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Jul 24, 2002: What are We Going to do Now?

Michael Angeles is burning out and it's made me really upset.

It's not just that I like Michael and don't enjoy seeing a good smart person hit the wall. And it's not that he's begun to find information architecture, my own bread and butter pursuit, boring. No, there's more to it than that: basically, I'm an intellectually lazy person, and Michael's ia slash has been covering my selfish ass for a while.

Michael has been identifying, filtering, excerpting and occasionally commenting on the best stuff from the IA fire hose. He's done it on an almost daily basis for a year or two now. No one should be surprised that such a responsibility would eventually overwhelm anyone who has a job and a family and a life. So let's tip our hats to Michael, send him a note of gratitude, and hope he recharges at the Jersey Shore (though he should beware; I almost died there last year).

In the meantime, how should the IA community go about filling this huge hole? Assuming there aren't more Michael Angeleses out there lining up to take turns with the fire hose, there are a number of models for collaborative news filtering to consider. But first, some questions:

  • Before we consider collaborative filtering, are there other IA sites/services that could fill the gap? Or, possibly, natural combinations of existing ones?
  • Does the IA community exhibit the right characteristics to support collaborative filtering? I'm not sure what those characteristics are frankly, but I suspect they have something to do with age of the community, its size, and the degree of interconnectedness within its social network.
  • Should IA filtering efforts stand alone, or be mixed into a broader, established collaborative filtering project (e.g., Slashdot)?
  • Does anybody else feel a great sense of impending doom with the termination/mothballing of ia slash?
  • Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care?

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Comment: Jess (Jul 24, 2002)

>Does anybody else feel a great sense of impending doom with the termination/mothballing of ia slash?

No. Not really.
>Assuming there aren't more Michael Angeleses out there lining up to take turns with the fire hose

Mostly because this assumption is partly wrong.

While there is no way Mike can be replaced, iaslash should continue chugging along.


Comment: christina (Jul 24, 2002)

Jess is right. it' a damn shame Michael feels burned out, but it happens. Matt Jones has also eschewed carrying on about IA/HCI for awhile. Doens't mean he won't do, or doesn't liek ti, but he can't obsess much longer over it.

iaslash was supposed to be a community site on the slashdot model. perhaps Michaels absence will inspire others to pick up the slack. I hope so...

Comment: Lou (Jul 25, 2002)

Sorry Jess, but I still feel the sense of doom. Jess, Jeff and Andrew will try to spell Michael, but knowing them, I know how busy they are.

And I'm just not that optimistic that others will line up. There seems to be a core group of people that take on these jobs of serving the broader IA community, including Michael, Jess, Jeff, Andrew, Christina... and all of these folks are already way overtaxed. If instead of Jess, Jeff and Andrew, three people who wouldn't have immediately sprung to mind volunteered, then I'd feel much better.

Comment: jefflash (Jul 25, 2002)

We've all been freeloading off Michael for quite some time. Even you, Lou.

I think part of it is that people are not busy right now. Many are out of work, and a good number of those who are employed are not overloaded with projects. There's more of an impetus to learn, share, and grow when you have a goal to work towards or a reason to. I think a lot of people are more concerned with looking for jobs -- or keeping their jobs -- than with anything else.

Part of it could be that the high we felt after the IA Summit is wearing off, and, at least for those of us in parts of the Northern Hemisphere with discernable seasons, it's easier to spend spare time on volunteer projects during the drab winter months than on long enticing summer days.

The same thing is happening with the wiki -- for the first six months or so it was growing like crazy. People contributed and filled in the holes, and now there's a great deal of information there. The problem is that most of the main topics have been discussed, and even the minor pages are well populated, so it's tough to get it to grow more because there isn't much more to add in many cases. The first few months were busy adding in years of links, writings, thoughts and references, and that's why it seemed so busy.

Think of all that's been accomplished in the last year -- IAwiki, Boxes & Arrows, IA Summit, info-arch (mainly the mailing list archive), an explosion of new local IA groups, a number of upcoming books, IA sessions at NNGroup conferences, an IA-heavy tour (Adaptive Path), and a lot of things that I'm sure I'm forgetting.

It could be that the IA community feels like a clique and people are "afraid" to get involved. I'd like to think that's not the case, since all of these projects have been open to everyone -- B&A welcomes contributors and volunteers, the wiki is open to everyone, anyone can post on iaslash, the call for help on info-arch.org was well-publicized (and is still going on), the mailing lists are certainly open, local IA groups are set up grassroots-style, and any individual initiatives (blogs, etc.) have been well-received. Still, I'm sure there are people who have this feeling, and perhaps we need to look into where this perception came from and how we can work to change it.

But, all in all, I'm not worried. There are still lots of people involved in the community -- mainly on mailing lists -- and if we can take some of the energy used to discuss linguistic semantics and put it towards practical applications and resources (like the ones proposed at info-arch.org), we'll be able to accomplish a lot more in the next year.

Of course, I realize the two ironic parts of this. First, the only people discussing this (here) are part of that "core group" you mentioned, and by me posting here, I'm just contributing to the problem. Second, the freeloading link I mentioned earlier is a response to an email from Jess, where Jess complains, er, comments about being called a freeloader. Jess being a freeloader? Please...

Comment: jefflash (Jul 25, 2002)

Oops. That freeloading link should be:


Comment: Victor (Jul 26, 2002)

All I have to say is there's absolutely nothing wrong with the Jersey shore. I spent every summer of my youth there. The worst that could happen is you end up like me.

Comment: Michael (Jul 26, 2002)

The thing to remember with the Jersey shore and riptides is to swim parallel to the shoreline when you're caught. You'll eventually come out of it and can swim back. Don't swim directly into it, you'll just tire yourself out. :)

Comment: Lou (Jul 26, 2002)


Hey Michael, aren't you supposed to be keeping away from the computer? Go jump in the ocean!

Comment: Michael (Jul 26, 2002)

I didn't intend for that last post to be a metaphor for saving one's self from burnout, but it sure seems like a good one. I suppose the subconscious message that's manifested itself is that I'm optomistic that as with riptides, work burnout can be ridden through. Eventually a path to safety will show itself. Either you take it, or you splash around and fuss 'til you drown in the water you're treading. I just feel like floating on my back for a while. I know there will eventually be some refuge from the sea.

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