAT” people. We first ask WHAT people are trying to accomplish. We aren’t focused on HOW to accomplish it (at first). Obviously, at some point we have to figure out how to solve the problem, but the first step is always to try to define the problem to everyone’s satisfaction. We put the WHAT before the HOW.
  • Architecture is more concerned with the WHAT.Design is more concerned with the HOW.
  • From Dan Klyn’s presentation at UXPA 2013 – Understanding Information Architecturehttp://understandinggroup.com/2013/07/presentation-at-uxpa-2013-understanding-information-architecture/
  • By the way, there are LOTS of other models.
  • Information Architecture lives somewhere between business systems and user experience. (On the fringe?)
  • These were themes that appeared at the IA Summit in a few presentations, but were shared later on Twitter via an article. The entire article is worth a read, but I pulled out two main concepts here. We know how to REFRAME problems. (Look at the same thing from multiple angles and in different ways.) One way we do this is by knowing how (and when) to ask WHY.
  • Organized by Andrea Resmini and friends – a book is in the works!Information: http://reframe-ia.orgSlides: http://lanyrd.com/2013/iasummit/sccpbp/
  • http://iamania.com/
  • I stumbled onto this incredible book recently, published in 1957, and I think it relates as much to IA as to science.
  • WhileBeveridge was attempting to get people to recognize the (necessary) art in science, I think we should probably consider the reverse in the IA world – the (necessary) science in 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’ve tried to be mindful of these ideas in my own work, and 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 mean things like Omnigraffle, Axure, 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 grow into something 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.(http://www.slideshare.net/danfnord/determining-what-good-means-ux-strat-2013)
  • In Fremont, actually.
  • I work at ProQuest in Seattle, formerly Serials Solutions, and we…
  • 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 available to tiddlywiki via plugins. As long as I put the data in the right format, this stuff just magically worked. And it helped me 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 I 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, which can be expanded further with a plugin. 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.
  • Freedom to experiment and playTool buildersScientific discovery
  • But perhaps even more importantly, I think Burke’s advice could help those of us who “do” IA, do it even better…Realize what you don’t know.
  • Help others understand.
  • Translate knowledge.(don’t just provide information – prepare it)
  • Ask questions. Lots of questions.
  • Explain clearly to others.
  • …and ask them to explain clearly to you.
  • …and that’s also where we must end.
  • Thank you!
  • Michael Adcock: Fringe IA

    1. 1. World Information Architecture Day 2014 Michael Adcock @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    2. 2. Fringe IA? http://www.flickr.com/photos/aego/4885953564 @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    3. 3. Fringe? @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    4. 4. IA? http://understandinggroup.com/2013/07/presentation-at-uxpa-2013-understanding-information-architecture/ @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    5. 5. Where to Start? @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    6. 6. Look to the Past …because the future hasn’t happened yet, and because the future is simply the present, with extra bits attached! - James Burke @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    7. 7. Message from 1978 @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    8. 8. A Warning Before We Look at IA “let's look… and see what it's doing — that's what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.” - Richard Feynman @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    9. 9. Knowing We Don’t Know @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    10. 10. IA Understanding http://si658.danklyn.com/Class-5-Fall-2013 @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    11. 11. What & How @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    12. 12. What & How @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    13. 13. IA Understanding http://understandinggroup.com/2013/07/presentation-at-uxpa-2013-understanding-information-architecture/ @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    14. 14. IA/UX Models http://www.slideshare.net/Hienadz.Drahun/50-visual-definitions-of-user-experience @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    15. 15. IA in Practice CODING BUSINESS SYSTEMS Object Models Process Mapping Information Model INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE Structural Design Personas Journeys User Research USER EXPERIENCE DESIGN @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    16. 16. Reframing with Why We know how to REFRAME problems. We can ask WHY. If I asked you to build a bridge for me, you could go off and build a bridge. Or you could come back to me with another question: “Why do you need a bridge?” I would likely tell you that I need a bridge to get to the other side of a river. Aha! This response opens up the frame of possible solutions. There are clearly many ways to get across a river besides using a bridge. You could dig a tunnel, take a ferry, paddle a canoe, use a zip line, or fly a hot-air balloon, to name a few. http://www.fastcodesign.com/1672354/how-reframing-a-problem-unlocks-innovation @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    17. 17. #ReframeIA at the 2013 IA Summit “Architect” vs. “Builder” “Meaning” (Do we discover it, create it, or both?) http://lanyrd.com/2013/iasummit/sccpbp/ @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    18. 18. @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    19. 19. IA/UX as Discovery This is not a process of invention. This is a process of discovery. Jesse James Garrett, IA Summit 2009 @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    20. 20. Advice from 1957… “Discovery should come as an adventure rather than as the result of a logical process of thought.” - Theobald Smith http://archive.org/details/artofscientifici00beve @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    21. 21. 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." http://archive.org/details/artofscientifici00beve @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    22. 22. IA as Scientific Discovery “…the most difficult mental act of all is to rearrange a familiar bundle of data, to look at it differently and escape from the prevailing doctrine.” - Professor H. Butterfield http://archive.org/details/artofscientifici00beve @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    23. 23. Tools and Structures Tools for discovering Meaning yet Structures to create Context http://www.slideshare.net/danfnord/determining-what-good-means-ux-strat-2013 @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    24. 24. An Example from My Work… @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    25. 25. Company Background • SaaS solutions for libraries • Electronic Resource Management • Bibliographic & publisher metadata @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    26. 26. What’s the Problem? 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 #WIADPDX14
    27. 27. RTA Migration Oh, and by the way: Some files are for legacy/inactive clients. @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    28. 28. RTA Migration Oh, and by the way: Some files are for legacy/inactive clients. Some files are for trial/demo clients. @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    29. 29. 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 #WIADPDX14
    30. 30. 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 #WIADPDX14
    31. 31. RTA Migration So, um… yeah. Can we do that? @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    32. 32. 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, and build onto it. @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    33. 33. RTA Migration: Resulting Tool @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    34. 34. RTA Migration: Resulting Tool @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    35. 35. RTA Migration: Resulting Tool @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    36. 36. RTA Migration: Resulting Tool Under the hood: @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    37. 37. RTA Migration: Resulting Tool @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    38. 38. RTA Migration: Resulting Tool @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    39. 39. RTA Migration: Resulting Tool @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    40. 40. RTA Migration: Resulting Tool @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    41. 41. My Final Thoughts IA needs freedom to experiment and play. Sometimes we need to be tool builders. We can learn from scientific discovery. @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    42. 42. Know You Don’t Know @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    43. 43. Help Others Understand @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    44. 44. Translate Knowledge @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    45. 45. Ask Questions @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    46. 46. Explain Clearly @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    47. 47. Ask for Explanations @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    48. 48. @adcockm #FringeIA #WIADPDX14
    49. 49. 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 #WIADPDX14