Boston Marathon

I ran the Boston Marathon. That's why we do it. To say those five words. In running circles, qualifying for the world's oldest marathon affords bragging rights. And, I must confess that after the success of my first marathon, further ego gratification was a significant part of my mission.

Peter Morville

But my second marathon didn't go according to plan. I got off to a strong start and felt good through the Wellesley Scream Tunnel, but by mile 20, it was my knees that were screaming, and I was seriously fearing a DNF.

So, for the first time ever in a race, I walked. I walked up Heartbreak Hill. I walked past the Citgo Sign. I walked past thousands of cheering fans, whilst thousands of runners passed me. It was a difficult, chastening experience.

But, I was one of the fastest walkers. And I did finish. And my Mum, Dad, and Sister were waiting at the end to celebrate. And I received wonderful messages from friends. Heck, I even got a word of support from AOTUS.

Upon reflection, I wouldn't change a moment of my marathon, because it's not about winning or running fast or even about finishing the race.

A marathon is about trying something difficult, giving it your best, and being truly inspired and humbled by those who cheer you on.

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First Marathon

I turned 40 this year. I didn't buy a sports car. Instead, I ran my first marathon. The race was yesterday. We ran across bridges and borders and through the streets of Detroit cheered on by great friends and perfect strangers. I'm happy with my results. At 3:08:53, I qualified for Boston and showed all those young whippersnappers that us old folks still got game.

Ambassador Bridge

So, before the experience fades into memory, I'd like to record a few insights. First, the marathon challenges the mind, not just the body. And, I'm not talking only about grit, determination, and pacing strategy. Selecting a training program is critical. I found the run less, run faster system of FIRST (and my Forerunner 305) to be a perfect fit. Diet also counts, and in this I adhered to the mantra: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Second, the marathon is emotional. An injury or mishap at any moment during training or in the race can end the quest. Fear and loneliness coexist with hope and exhilaration. But, if you're lucky, you're not alone. I am truly humbled by the unexpected outpouring of support I received from friends and family.

Along the way, I also drew strength from several sources of inspiration:

I'm not sure if I'll run another. Right now, I'm ready to shift focus: less jogging, more blogging. But, I'm so happy that I had the chance to do it once. Thanks to everyone who made the Detroit Marathon such an amazing experience!

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Gone Writin'

After a good time in last weekend's Dexter Ann Arbor half-marathon, I'm halfway to full. Sort of. Except for the wall. I'm haunted by that elephant in a tree.

Empty Bench

But, as predicted, my writing runs slower. So, I'm officially taking (at least) the summer off to write search patterns. See you at the finish line!

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World Usability Day

I haven't quite recovered from my European travels, but tomorrow I leave for Landmark College to participate in World Usability Day New England.


My secret plan is to have the event name changed to World Findability Day. Should be fun! But, if you can't make it to beautiful Vermont this time around, check out the World Usability Day Event Map for a happening near you.

Strange Connections

Both Vegard Sandvold's Concept Composition with Faceted Search and Mike Kuniavsky's Ubicomp User Experience Design are worth a read.

Yet another inspiring talk from Bruce Sterling. Best glimpse of tomorrow now? The Caryatids are coming. The Internet of Things will never be the same.

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Information Architecture Today

I'm deeply immersed in a tangible futures project that roughly involves translating ambient findability concepts into compelling, credible applications.

This work strays beyond the normal stomping grounds of the polar bear. But, in the rare occasions that I come up for air, it's great to see so much energy and innovation coming from within the information architecture community today.

There's an impressive slate of candidates running for the IAI Board, and I love what Livia Labate, Russ Unger, and Matthew Milan are doing with Open IAI.

Plus, the CFP for the Tenth Annual IA Summit has been posted and includes an intriguing new idea. Well, that's my IA for today. Now, back to the future!

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Bay Area Walks & Talks

In September, I'm headed to San Jose for KMWorld & Intranets. I'd love to line up a few more talks in the San Francisco Bay Area. In the past, I've had great experiences speaking at eBay, Google, Wells Fargo, and Yahoo! about information architecture, ambient findability, user experience, and the future of search. So, if you're interested in a workshop or short talk, please let me know.

Point Reyes

I'm also hoping to escape into the natural beauty of Point Reyes. Any suggestions for a great half-day to full-day hike? Thanks!

Strange Connections

My friend Noriyo Asano sent me a good-luck charm from the Senso-ji temple to keep me safe while bike riding. Thanks Noriyo!

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Risks of Riding

Last summer, I bought a mountain bike. Since then, I've had a great time rediscovering the joys of cycling on trails and roads. I even participated in my first triathlon. Cycling is a great way to stay in shape, or so I thought.

Bent Bike

Then, two weeks ago, I had an accident. While riding down a hill on the Poto, my front wheel hit a stump and stopped dead. My bike and I did a complete forward flip. I landed on my back and managed to bruise a few ribs. The accident really shook me up, and it still hurts to breath deep.

Then, yesterday, while riding downtown, I got hit by a car (driven by a distracted Ann Arbor Art Fair artist). I escaped with only a scratch and a bruise, but my bike's front wheel got mashed.

So, now I'm wondering whether the long term dangers of riding a bike outweigh the health benefits. Don't get me wrong. I'll keep riding because I'm stubborn and it's fun. But I'm no longer convinced it's good for me. If you can point to any good data on the subject, I'd appreciate it. Thanks!

Strange Connections

If you have this Findability Study, please send me a copy. It's free, but their registration system is broken. AIIM should read their own study, if they can find it!

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If you're considering which conference to attend this winter, don't! Instead, you should join us at Webstock and put some summer in your winter.


Seriously, the programme looks great, and I can't wait to visit New Zealand. Hiking the Tararua range is high on my list, but if you've got suggestions for things to do in the Wellington region, please let me know. Thanks!

Strange Connections

Having recently visited and lectured at the immensely inspiring institution known as the New York Public Library, I enjoyed reading Future Reading.

In Understanding Search Usability, Shari Thurow explores berrypicking (and pogosticking) from usability and seo perspectives.

The folks at Yahoo! Research investigate the use of search results to enhance query classification to improve search results (and advertising).

The UFOs are coming, compliments of Trackstick, Bladerunner GPS, and a host of miscellaneous knowsy gadgets.

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Gone Fishin'

We'll be spending a considerable portion of August on holiday. Highlights will include a few days on Lake Willoughby in the Northeast Kingdom and a week on Glen Lake near Sleeping Bear Dunes and Lake Michigan.

Lake Willoughby

I won't really be fishing, but I am looking forward to swimming, hiking, eating, drinking, afternoon naps, and intergenerational storytelling.

I'm planning to read Ender's Game, Glut, Spook Country, and (recursively) The Legend of Sleeping Bear. Our girls are hoping that if they dig deep enough, they just might find the mother bear and her cubs. Happy Summer!

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What Will Be

I love hearing from readers, especially when they're teachers. Here's my very favorite message of today, reprinted with permission.

Mr. Morville:

Thanks so much for your book. I'm reading it for a second time...and will no doubt read it a third.

I teach a seminar (soon to be a webinar) on research skills for high school seniors who are bound for college. I open every seminar with this question: "What could you be, what could you do, what could your life be like, if you knew that you could find the answer to any question you might ever have, about anything - and not just about what is, or what has been, but what will be?"

Once I kick out a few examples of such "any questions", I have to be very careful not to let this introductory discussion overwhelm the entire time for the seminar!

Now you know why I thank you for your book.

Brian Taylor
Marysville, WA

Makes me want to go back to school. Thanks Brian!

Strange Connections

I had lunch with Superpatron this week (ten ways to build better libraries).

Thanks to a name change, I'm now on the advisory board of Global Findability.

I'm reading too much. The Black Swan. Fascinating, disturbing, and addictive. The Art of Forgetting. Not sure I agree. Is Relevance Relevant? Less and less. Open Source Search Analytics. User-defined best bets? Happy Friday!

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Everything is Miscellaneous

I've written a review, (Not) Everything is Miscellaneous, of David Weinberger's new book. While I don't agree with everything, I do recommend it highly.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

Discovering what you want is at least as important as finding what you know you want. (9)
The solution to the overabundance of information is more information. (13)
How we draw lines can have dramatic effects on who has power and who does not. (32)
It would seem that Wikipedia does everything in its power to avoid being an authority, yet that seems only to increase its authority - a paradox that indicates an important change in the nature of authority itself. (142)
Information architects - the professionals who design the organization of and human interface with information. (165)

Judging by the way it's climbing the charts at Amazon, Everything is Miscellaneous is destined to change the way lots of folks think about organization and knowledge. Congratulations David!

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Asian Lemurs

Yesterday, I received a copy of the Chinese edition of Ambient Findability, along with a beautiful Happy New Year card from my editor at O'Reilly Taiwan.

Asian Lemurs

The lemur book is now available in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese.

Since "Ambient Findability" doesn't translate well, its Korean title is Search 2.0. If only I'd used that title in the first place, we'd have sold twice as many lemurs.

Strange Connections

The search engines are killing SEO, but that's okay according to the author, since the SEO firms can simply reposition themselves as IA firms.

Lou and I were interviewed by Computerworld, plus there's a polar bear excerpt about organizing web sites and intranets.

Excellent article from LibraryThing about when tags work and when they don't.

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Happy Holidays!

My friends at Q LTD have created Hugs for the Holidays, a delightfully practical guide to holiday hugging etiquette.

Hugs for the Holidays

Personally, I believe the tips for hug elusion will prove especially helpful during the holiday season. Beware the ambiguous hugger!

Strange Connections

I've joined the advisory board of GeoQwest, an ambitious venture dedicated to ambient findability. First up? Let's talk about that musical web site.

Daniel Torres Burriel has produced a rough Spanish translation of IA 3.0. My friend, Mari-Carmen Marcos, assures me that the first sentence does not translate to "Peter Morville is on crack." I'll have to trust her on that one.

Karen Loasby's 2001 to 2006: Five Years of Information Architecture is good end-of-year reading. Time flies (and so does Santa).

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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The Tagging Book

Two of my favorite information architects, Gene Smith and Liz Danzico, are seeking case studies for their tagging book. Rumor has it, there are some very smart Everything is Miscellaneous kinda people involved. So, if you're ready to get fabulously famous, please contact Gene Smith directly. Cheers!

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Information Architecture Travels

Tomorrow, I leave for Government CIO at the Hotel del Coronado. Then, after a stop in Washington, I'm off to Chile for the 1st Latin American IA Retreat and the 7th Society & Information Technologies Encounter.

Information Architecture Travels

I'm looking forward to hanging out with an international mix of IAs again, and will be very happy to leave the snows of Ann Arbor for the warm, summery weather of San Diego, Santiago, and Santa Cruz.

Strange Connections

The 2006 edition of Research-Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines is available for print or purchase.

It won't be long before whereistim goes mainstream, but for now, Verizon's offering looks pretty lame.

Research shows that performing 5 acts of kindness in a single day can make you happy. So, if you're feeling blue, head over to my Amazon wishlist and send your happiness index soaring through the roof.

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Destroyed by Google

The lemur found its way into Bruce Sterling's New Scientist story:

And Shakespeare. I used to hate Shakespeare, because the teachers would park us in front of the webcam terminals, turn on the Shakespeare lessons and leave the building. But then, somehow, they showed us Macbeth, a play which actually MEANS something to us. Grown-ups don't understand that (or they wouldn't be teaching it) but Macbeth is the true authentic story of my generation. This is Macbeth's world, and us teenagers just live in it. Dig this: those "Three Weird Sisters", who mysteriously know everything? They can foretell anything, instantly, like Google? Plus, the witches make it all sound really great - only, in real life, it totally sucks? Well, those "Three Weird Sisters" are the "Internet of Things", they're "Ubiquitous Computation", they're "Ambient Findability". The truth is written all over the page (or the screen - my school can't afford to give us any "pages"). Just read that awesome part where they're boiling pseudocode in their witch-cauldron! They talk like web designers!

Strange Connections

Going Beyond Google. As I long time fan of Endeca, I enjoyed this Fortune article about their success and future plans.

On the Road. I'm headed to Louisville for the Kentucky Library Association's annual conference, and then off to Berlin for Euro IA. I'm looking forward to seeing some old friends at the reception on Friday evening.

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Ask Peter

I'm hosting a Washington Post Live Online discussion tomorrow. Anyone can ask a question (now or during the session). And I get to choose which ones to answer, which should make it less stressful than being on the radio! So, if you've got a gnarly question about ambient findability, why not Ask Peter?

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Michigan Mashup

As an advisor to the University of Michigan Press, I'm pleased to announce that nominations are open for The Best of Technology 2006. In other Ann Arbor news, Mind and Maze (PDF) by Ann Devlin promises to be interesting:

Her expertise lies in environmental psychology, particularly in the creation of more humanistic environments in housing for the elderly and psychiatric hospitals. She also specializes in wayfinding, the study of the manner in which environments (through their design and layout) and people (through their creation of maps and other tools) provide cues to help people navigate from an origin to a destination.

Also, Ed Vielmetti is organizing a Library 2.0 Unconference in April.

Strange Connections

At SXSW, Jed Rice of Skyhook Wireless demo'd Loki for me. It feels like 2006 will be the Year of LBS. In related news, Adam Greenfield delivered a great SXSW talk, and his new book Everyware is now available.

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The Sharp Edge of Metaphor

Inspired by the garden of a dead, blind, Argentine activist and librarian named Jorge Luis Borges, I recently wrote A Garden of Forking Paths. It's a strange, semantic rollercoaster that's best experienced on an empty stomach. I also sprinkled a bit of metaphor into this UBC Google Scholar Interview. I hope the Pony Express doesn't get me into hot water. Okay. I'm done.

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March Madness

ETech went well. Bruce Sterling's keynote speech was brilliant, as expected. Now I'm off to SXSW in Austin. Then, the IA Summit in Vancouver. It's a good thing I only have two trips in April. Montreal and Tokyo. See y'all on the road!

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Lemurs in the Classroom

Ambient Findability is a required text in this course on Multimedia Writing. That was fast! They sure didn't have courses like this back when I was an undergraduate English major at Tufts University.

Strange Connections

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Year of the Tag

After some year-end ribbing from Gene Smith and David Weinberger, I've chosen the following New Year's Resolution:

I will adopt a kinder, gentler attitude toward tags.

Seriously, my tag bashing past was a reaction to the hyperbole, and not to the phenomenon itself. And I do think the (related tag) clustering algorithms of Flickr, Delicious, and Technorati show promise.

On Flickr, for instance, if I'm describing a photo of a map, I'll probably use map as my tag (7998 photos). But, as a user, I'm likely to search on maps (2426 photos). The first maps cluster guides me to the map clusters, which transport me to the japan-subway-tokyo cluster, which is cool.

Of course, folksonomic success requires a critical mass of user participation and the readiness to relinquish control. Whether tags can cross the chasm to corporate web sites and intranets remains to be seen. But I'm resolved to be optimistic. 2006 will be the year of the tag.

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Findability Friday

One of the best things about the Web is that during a heated argument with friends or family, you can find the right answer and prove them wrong on the spot, as this Dilbert cartoon illustrates beautifully.

Another great thing about the Web is that if you look carefully, you can often find free beer. Seriously, if you're in or around Ann Arbor today, stop by Q LTD for the first ever lemur launch party.

But make sure to keep a watchful eye on the sky. According to UFO Maps, there was a sighting in A2 recently. Make sure you find them, before they find you.

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Top Ten Reasons Why I Love My Treo

As I've written before, I have never been an early adopter. I'm more of a skeptical, fast-following frugalist. And, when I did finally succumb in the late 90s to the lure of a Palm Pilot, I found it to be worse than useless.

So, it was quite difficult for me last year to commit $350 upfront plus $90 a month for a Treo 600 Smartphone. I cost-justified it (to myself) as an authorial investment. After all, how could I write a book about ambient findability without one? But now, a year later, I'm absolutely hooked.

So, in gratitude, here are the top ten reasons why I love my Treo:

  1. I can check email at home without my wife catching me (usually).
  2. I can synchronize with my MS Outlook Calendar and Contacts. This means that from anywhere at anytime, I can check where I'm supposed to be, and then call ahead to let them know I'll be late.
  3. I can surf the Web and post articles to my blog while lying on the beach.
  4. Thanks to my Atari Retro card, I can play Adventure, Asteroids, Breakout, Centipede, Missile Command, Pong, and Yar's Revenge while pretending to check email.
  5. I can call my friends and family at work while I'm hiking in Yosemite.
  6. It's a great-sounding MP3 player.
  7. It's way sexier than an iPod. Well, at least it's more intelligent and has a better personality.
  8. I can email reminders to myself, so I can forget about important tasks until I check email.
  9. While performing serious academic research in libraries, I can photograph the relevant pages of books, so I don't have to wait in line to use the photocopier.
  10. I can check email while driving. This also belongs in the top ten reasons why I hate my Treo, but that's another list.

Anyway, I'm happy with my Treo 600, and I don't plan to upgrade until they release one with an embedded GPS, so I can use Google Maps to navigate in real-time (but not while driving).

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