September 2005 Archives

Information Interaction

Hallelujah! Ambient Findability is finally in-stock at Amazon. I received my copy on Friday. It's the first full-color animal book, and the images came out great. Plus, it's about the same size as Don't Make Me Think, which must be a good thing. But it didn't feel real until today when the words "Usually ships within 24 hours" appeared on Amazon.

So, in celebration, here's a brief excerpt:

In 1995, Nahum Gershon coined the term "Human Information Interaction" (HII) to denote "how human beings interact with, relate to, and process information regardless of the medium connecting the two." Since then, the term has been widely adopted by the traditional information science and retrieval communities. Gary Marchionini of the UNC School of Information and Library Science explains "the IR problem itself has fundamentally changed and a new paradigm of information interaction has emerged." [1]

This paradigm is characterized by highly interactive interfaces, user-centered methods, and a sensitivity to the dynamic, multi-channel nature of information seeking behavior. Researchers in Human Information Interaction draw insight and inspiration from the field of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) while recognizing they face unique challenges. As Elaine Toms suggests, "(the) unstructured, complex problem-solving task (of information seeking) cannot be reduced in a predictable way to a set of routine Goals, Operators, Methods, and Selections (GOMS)." [2]

In other words, the complexity of information interaction is not expressed well in typical models of human-computer interaction. HCI approaches are optimal for software applications and interfaces where designers can exercise great control over form and function. HII approaches are optimal for networked information systems where control is sacrificed for interoperability. In such environments, users may find and interact with information objects through a variety of devices and interfaces. The emphasis shifts from interface to information.

Incidentally, I've been invited by Peter Pirolli and William Jones to participate in a proposed panel at CHI 2006 to debate whether we need a separate field of human-information interaction. Given the venue, things could get interesting!

Correction: Ambient Findability is the second full color animal book. Web Mapping Illustrated was first. But Ambient Findability is the first with a color animal on the cover.

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Evaluating Search

Google will no longer tell us how many billions of web pages they've indexed, though they do claim to be "more than 3 times larger than any other search engine." John Battelle tells the story over on Searchblog.

Of course, index size is a flawed metric. Most users never get past the first 10 results, and neither Google nor Yahoo! lets you explore beyond the first 1,000 hits. And if you're crazy enough to dig deep into the result sets of Google and Yahoo!, you'll find that both pad their indexes with spam. For a search index, quality counts, and sometimes less is more.

It will be interesting to see how the search wars play out in the coming months. As the playing field becomes level with respect to speed and size, it seems clear that brand, relevance, and user experience design will be the keys to competitive advantage. What do you think?

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Google Earth on Safari

Google Earth illustrates the future present of Ambient Findability by intertwingling wayfinding and retrieval, enabling us to explore, navigate, and learn about the physical world. The geocoding of National Geographic's Africa offers yet another hint at where things are headed.

In this morning's five minute safari, I zoomed in on Madagascar, skimmed an article about paradise flycatchers, and quickly found myself in the Berenty Reserve, enjoying the acrobatics and fierce roars of the Verreaux's sifaka, the rare species of lemur that lives on the cover of my new book.

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Infonomia Interview

I was flattered a few years back to find I'd been included in the star-studded list of Grandes Infonomistas, so when Adria Heath suggested an Infonomia interview, I was happy to oblige. And if a splash of Spanish disturbs you, here's the English version.

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Defining Authority

I didn't set out to write a book about authority, but this topic emerged as one of the most intriguing themes. I became fascinated by the shift from traditional sources of authority such as the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the Oxford English Dictionary, and the Wall Street Journal towards the collective intelligence embodied in the Wikipedia.

In fact, I found myself relying on the Wikipedia as an invaluable reference tool, alongside such authorities as Nature, Scientific American, and Harvard Business Review. And I ended up singing the praises of the collective intelligence embedded in heavily edited Wikipedia articles, and arguing:

"Like relevance, authority is subjective and ascribed by the viewer."

And when it came time to solicit advance praise, I naturally asked Jimmy Wales, founder of the Wikipedia. So, imagine my surprise when I received an email from Jimmy in which he flat out disagreed with my definition of authority. In short, he stated that authority is objective, and that the Wikipedia is just plain better and more authoritative than Britannica.

We had an interesting debate via email (which I promised not to publish) and we both ended up where we started. Since then, I've had little time to dig into this subject. Beyond this post about the nature of authority by Clay Shirky, I haven't found much.

So, what do you think? Is authority subjective or objective? What role is findability playing in changing our sources of authority? And where can we go to learn more about authority? Thanks!

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Lemur Sightings

Rare glimpses of the lemur in the wild. I couldn't resist. For more lemur fun, see the ambientfindability entries from the Laughing Lemur Contest.

IAI New Challenges Retreat
IAI New Challenges Retreat

Guerilla Findability
Guerilla Findability

Lemur in a Tree
Lemur in a Tree

Sexual Intelligence
Sexual Intelligence

Lemur in Leaves
Lemur in Leaves


Clock Tower
Clock Tower

Q Lemur
Q Lemur

Business Bestsellers
Business Bestsellers

Urban Lemur
Urban Lemur

Fall Colors
Fall Colors

Lost in Space
Lost in Space

If you find a photo of the lemur, please send me a link.

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Ambient Findability Interviews

This is the most current and comprehensive list of Ambient Findability interviews in the known universe.

Tagsonomy (postscript to Authority).

The Geospatial Web (OnPoint on NPR).

A VerySpatial Podcast by Sue and Jesse.

Entrepreneur Magazine (WS Radio).

Infonomia (mostly in English).

Link by Bruno Garattoni (Portuguese).

Interview by Tomy Lorsch (Spanish).

Fucinaweb by Antonio Volpon.

NFAIS (members only).

Information in Formation by Roy Christopher and Ryan Lane.

UBC Google Scholar by Dean Giustini.

Business Week and AIGA Voice by Liz Danzico.

Boxes & Arrows by Liz Danzico.

SXSW Studio SX by Liz Danzico (Quicktime and MPEG-4).

Washington Post (Online Discussion).

If I've missed an interview, please let me know.

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Ambient Findability Book Reviews

This is the most current and comprehensive list of Ambient Findability book reviews in the known universe.


In addition to those included here, you will find editorial reviews and customer reviews on Amazon and at O'Reilly.

Edge Perspectives by John Hagel.

A New Frontier: Exploring Findability by Matt Ball.

When Needles Outnumber Haystacks by Barnes & Noble.

Information Wants to be Found by Chris Sherman.

Review by James Kalbach.

Slashdot Review by Mary Norbury-Glaser.

Onfocus Review by Paul Bausch.

Towards Findability by Tim Boyd.

Ambient Findability and the Google Economy by Casey Bisson.

Must Read: Ambient Findability by Casey Bisson.

A Quick but Enthusiastic Review by Eclectic Bill.

What We Find Changes Who We Become by Gary Hayes.

Cathedral or Bazaar? by Erica Reynolds.

Review by Mitch Frank.

Book Review on Skipease.

Ambient Findability? by Gabe D'Annunzio.

Digital Web Book Review by D. Keith Robinson.

Brief Review by W. Frederick Zimmerman.

Book Review by Keith Hinde.

Book Review by George Woolley.

Sandbox Review by Peter Merholz.

Mantex Review by Roy Johnson.

Book Review by Thomas Duff.

Ambient Findability: A Must Read by Kathy Bryce.

Morville's Ambient Findability by Fred Stutzman.

Ambient Findability by Raymond Brigleb.

Recommendation by Craig Newmark (of craigslist).

Book Review by Adena Schutzberg (Directions Magazine).

Book Review by T.D. Wilson (Information Research).

Walking in the Web by Evan Zimmermann.

Ambient Findability Enthusiasm on Slashgeo.

Book Review by Nate Klaiber.

Ambient Findability by Emma Tonkin.

Ambient Findability by Regnard Kreisler C. Raquedan.

Advance Praise

I'm also eternally grateful to these folks for their support and generosity.

"A lively, enjoyable and informative tour of a topic that's only going to become more important."
-- David Weinberger, Author, Small Pieces Loosely Joined and The Cluetrain Manifesto

"I envy the young scholar who finds this inventive book, by whatever strange means are necessary. The future isn't just unwritten--it's unsearched."
-- Bruce Sterling, Writer, Futurist, and Co-Founder, The Electronic Frontier Foundation

"Search engine marketing is the hottest thing in Internet business, and deservedly so. Ambient Findability puts SEM into a broader context and provides deeper insights into human behavior. This book will help you grow your online business in a world where being found is not at all certain."
-- Jakob Nielsen, Ph.D., Author, Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity

"Information that's hard to find will remain information that's hardly found -- from one of the fathers of the discipline of information architecture, and one of its most experienced practitioners, come penetrating observations on why findability is elusive and how the act of seeking changes us."
-- Steve Papa, Founder and Chairman, Endeca

"Whether it's a fact or a figure, a person or a place, Peter Morville knows how to make it findable. Morville explores the possibilities of a world where everything can always be found--and the challenges in getting there--in this wide-ranging, thought-provoking book."
-- Jesse James Garrett, Author, The Elements of User Experience

"It is easy to assume that current searching of the World Wide Web is the last word in finding and using information. Peter Morville shows us that search engines are just the beginning. Skillfully weaving together information science research with his own extensive experience, he develops for the reader a feeling for the near future when information is truly findable all around us. There are immense implications, and Morville's lively and humorous writing brings them home."
-- Marcia J. Bates, Ph.D., University of California Los Angeles

"I've always known that Peter Morville was smart. After reading Ambient Findability, I now know he's (as we say in Boston) wicked smart. This is a timely book that will have lasting effects on how we create our future."
-- Jared Spool, Founding Principal, User Interface Engineering

"In Ambient Findability, Peter Morville has put his mind and keyboard on the pulse of the electronic noosphere. With tangible examples and lively writing, he lays out the challenges and wonders of finding our way in cyberspace, and explains the mutually dependent evolution of our changing world and selves. This is a must read for everyone and a practical guide for designers."
-- Gary Marchionini, Ph.D., University of North Carolina

"Find this book! Anyone interested in making information easier to find, or understanding how finding and being found is changing, will find this thoroughly researched, engagingly written, literate, insightful and very, very cool book well worth their time. Myriad examples from rich and varied domains and a valuable idea on nearly every page. Fun to read, too!"
-- Joseph Janes, Ph.D., Founder, Internet Public Library

If I've missed a review, please let me know.

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Leapin' Lemurs

It's been a long haul, but the lemur book is almost here. With a projected in-stock date of September 27, it's not too early to pre-order.

In the meantime, you can read the first chapter (PDF) and table of contents, and check out some advance praise:

"I envy the young scholar who finds this inventive book, by whatever strange means are necessary. The future isn't just unwritten -- it's unsearched." - Bruce Sterling
"A lively, enjoyable and informative tour of a topic that's only going to become more important." - David Weinberger

Oh, and it's not too late to learn about our prosimian relatives from the island of Madagascar, though sadly, lemurs are in danger of becoming unfindable.

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You Are Here

Welcome to the next generation. In case you haven't noticed, it's a borg. I mean, it's a blog. Yes, after years of quiet resistance, I've succumbed to the call of the blogosphere. I've been assimilated.

In blogging, my most transparent and prosaic goal is to promote my new book, Ambient Findability. I've poured blood, sweat, and tears into this strange text, so I won't be shy about inviting folks to read it.

That said, I'm hoping this blog will go beyond the book. As my classification scheme hints, I'll be writing about authority, business, culture, design, search, ubicomp, etc. And let's not forget the oft-maligned category of miscellaneous. I very much reserve the right to write about seemingly random topics.

So, if you want the original findability, it's there but not here. And if you like this new place, please come again, or better yet, leave a piece of yourself behind.

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