Archive - May, 2006

Gadgets I’d buy from CeBIT06

CeBit 06

So, I popped into CeBIT this morning. Afterall, I love a gadget as much as the next girl. I don’t think I’m exactly their target audience, but there were still somethings that I found interesting. Here they are:

  • Wacom Tablets: now, this isn’t new, but when I had a play with one this morning I was thinking to myself, how much more fun would it be to do wireframes using a device like this and software more like Illustrator. Does anyone out there do this? I can see a few problems with it, particularly if you needed to have multiple people working on the files…. but I bet for some projects it would be amazingly fun. (And much less with the old wireframe RSI)
  • Maxtor OneTouch Mini Edition External Hard Drive: I’ve been putting off buying some kind of hardware to backup my lap top and have been using boring DVDs instead. And now I know why. I’ve been waiting for this little darling to arrive. It’s the iPod Nano of external storage. I *must* have one. Immediately.
  • The Open Source Guys were out in full strength. I’ve been thinking about doing something with an opensource project – as in, contributing some time to a project to help it be a little more user friendly. Had a chat. They’re very friendly. I’m going to look into this more. Anyone out there do any work with any open source developers? They gave me a CD so that I can play around with their open source version of Photoshop and Illustrator… I shall report back :)
  • VOIP was everywhere. I was looking for something I could use at home. Didn’t find anything.
  • PTG Global and Hiser were there. They didn’t have any fun showbags though.

OK. That’s my quick, on the fly report of CeBIT from a non-hardcore-techy perspective.

Have you been? What did you think?

share your OPML?

Dave Winer wants you to Share your OPML. I’ve shared mine, you should share yours too! What’s OPML? Well Wikipedia says it stands for Outline Processor Markup Language and that it’s an XML format for outlines. Mostly it’s used to exchange lists of RSS feeds between RSS aggregators. There’s lots more info here. Dave says that the site is ‘a commons for sharing outlines, feeds, and taxonomy. I’m not sure where the taxonomy part comes into it just now. It does already allow some interesting manipulation of the data including: Top 100 Feeds, Most Prolific Subscribers, Who Subscribes to [a particular feed], and also allows you to see other subscribers whose lists are similar to yours. From a quick review, it seems quite accurate – a great way to find more feeds you’re interested in (as if you needed any more!).
If you’re a Bloglines user like me, getting your OPML file is easy. Once you’ve logged in just change the URL to http://bloglines.com/export and the page will change to show you a whole bunch of XML. Then go File, Save As and give it a nice name. Then go to Dave’s site, sign up, upload and share. It’s only going to be fun and interesting if we all be caring and sharing with our OPML.

Why you shouldn’t start IA with a Content Inventory

Student Papers by Idiolector on Flickr
I get the feeling that there are some people out there who think that one of the first things you want to do, when starting an Information Architecture project, is a detailed Content Inventory. (Want to get into a discussion about what terms to use and what they mean, go to the IA Wiki – I’d give you a link to the exact page, but the site seems to be down at the minute).
Personally, I am of the opinion that starting your project with an inventory of this kind is probably one of the *worst* ways to go about developing a good IA.
Not only is it the fastest way to lose enthusiasm for a project (hey, you don’t do a Content Inventory for fun… they’re really the most tedious work that an IA has to do). It is also the best way to ensure that you’re *not* taking a fresh approach to how the content might be structured and related.
When you’re doing a content inventory, you’re unavoidably indoctrinating yourself into the way that things are currently done. The IA approach (or lack thereof) currently in use, the way things are named and grouped. The stuff you’re trying to fix. It is very hard, once you’ve been through that process, to divorce yourself from ‘the way it is’ in order to be able to work out ‘ways that it could be’ and ultimately ‘the best way forward’.
And, in the early design stages, you don’t *need* to know every single bit of content and where to find it. You just need to know, broadly, what the really important content is (speaking from a content perspective – there are lots of other things you need to know about your client, your users etc.)
So, rather than doing a content inventory, do a content survey. Have a run through the existing content. Work out what’s there, and find out what’s important. Learn about how much exists, how the content will grow (or not), what content is high priority, what are the different types of content.
Then, while you’re still excited and energised about the project, start designing. Pull out your paper and a pencil and get creative. Imagine all the different ways that you could possibly approach this content.
Design when you’re still fresh, then go do your content inventory and make sure your designs still hold.
I guarantee, not only will you enjoy your work much more, but your work will be more enjoyable for users.
And both of those things, I think, are what it’s all about.
What do you think?
Image Credit: Idiolector @ Flickr

Frustrations of a Z-Lister (on the MS Live/Firefox debate)

ok. it’s petty, i know. And I’m sure it happens to all of us. But it *is* annoying when you start a conversation about something that bothers you (like how MS Live services don’t support Firefox), and then three months later Scoble blogs about it (in response to Darren Barefoot), and suddenly it’s big news.

I know, I know. That’s how it works when 15 million people read his blog and not so many read mine (btw thanks for reading mine, I appreciate each and every one of you… now, Scoble couldn’t say that!)

Maybe one day, when Sphere finally decides to index my blog, things might change ;)

< /rant>

It was interesting to re-read my rant on the Live Mail beta. I checked back into Hotmail/Live Mail today for the first time in ages, and you can now reply (previously, as reported, Microsoft didn’t think replying was critical functionality for email – if you’re a Firefox user, that is). I’m sure I read somewhere earlier this week about Microsoft reducing the amount of advertising they included on their Live services… that doesn’t seem to be true, yet. It would certainly make for an improvement to the user experience.

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