November 2005 Archives

Google Base

Google Base is a general purpose metadata registry and cataloging service that allows users to create records that describe digital and physical objects. Google may use this metadata to create stand-alone services like eBay and craigslist and/or to enhance Google's regular search results with guided navigation.

Or maybe not. It's actually quite difficult to define. Right now, it's chock full of porn, spam, and information architecture. In all this confusion, I'm hoping to get rich quick by selling this chair. The ability to tag physical objects is certainly interesting. If nothing else, Google Base brings us one step closer to UFOs.

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Findability Swag

Worried about what to buy your loved ones for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Year's Eve? Then swing on over to Findable Objects.

Findability Swag

We've got mugs, hats, t-shirts, bumper stickers, magnets, postcards, bibs for babies, and teddy bears (but no lemurs). At Findable Objects, you're sure to find what you need, but act fast, while supplies last. And thank Q for design.

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Ubiquitous Findable Objects (UFOs)

O'Reilly just published Ubiquitous Findable Objects, an article that delves into the promise and peril of tagging products, possessions, people, and pets.

Which brings me to the subject (or object) of this post, our six month old Sheltie puppy, Knowsy. We're trying to decide whether or not to have her tagged with a subdermal RFID implant.

On one hand, it may help us find Knowsy, if she got lost, and was somehow separated from her collar. On the other hand, the procedure involves a big needle, and the implant could cause problems if she ever needs an MRI scan.

To chip or not to chip. That is the question. What do you think? Thanks!

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Ambient Findability Bibliography

Livia Labate has created a ambient findability bibliography which guides readers to all sorts of sources of inspiration. Thanks Liv!

Strange Connections

  • Last week, after fifteen years of careful consideration, scientists named a "new" species of lemur after John Cleese. So, please join me in welcoming the avahi cleesei, quickly, before it's extinct.
  • The challenge of importing lemurs into Spain.
  • Fun new entries in the laughing lemur contest.

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Ambient Findability in Business Week

Business Week has just published my interview, which was conducted by Liz Danzico of AIGA:

The Impact of Ambient Findability

The Lemur in Business Week. Very cool!

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Transmedia Wayfinding

User Interfaces for Physical Spaces looks like a fascinating exploration of transmedia wayfinding and design. If you can't make it to Pittsburg for the workshop, see what Peter Merholz of IAI has to say, and download this beautiful presentation (PDF) from Aradhana Goel of MAYA Design.

Strange Connections

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The Memetic Web

What if Tim Berners-Lee had pitched his idea for the World Wide Web to me back in 1989? That was the strange question dancing through my head after a magical evening with Holly and Bob Doyle.

After a long day teaching IA1, the prospect of dinner with two certified geniuses (both have doctorates in astrophysics from Harvard) was a bit intimidating.

But they turned out to be friendly, down-to-earth folks, and I found Bob's enthusiasm for his latest idea, the memetic web, to be inspiring and contagious.

The proposition, as explained on, is simple. Create a globally unique string or meme ID. Paste this string into relevant web pages. Wait for search engines to crawl the pages. Then use the meme ID to search with 100% precision and recall. And you can even create an aboutness page to define your meme, so others can use it properly.

Of course, the real challenges are far from simple. What about the known problems of inter- and intra-indexer inconsistency? What about meme ID spamming? And isn't this too complex to achieve widespread adoption?

On the other hand, free tagging has created an unquenchable thirst for specificity. Intentional misspellings like indicatr and statistically improbable phrases like ambientfindability will only take us so far.

So, I'm not totally on board, but I do think Bob's onto something, sorta like TBL back in 1989. What do you think?

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Laughing Lemur Contest

December 13, 2005: We have a winner. Thanks for playing!

Together with sponsors Q LTD and O'Reilly Media, I'm pleased to announce the one and only Laughing Lemur Contest (LLC).

To enter, snap a photo that includes the lemur, upload it to Flickr, and tag it with ambientfindability.

Entries will be accepted through December 11, 2005. At that time, a panel of judges will review the photos and select a winner.

Evaluation criteria include popularity (in Flickr, Google,, comicality (make the lemur laugh), and other facets of the user experience.

The winner will receive a $500 Amazon Gift Certificate, a $100 O'Reilly Gift Certificate, and autographed copies of the lemur and polar bear books.

Employees of Semantic Studios, Q LTD, and O'Reilly Media may submit photos but are not eligible to win.

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