April 2006 Archives

Insidious Micromedia

My friend Dan Klyn has been spreading some wildly appropriate memes over the past few months, and this SES Canada presentation about RSS, standards, particles, and the age of insidious micromedia is no exception. Check it out!

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The Resilience of Information Architecture

At the IA Summit, Grant Campbell and Karl Fast presented "From Pace Layering to Resilience Theory: The Complex Implications of Tagging for Information Architecture." I highly recommend both the paper and the slides, and if you're really into resilience, check out Ecology and Society.

Of course, that doesn't mean I totally agree with Grant and Karl. First, I don't agree that information architects have ignored tags. To the contrary, IAs are infatuated with collaborative tagging. We simply haven't found many opportunities (yet) to integrate tags into our practice.

Second, the authors commit the same sin as Clay Shirky and David Weinberger by ignoring context. Tagging has flourished in the free-wheeling blogosphere, but has had little traction in the realm of corporate and government web sites where authority is an equal partner to findability. It remains unclear when and whether tags belong in the information ecologies in which IAs typically practice.

That said, I've begun a Web 2.0 consulting project in which I'll get to integrate tags and taxonomies, so I'm on the hunt for inspiration. Amazon's experiment with tags seems to have failed. Has collaborative tagging ever been successfully integrated into the web site of an established institution? How about examples of sites (even small ones) that elegantly combine tags and taxonomies? Thanks!

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Spime Everyware

In a major blow to everyware, and despite Adam Greenfield's protestations rendered in parts one and two, vocabulary curators at Word Spy today elevated spime to the status of word. Bruce Sterling was unavailable for comment, but employees of Spime Watch are reportedly planning to celebrate by opening a very semantic bottle of spime.

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In Search of Clarity

I was born in Manchester, England. Thus, it's safe to conclude that I love football, beans on toast, and dry humour.

Unfortunately, this British sense of humour gets me into trouble. Like when I wrote Big Architect, Little Architect as a tribute to Big Dog, Little Dog and earned the eternal ire of little architects around the world.

Calm down folks! Who ever said bigger is better? Embrace your miniscularity. As Richard Feynman wisely noted, there's plenty of room at the bottom.

So, now all that Defining IA fuss is behind us, it's time to set the record straight with respect to folksonomy. While skimming the April issue of EContent, I was horrifically amused to read the following:

Peter Morville, who authored Ambient Findability and is one of the blogosphere's leading opponents to folksonomy, finds little value in user-generated tags.

Now, while I have been known to tag bash and leaf lash on occasion, I had hoped readers would recognize my barbed words as tough love tenderly wrapped in dry humour. Clearly, I over-estimated my readers.

So, for the record, I see lots of value in user-generated tags, and continuing value in taxonomies and controlled vocabularies. In some contexts, one will exist without the other, and sometimes they will co-evolve in pace-layered harmony.

Or maybe not.

In any case, I hope this article has been helpful to little architects, folksonomy fetishists, my readers, and anyone else still searching for a sense of humour.

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Tokyo Lemur

I'm off to Akihabara for Design IT and the launch of the Japanese lemur. This will be my first visit to Asia, and the fourth continent on my book tour.

Ambient Findability

If you're in the neighborhood, please come to a party for friends of IAI and CMPros, at 8 pm on Wednesday April 12, at the Rose & Crown Akihabara (2nd floor, Akihabara Station Front Plaza Building). It's all you can eat and drink for 4,000 yen. For details, please contact Toshikazu Shinohara (CMPros) or Nobuya Sato (IAI). Cheers!

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Everyware is Here

It's time to celebrate. March is over, Spring has sprung, and Everyware has arrived. For everyone who shapes the user experience, or cares about the future, this little blue book by Adam Greenfield is required reading.


Everyware shifts the conversation about ubiquitous computing from technology to humanity, asking difficult questions about the nature of the future we might wish to invent. Some of my favorite bits include:

  • Exploration of how everyware acts at the scale of the body, the room, the building, and the street (theses 12-15).
  • Discussion of bridges between atoms and bits, illustrated by the real-world hyperlinks of Semapedia (thesis 64).
  • Argument for "plausible deniability, including, above all, imprecision of location" (thesis 75).

Anyone attending Bruce Sterling's Spime Watch knows the time to think critically about the internet of objects and the socially dangerous technology of ubicomp is now. So, for us all, it's a blessing that Everyware is here.

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