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Dec 10, 2002: Balancing Volume with Influence

You should check out the great discussion taking place on iaSlash.org. The topic is one that bedevils many IAs: how to balance input from large user audiences with input from influential user audiences.

It can be tempting to segment and study users based audience size, as the math is simple. For example, if students represent 75% of a college site's users, then 75% of our subjects should be students. But for college administrators, some of the smallest audiences--alumni, corporate donors, recruiters, and the media--might be half the reason for having a site at all.

Interestingly, the reverse can be true: I know of an organization that historically catered to highly specialized medical researchers, as per their mission. When their site launched, the general public quickly became the largest audience for this organization's content. Clearly this will require changes to how their content is authored, and to the architecture itself. But what's most interesting is that the Web's impact on audience may require reexamining and changing the overall organizational mission. The tail wags the dog.

I still occasionally encounter IAs who wonder why they should bother learning about their employer's or client's business model, strategy, and goals. This discussion provides evidence that IA is more than just creating blueprints and wireframes that match users with content.

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Comment: Michael (Dec 10, 2002)

It is certainly not just blueprints and wireframes. That is the smallest part of my job. But then, my title is not information architect, it's information specialist. Neither particularly suits.

Usage data certainly never tells the whole story, which is why I was wondering what people do with it. Speaking as an in-house IA doing information services for/within the enterprise I've noticed that the challenge is a continuously shifting user landscape. Our data changes and aspects of our organization's strategy seems to shift in relation to the company's changes in direction and head count. Large and small groups of paying customers have been leaving the company so frequently lately with numerous "head count reductions". The hardest and most important thing is to find the right people to talk to who can guess the near future strategy and direction of our org. This is informing, to a greater extent than usage data, how I am designing/refining our personas.

Comment: Derek R (Dec 10, 2002)

It's always been about matching content and users -- the other stuff (blueprints, wire-fames, the title of IA, etc.) you just through in for marketing/branding purposes to differentiate yourself from others...

Comment: Michael (Dec 10, 2002)

Of course, no one will disagree that it's about matching content and users. I use the other stuff (blueprints, wireframes) to help communicate ideas. In my small community, people don't care much about the title of IA, they just care about how one contributes to problem solving. I find that the process and the communication is greatly aided by documents that communicate various solutions visually or perhaps describe dimensions of data visually. Maybe the differentiation is in *how* we use these documents? I don't know. A lot of people would have done this with our without the advent of a field called IA, but the field is growing the knowledge around how to apply these documents to problem solving, so that can only be a good thing in my opinion.

Comment: Derek R (Dec 10, 2002)

Visual communication is great, if you know what you are saying, and it has a purpose beyond patting-itself-on-the-head (being visual). However, the impression I'm getting overall from IA is one which moves away from 'matching content to users' towards *busy-work* in pursuit of *deliverables* which is, in my opinion, a marketing technique, and has no interest in *truly* matching users to content, only in the superficial appearance of congruence through special-effects (micro-management mind-set). One can note the Hollywood film devoid of plot and character development, but packed with fX (i.e. "Charlie's Angels") which nevertheless *sells* but, like the allure and experience of a cigarette or TV sitcom, leaves one unfulfilled and with a lingering dull sensation. The point being, either you will genuinely 'match users and content' together [traditionally an editorial function -- *comprehension* -- now attacked by IA-magic-ritual] or you will seek the appearance of such congruence (non-genuine) because it is 'passable' (status-quo). In my mind, IA, which by definition puts blueprints, wire-frames, etc. before business-strategy, goals, and use-models is a marketing-model -- one which seeks to deceive, rather than enlighten, in achievement of its ends. If a manager/executive needs a one-hour Sesame Street hand-puppet display in order to articulate the nuances of the alphabet we are going in the wrong direction -- rewarding ineptitude and genuine clueless in dealing with user-need. The metrics are being employed, not the employees. Stop encouraging management toward status-quo-'cover-my-ass' quantitative-metrics (deliverables) instead of investing in human capital (the 'right' person -- merit). How hard is it to believe someone with a terminal degree in Human-Factors knows what they are talking about? Why resort to hand-puppets?

Comment: chihuahua (Dec 11, 2002)

bitterness alert! bitterness alert!

Comment: uh.huh (Dec 11, 2002)

This guy sure sure spends a lot of time on the web sites and email lists of IAs for someone who feels that the entire community of IAs are inept and clueless. Go away.

Comment: Derek R (Dec 12, 2002)

It *is* interesting that I am continually faced with anonymous and childish complaints to genuine criticism of observable traits within the IA domain. This appears to be an IA characteristic. Why is it no one wishes to engage in discussion in a meaningful way? I admit, I do sometimes invoke ridicule to make my points, but, as recipients within your own field of expertise (??) you should be capable enough of responding with intelligence to the substance of my posts. Perhaps I should use hand-puppets to speak at your level? If you really feel the way you claim to feel in your cowardly and anonymous remarks, why not come out and say the same in genuine, with your real identity intact, since, I am no Lou Rosenfeld -- just a little young nobody who, in your opinion, feels the "entire community of IAs are inept and clueless." Doesn't that make me easy fodder for your cannon? Hiding in darkness only underscores your own unease with your position, your malicious intent, and the absence of reason within your remarks. To paraphrase, "Grow up."

Comment: peterme (Dec 13, 2002)

We're perfectly willing to engage in meaningful IA discussion.

Rather, it seems you are not.

Comment: Derek R (Dec 13, 2002)

In order to engage in 'meaningful discussion,' one must present some information along with their mono-syllabic opinion. Simply thumbing-your-nose at someone in a "I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I?" kind-of-disposition (perterme says - "you are not") does not constitute a contribution invoking meaningful exchange.

For instance, in discussion above -1) Lou has indicated IAs might be placing too much emphasis on "just creating blueprints and wireframes" (deliverables/busy-work) -2) Michael then concludes the remedy may be in finding "the right people" -3) I (Derek) then offer a general reminder not to be hypnotized by 'deliverable-flash' over actual substance [eluding further to my overall impression of IAs being mind-'fixed,' needing 'co-ordinates' (pre-arrangement, like a library-system), and therefore ignoring holistic and more 'open' viewpoints] -4) then Michael reiterates the general useful of deliverables via their "visual" presentation, indicating interpretation ("how," decision-making) might be the crux-agent -5) then I (Derek) further caution against visual presentation (i.e. the best fX wins) as the crux-agent in business decision-making, again, because it solely relies on surface (appearance) shunning the holistic big-picture (experience), I reference old-skool editorial as *comprehension* (holism) in comparison/contrast, and again reiterate not to be suckered-in by carrot-chasing (employing metrics as opposed to knowledgeable/experienced employees), concluding more faith is required in terminal degrees (hard-earned education).

At this point, in the above exchange, information and 'meaningful discussion' stops, and *contrary* emotional response begins.

Again I will point out here, Peter et al, that in order to engage in discussion, one must present some information. Simply stating I (Derek) am not willing "to engage in meaningful IA discussion" without information to support such a personal accusation -- no examples, no prior instances, no anecdotes to illustrate one point, etc. -- is *not* discussion. Neither is closing your eyes, plugging your ears and singing "tra-la-la-la-la." This is what you, Peter, appear to be doing with your mono-syllabic comments.

* * * *

I think the best thing to do now, in light of this apparent personality conflict, is to have it out immediately. Don't run and hide, ears plugged, *without comment* like I have encountered with so many IAs in the past. I ask you, (and all IAs), what the general problem is with what I have presented here, and more specifically, on SIGIA-L, to prompt such childish resentment? I feel I have explained myself well, and provided reasonable arguments to convince; that what I have said has merit. Indeed, I do occasionally receive letters of support, indicating dis-trust and unease with the rigidity-of-mindset generally present within the IA community.

If we (all) do not find a satisfactory answer to resolve our questions at this time, we will continue to be easily angered, resentful, irritable and quick to take offense in the future. We need to understand the real source of our conflict, so that it can be aired. Otherwise we will continue to experience conflicts over phony issues that are only symbols of a much more profound problem.

Comment: peterme (Dec 13, 2002)

It's funny, because you claim to offer information, but your arguments are rarely more than hot air and obfuscation, which you've shown right here.

You speak of not succumbing to "deliverable flash" and need for "Actual substance," but you don't define what that substance is. You claim we need more open and holistic viewpoints, but don't elucidate what those are.

You keep hiding behind fancy notions of holism and experience, but you never once have shown what on earth it is those mean, how we incorporate those into our work, how we deliver the value of such things to others (be they clients or users).

This has been your history of argument from day one. Whether its hiding behind notions of vaguely defined "holism", or retreating to the arms of French criticial theorists, you've never once made an attempt to engage other IAs in a *meaningful* dialogue, instead, speaking, at best, orthogonally, and often simply at cross purposes.

Comment: Derek R (Dec 13, 2002)

> hiding behind notions of vaguely defined "holism"

Well, here is the usage definition of 'holism' -->

It indicates how reductionist-thinking, modeling, schematic description, etc., ignores the big-picture by ignoring the relations which constitute the whole (the interaction) -- that is, that things relate to each other in definitive ways, that definition is found in the relation (contextualization by interaction).

* * * *
>| how we incorporate [holism and experience]
>| into our work, how we deliver the value of such
"the action or process of leading or carrying a current or water, or the like, 'from' a source, 'to' another part," referring originally to the branches of a river by which draw-off is effected (interaction).

Holism is about relation -- not about absolutes. It is an organic or *adaptive* path.

In this way, one does not need to accept my, or any others, particular message (linear thought -- metrics) to benefit from what holism teaches, only observe (and know) 'the way.'

* * * *
>| you never once have shown what on earth
>| it is [holism and experience] mean

I have done my best, again, right here. I believe your difficultly is caused by throwing yourself into a state of consternation unfavorable to receptivity, and difficulty caused by holism (the big-picture) leaving out that which you are used to finding (pre-arrangement), so that, you are bewildered searching for meaning which is not there and is not meant to be there.

For instance, within a holistic framework 1+1=3 (a relational third/composite is created -- the relationship itself as a third factor), not the ABC of a linear-framework metric 1+1=2 where no *composite* is allowed for (ignored interaction, ignored 'it depends').

This simple epiphany of holism is antithetical in nature to the absolute narrowness of purpose (and singular power) zealous adherence to IA metrics protect and serve. One is better off employing learned/experienced employees, rather than tunnel-vision on metrics. Deliverables do a good job of demonstrating metrics, but one must see beyond that. One must begin to understand and *deal with* in order to get past, to *get through* to something beyond original material or concern (a relation, field construction).

In practice, an IA is not a judge, but a detective.

* * * *
> retreating to the arms of French critical theorists ?

This is no retreat. It is a plea for reason and objectivity. The Bourdieu quote is more than relevant to IA:

"...systems of durable, transposable dispositions, structured structures
predisposed to function as structuring structures, that is as principles of
the generation and structuring of practices and representations which can be
objectively 'regulated' and 'regular' without in any way being the product
of obedience rules, objectively adapted to their goals without presupposing
a conscious aiming at ends or an express mastery of the operations necessary
to attain them and, being all this, collectively orchestrated without being
the product of the orchestrating action of a conductor."

It is dis-heartening one cannot see the wisdom contained within it, hardened, presumably, by linear/fundamentalist (library science?) thought.

To paraphrase the above quote: 'true identity burns with the using.'

I hope this reiteration reveals more than "hot air and obfuscation" for you, Peter. I still cannot fathom the resistance to such simple IA topics, beyond the personal. I have tried my best to present these apparent "fancy notions" to you in the most direct and concrete of ways and I welcome more direct and honest interaction.

Comment: Derek R (Dec 13, 2002)

The second part of my message was cut-off. Here it is:

* * * *
>| how we incorporate [holism and experience]
>| into our work, how we deliver the value of such
>| things to others (be they clients or users) ?

The intent of holism is to genuinely show the way, and *how to derive* what might feed us (positive/open -- methodology/strategy).

You derive by branching out: Derivation --> "the action or process of leading or carrying a current or water, or the like, 'from' a source, 'to' another part," referring originally to the branches of a river by which draw-off is effected (interaction).

Holism is about relation -- not about absolutes. It is an organic or *adaptive* path.

In this way, one does not need to accept my, or any others, particular message (linear thought -- metrics) to benefit from what holism teaches, only observe (and know) 'the way.'

Comment: Annoyed IA (Dec 16, 2002)

I'm not so very sure about tail wagging dog, when the vast proportion of postings to this sensible topic have been a case of dog chasing tail.

Stop posturing, and present your ideas in a clear way.

Remember that information architecture is about information, and that information relies upon clear communication. A complex idea simply stated appeals to a wide audience (whether this is in the form of a wireframe, or indeed a blog posting).

I despair of the fact that those who should be addressing these concerns should have their heads so firmly planted up their fundaments.

Comment: Michael (Dec 16, 2002)

Wow. I've been away for a few days, so I've missed this rather fiery exchange. Just a few thoughts about comments that might have been directed at me.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Derek, though I am bewildered by the digression from the discussion of product usage analysis to the indictment of the use of visuals.

Certainly, graphic representations can be used to obscure and manipulate data, but graphic representation is useful beyond merely presenting metrics. Your indictment of deliverables or visual representations of various types of information is curious. I believe people who emply IA methodologies and who learn a craft based on deliverables do so because they are effective tools for documenting and communicating. You seem to believe that if one communicates visually, that indicates an inability to think on both sides of the brain. I don't think that is the case. Visual communication is just a tool for getting your message across. The desired outcome is always to document and communicate. There is a need to this when problem solving in a team environment, so many of us do it. It is not an attempt to protect or obscure. It is a step in the process of achieving the desired end result which you speak of -- connecting users and content/products/whatever. But thanks for reminding us all that this is what our jobs are. If anyone actually thinks their job is simply about being a detective and reporting metrics and isn't also concerned with problem solving and facilitating information or product findability and use, then they are sure to have bigger problems professionally.

I'll ignore the derogatory comment about hand puppets because I don't think ridicule will ever win anyone over. I wonder, after reading this thread if you have considered that a more respectful exchange of thoughts might be more productive than invoking riducule. I want to respect your opinion, but it becomes difficult to give credibility and authority to anyone who disparages his peers with contempt in his tone and choice of words. This is why, I think, people have not wanted to communicate with you. I'm sorry this discussion has deteriorated so.

Comment: Derek R (Dec 16, 2002)

> Stop posturing, and present your ideas in a clear way

Well, this is the crux of the Whole Tamale, isn't it?

The idea of a "complex idea simply stated" is what leads companies into trouble (deliverable/metric-dependence).

My greater point here, the one IAs appear to show the most 'annoyance' or resistance against, is that dependence on deliverables is often nothing more than an exercise in reductionism -->

Reductionism is antithetical to holism -->

I talk about holism because it is my understanding (from following the field for the past 12 months or so), that Lou Rosenfeld, as 'a leader' in the IA community, together with various other leading communities (i.e. SIGIA-L), have been out-spoken and genuine in a desire to *expand* the field of Information Architecture -- to recognize the field as inclusive of various other disciplines, that is, that IA could be comprehensive.

It is further my understanding that THE BEST WAY to achieve this expansion movement is movement away from a fixed position (the absolute) -- that is -- *to expand,* not to maintain a fixed-position which is consumed with just itself (narrow).

With respect to reducing *what is* to some visual-graph or other 'facet' (deliverable) responsible for the Whole Tamale is clearly too reductionist in scope (narrow) and ignorant of the greater processes (the relation/interaction) which brings something into existence (composition).

In other words, you can't just present a deliverable (or paint your occupation into a niche-corner) -- and -- profess comprehension.

Indeed, what is required to 'open up' and 'uncover' (comprehension) is genuine 'understanding' -- which is what I refer to when speaking of *comprehension* -- that knowledge is *acquired,* and this acquisition constitutes 'a way,' a 'path,' a derivation *from* --> *to.*

To me, IAs are missing this 'big picture' by adopting the *role* of elves/helpers (facilitators) popping out deliverables like so many production-line workers.

This adopted role-of-facilitator is only interested in production, or 'selling position' by-any means, in order to reach agreement; selling as occupation ($$$). Nowhere does analytical thought (comprehension) enter the picture.

This is not my view of IA. My view is more expansive and complex.

A 'comprehensive' approach would NOT be "appealing to a wide audience" in service of just "addressing concerns" (sellability) because that boils down to nothing but a marketing technique (i.e. cosmetics/promotion).

IAs need to do more than promotion or facilitation (deliverables). They need to analyze and comprehend. Comprehension is 'put together' in a 'way,' a 'manner,' which *leads to* (derives) so that the meaning, nature, or importance of what is presented is 'grasped at,' and therefore understood because it is inherent.

To use a reggae anthem -- "Nuff reggae music, you must have to choose it." This is a way, or path, or acquisition where interaction/comprehension is key.

One might point to *resistance* from IAs (as here) to acquisition of 'new' ideas which seek to support Lou's 'discipline-inclusion' campaign as evidence of a) complete mis-understanding of what inclusion and openness entails (i.e. derivation), or b) as indicative of revealing a *marketing* technique set-up to cosmetically enhance (promote) the same old rigid approach (metrics) under a false-banner of 'newness' (i.e. openness/variation/derivation).

To you Michael, I say IAs are allowing themselves to be marginalized by merely presenting metrics as an analysis of product usage. At some point one would expect analysis of product usage, not visually-represented algorithms of numbers produced through usage. In short, what metric-produced analysis *pretends* to be about and what it *is* about are two different things. It would seem the IA profession is setting itself up to fake-its-way-through the life-cycle. I don't believe the internet-bubble was informed by reality, but by overly-optimistic deliverables/biz-plans -- flawed because so-much is left unconsidered in reliance on metrics/numbers, the holes being filled with optimism which 'sells' well in presentation (why not, eh?). To invoke holism again, things are much more than the sum of their parts: *How* you 'put together,' (interaction/composition), the 'way' you analyze to reach conclusions (comprehension), is the Whole Tamale.

Comment: Derek R (Dec 16, 2002)

> I don't think ridicule will ever win anyone over

Ridicule implies *purposeful* disparagement.

Ever heard of 99% bad?

> I want to respect your opinion

I believe you. You appear to be the first to engage in discussion with little ol' me -- thanks:-)

>| difficult to give credibility and authority to anyone
>| who disparages

Ever heard of 99% bad? Politics, etc.

By your fruits ye shall know them, and not by their alleged intentions.

>| This is why, I think, people have not wanted to
>| communicate with you.

I think people are just unsure of themselves and their position -- that they cannot, or are unwilling, to risk themselves to compromise and reason through confrontation of opposing/different views.

> I'm sorry this discussion has deteriorated so.

I hope it has deteriorated some rigid and unsustainable visions of IA.

Comment: Michael (Dec 17, 2002)

Ridicule (mockery) runs counter to collegiality. It might happen in fields such as politics, but as a communication tool, I don't feel that it serves to provoke a willingness to communicate openly and willingly. I certainly believe that it is necessary to express a diversity of opinion. In graduate school, I was moved by John Stuart Mill's On Liberty and its implications for protecting disruptive and unpopular, but perhaps revolutionary ideas. I will always stand behind anyone's right to express their thoughts. But the foundation for the maturity and growth of the profession should, I think, be based on professionalism and respect rather than ridicule and contempt. What I fear is that some people will refrain from participating in the open exchange of ideas for fear of ridicule or because they simply do not wish to communicate publicly in this manner. And if that is happening, it is a disappointment in my opinion.

I'm sorry if this has come off as preachy, but respect and nonviolent communication are important to me. I will try to see through unkind words to communicate, but I know that there is a better way. I will say no more on this subject and apologize to Lou for littering his blog with this discussion.

Comment: Adam (Dec 17, 2002)

Michael, I'm invariably in agreement with the concept that expression of "disruptive and unpopular" *ideas* must be protected. However, I also believe that people should have the integrity to accept the consequences of their expression.

So where I part ways with you is in your generous extension of collegiality - a privilege - to someone who has repeatedly shown himself more interested in the disruption than in the idea, and who hides behind all manner of obfuscation and misdirection when confronted on this obvious trend. Derek is someone who has manifestly squandered the default assumption of good faith and extension of good will any civil community offers as a matter of course.

To you, Derek, I say: go away. You offer nothing to any of the ongoing dialogues in our field: no insight, no methodological innovation, no useful reframing. By your own admission, you believe IA is "marketing." Since we poor sheep are so obviously beyond your help, may I ask you to troll other waters? I hear that online support groups for all sorts of afflictions are a wonderful source of attention and reassurance; I'm sure you can find one that suits your needs.

Comment: Annoyed IA (Dec 17, 2002)

I'm not one to stir, but I hugely enjoyed reading Derek's personal site, where he states:

"I have the ability to successfully deal with large groups, associations, and partnerships because I sense what the group needs and can express it so that everyone understands. I am able to stand up before a large group of people and talk convincingly:

Pick up impressions from others very easily
Inspire people’s confidence in my abilities
Imaginative, articulate, and emotionally poised"

I hope that this serves to close this discussion...

Comment: PeterV (Dec 17, 2002)

Back on topic (and gentlemen, personal attacks should be conducted by email) (and I don't mean on a mailing list):

"the impression I'm getting overall from IA is one which moves away from 'matching content to users' towards *busy-work* in pursuit of *deliverables* which is, in my opinion, a marketing technique
IA, which by definition puts blueprints, wire-frames, etc. before business-strategy, goals, and use-models"

I think you are mistaken in both of these quotes Derek, maybe because of the IAs you have worked with. Not that it doesn't happen, but this puppetry is not what most IAs I know practice.

(not to say anything bad about puppetry, a fine craft indeed :)

And even more on topic:

"how to balance input from large user audiences with input from influential user audiences."

In the life of one of my personal sites (about Colombia), a key realization came when I gave a lot of thought to the audiences I wanted to serve and I realized not all were equal. I didn't *want* large audiences, I'd rather *really* help a few people that really need help than kind of help lots of people. I would rather spend a lot of effort serving the small percentage of people like this: a person who is trying to find out more about the town/culture she was born in but hasn't seen since because she was adopted, instead of people looking for general travel information for example. A small percentage of my visitors is worthy of a large percent of my efforts, and that realization came out of thinking about the goals of the site: what was I trying to do with it? Just a story to share :)

Comment: Lou (Dec 17, 2002)

Great story Peter; thanks for getting us back on topic.

So what are the criteria that establish an audience's influence? Obviously it will vary from situation to situation. For the academic site example I initially mentioned, certainly audiences that were sources of $$$ (alumni) and ones that could influence public opinion (the media) were important. In your example, were there any other key criteria besides your altruistic desire to help these folks?

Comment: Derek R (Dec 17, 2002)

Adam, I am aware of your enduring affection for me. When are you going to make your site usable and accessible? Like the fixed-font presentation of http://boxesandarrows.com/ it is unfortunate these sites continue to exist under the guise of 'expertise in architecture' or experience design, when they clearly do not observe the user (they are fraudulent).

This is where the *how* I've been talking about arrives as *paramount.* Where 'the sum of the parts' outweighs misguided style (like relaying on users to invoke ESP to know orange [sans underline] indicates a URL --> http://www.v-2.org/ ) What is it you cannot possible understand about this?? Where is the obfuscation beyond NOT using high-contrast text and bg color? Where Adam? Where Lou?

There is a lot of visible ignoring of the user going on here ~ Why? -- Because that is *how* you continue to do it. That is your *way,* the *path* you have chosen. You appear, in my opinion, to be too much concerned with 'deliverable' (the stylish final product / influence) and outright dismiss actual *use* which would benefit all of us.

Also, continuing emphasis on myself (Derek) as person serves no purpose beyond avoiding the hot issue/topics I draw attention to. I was never comfortable marching-in-a-straight-line and I'm not likely to fall-into the Lou/Adam universe, eyes-tightly-closed, unconcerned with actual architecture or usability/experience. Industry-influence, community hand-holding and band-wagoning are NOT my highest priorities. Those are marketing techniques.

Open your eyes and change your style. Try some attention on what feeds us (users), instead of narrowly focusing on Pay-Day ($$$), and you will experience greater returns.

Comment: Michael (Dec 17, 2002)

Thanks for the example, Peter. I like your distinction between greatest influence versus largest numbers.

I am finding that in my organization, the criteria are mostly based on the strategy and future direction of the company in terms of Business Units and product/services strategy, which it turns out is closely related to how much is spent per Business Unit on our information products/services. The interesting thing I discovered was what Jeff Lash said to be on the look out for, the 80-20 case where a small group of people are influential. In this case, a small group spent the most per person because of the type of products/services they relied on. But these users also turned out to be the most sophisticated and resourceful (they do stuff like competitive intelligence research) and have learned to adapt to the many disparate systems they use. Was interesting to interview them.

So in the end, to select our primary design persona, we relied on strategic cues which happen to closely relate to total dollars spent. Some how, the people we interviewed in these groups turned out to actually have similar goals and information seeking attributes, although the range of skill went from basic library research skills to expert researcher.

To get slightly off topic, I am looking for ways to analyze usage data and information seeking behavior of user types to see how they are satisfied or failed by our system. Matching actual information seeking patterns by persona would be great, something Tanya Rabourn spoke of in her information foraging essay recently.

Comment: dansaffer (Dec 17, 2002)

In the industry where I ply my trade currently (online trading), 10 percent of the customers, the "active" and "day" traders, make up the most influential and most profitable segment of our users.

When we did personae for our users, even though the vast majority of them are "long-term investors," they were not the primary persona we design towards. We try instead to focus on the group that provides the majority of our revenue. Luckily for us internally, this group is also technically-savvy, and thus spurs on innovation from our end.

But it is a challenge, since you simply can't exclude the bulk of your users when designing products. For one thing, customer service calls would go through the roof. For another, there is value in having a large user base, and we wouldn't want to deliberately anger/exclude anyone for fear they'd take their business elsewhere. Acquiring new accounts is extremely expensive.


p.s. to Derek: the only way I know of to convey a holistic, inclusive experience to the developers and designers who actually create what I envision is through deliverables like wireframes. Complex ideas *can* be captured in them--I've done it and seen it done, countless times. The aren't marketing; they are the best way to convey information. After analysis and compehension comes recording and documenting. Otherwise, the analysis and comprehension is all for naught.

Comment: Adam (Dec 17, 2002)

I don't know why we're even discussing the value of deliverables - asking an IA to do his or her job without these tools is like asking someone to make soup without water.

More on topic, I'm dealing with a client right now whose site accounts for the needs of five business units. Each of those five units has a wish list for web functionality, and the trouble is that not each is an equal contributor to the firm's consolidated bottom line.

So, similarly to Dan, what I'm engaging in is an extended process of discovering not which is the largest or the loudest or the most articulate (internal) audience, but which business unit's clients/users are likely to engage with the site in such a way as to provide a meaningful return on investment.

It's challenging, because all of the stakeholders naturally feel that their users are the ones who would benefit the most, but they can't all be right. Nothing to do for it but get in waist-deep, make a couple of educated guesses, and seek the counsel of domain experts.

Comment: Adam (Dec 17, 2002)

And oh, Derek darling: getting into a debate about the usability and accessibility of v-2 here is inappropriate. But I do challenge you to dissect the site at will on your own site, or in another appropriate forum.

Please, have at it. Tell me, please, in as much detail as you wish, how it is fraudulent, and how it disserves its audience. Think of it as a case study.

Comment: Derek R (Dec 18, 2002)

>| After analysis and comprehension comes
>| recording and documenting. Otherwise,
>| the analysis and comprehension is all
>| for naught

Yes, of course, I agree. But IAs appear to me to have dumped and forgotten the 'analysis and comprehension' part (the *core* from which all else is derived) in favor of gung-ho 'recording and documenting' only. Recently championed concepts like 'findability' and 'AIfIA' point to this by their simple emphasis on the end as their means. There is an aura of circumcision^ (bent) confining IA.

O thin men of Haddam, Why do you imagine golden birds?

Comment: Disgusted (Dec 18, 2002)

Derek, you've crossed the line with that last comment. Be very, very careful where you tread now.

Comment: Derek R (Dec 20, 2002)

F--k You Efram, that Wisdom CUTS both ways . . .

If you have something genuine to say, get serious. Reveal your position beyond endorsing violence and deception.

Just what is the problem you have (beyond your disposition) with the quoted line from "13 Ways of Looking At A Blackbird?" -->

That poem effectively demonstrates holism and points to 'thin men' (narrow thinking) which would pre-suppose experience (fixed architecture -- corrupt, like fixed-sports, pre-arranged).

You don't own me, you dope-addled fascist bastard.

You are *contrary* and hide in darkness (an anonymous coward), and I won't put up with it. You will be brought out to light and exposed for who you are, and what you advocate (violent+deceptive fruits).


Comment: christina (Dec 22, 2002)

A long time ago, Derek Powazek said something like "leaving rude comments on someone else's website is like walking into their house, having been invited as a guest, and pissing on their sofa." Debate is good, abuse creates a hostile enviroment where no conversation that is meaningful can take place. If someone peed on Lou's couch, I'm going to guess he would remove them from the living room.

Perhaps this is the correct course of action on his site as well. Perhaps to his "required" list under the comments box should be the same warning as is on Kottke.org: "Hearty discussion and unpopular viewpoints are welcome, but please keep comments on-topic and *civil*. Flaming, trolling, and ass-kissing comments are discouraged and may be deleted. Thanks!"

If Lou chooses to hope humans will behave decently to each other without being instructed to do so, maybe we can live up to that.

Comment: Derek R (Dec 22, 2002)

>| Debate is good, abuse creates a hostile
>| environment where no conversation that
>| is meaningful can take place

What conversation? All I'm getting are personal jabs and malicious intent under cover of deception/disguise. Come-out-with-it if you have something of merit to share which challenges my position! Enough with the personal grudges (i.e. grow up)!

If you want to fight (if we must) I say, let's roll! I can trade hurling-chunks all day with the likes-of-you (contrary) because I'm righteous (A=A=A) and therefore can't lose.

Furthermore, Christina, if you want Lou to erase my messages here, have him go nuts. It's his site, but I understand he might need justification from you if he has no ground to stand upon! (guiltiness pressed on conscience)

I came here, in genuine, and was ignored and attacked by faceless IA cowards. Nobody came to my defense during my tribulations. How telling! There's a double-standard here. Go yell at someone else.

>| If someone peed on Lou's couch, I'm
>| going to guess he would remove them
>| from the living room

This is your answer for everything. SUBDUE & CONTROL !!

I don't like your tone Christina.

When will you stop taking personal jabs at me (Derek as person) and address the issues I have raised? (only interested in endorsing Police States, huh?)

You, me, and the rest of the world can *observably* see your refusal to *deal with,* and your choice to run and hide from genuine issues. Your view of IA is a 'Police State.' Tell me why I'm wrong. I have given plenty of support to my argument and rest comfortably with my position.


*Now is your opportunity to change the subject in reply, offer no reply (ignore/run), delete me (run-run-run), or continue with the personal-jab/subject-change

Comment: Adam (Dec 23, 2002)

You know one of the many reasons I'm sick of you, Derek? Because you keep throwing around scare-words like "Police State" without having the foggiest idea what you're talking about.

My fiancee grew up in a real, live police state. You know, the kind with unlimited stop, search and seizure, propaganda drilled into the heads of schoolkids in their lessons, machine-gun massacres of dissidents (and bystanders)...in other words, the real kind. People who have lived through situations like these observably do not appreciate it when the petty life hassles of wounded Naropa Institute wannabes are described in the same language.

Just because you post inarticulate rants larded with gratuitous insults and racist codewords ("circumcision"), and then earn the predictably universal response of deafening disapprobation does not make you a brave martyr against the empire of darkness. It makes you a bitter and thoroughly marginal nonentity trying to steal a litlle bit of attention from people who have earned it with their work to build a community.

You are a joke, sir, but a conspicuously unfunny one. Now do yourself and all of us a favor and go somewhere you're wanted.

Comment: Derek R (Dec 23, 2002)

You know and understand I have no desire to speak about myself (Derek), as I have indicated several times on this page. Why do you persist?

Furthermore, your tone is consistently hostile and abrasive and personally-directed. This is not professional behavior and anyone reading this blog must understand you, and who you represent, are not genuine or capable. This is *observably so* (not requiring authority-approval).

So again, please, try to address the issues presented and not the person.

As for the word 'circumscribe' it means to enclose like the symbol 'above the number 6' on your keyboard. It is representative of a closed-system, a 'bent' or manner/scheme, one which is *not open,* and therefore pre-determined -->

It is this qualification I am placing on the 'view,' or approach, to IA which visible in the concepts, people, and Web sites referenced above in this page. This qualification I have made, incidentally, is akin to a 'police state' -- without question.

If what I have said is not the case, please, make-a-case (merit) against (i.e. demonstrate how my case is false). So far I have only encountered personal-attacks (i.e. shoot the messenger). This is all *observable* on this page, without question.

You need to ask yourself *why* you feel so threatened. I believe, that answer is involved with the *merit-system* (relational/side-by-side/holistic) which would topple and destroy existing authority-systems (non-relation/one-over-another/hierarchy). The same is true of Web designers whose portfolios are choked-full of 'fixed-font,' 'px-measured' sites. Under a liquid/relation/holistic/usable format, these designers would be at a severe dis-advantage, effectively having their 'carpet pulled' from underneath them. This is *not* a pleasant experience and one should expect resistance, even to the point of childish-desperation -- but *know this* -- it is only up-to-a-certain-point that I will allow (tolerate) back-lash. You must behave (take your medicine) and *choose* the right path which would benefit all of us, or else cease to be, simply because what is 'not good' obviously *cannot endure,* being so bad (i.e. it doesn't work). This is observably so.

"The race is not for the swift,
but the one who endureth."
-- Eccles. 9:11

Comment: Bored with Bickering (Dec 23, 2002)

>As for the word 'circumscribe' ...

Thanks Derek (pedant), we (everyone) know (are educated) what the word (syntagm, vowel/consonant construct) 'circumscribe' means (conventional within society). I (me) don't know (see) what your keyboard (tactile input device) looks like, but the circumflex (^) isn't (is not) circumscribed (line drawn around). Though related (siimilar), they don't mean (define) the same thing (concept)

You (Derek R) however (nevertheless) didn't use (employ) either (choice decision) word (circumscribe, circumflex). Perhaps (possibly) it (circumcision) was a typo (with the keyboard) on your (Derek R) part.

By the way (in passing), are these remarks (parenthetical) condescending (talking down) enough for you (Derek R)? (question!).

Maybe if you constructed complete sentences whilst avoiding the temptation for interjections your message might get through a little easier. You have only yourself to blame if a shoddily crafted piece of wordsmithing fails to communicate. You have to decice what's more importantant to you: getting your message across, or being a pedant.

>but the one who endureth.

tell that to Sisyphus.

(ooh, an obscure reference! google it now)

Comment: Bored (Dec 23, 2002)

>decice --> decide
>importantant --> important

oh, the irony.

Comment: happy.holidays (Dec 23, 2002)

can't we all just get along?

Comment: Derek R (Dec 23, 2002)

The irony is thick -- but the plot never thickens.

When will you address the issues and not shoot the messenger?

How long, O Lord, how long?

Comment: Adam (Dec 23, 2002)

My tone unprofessional? Imagine that!

Guess what: I refuse to hide behind the discourse of professionalism. I'm a person. My tone is that of a human being naturally irritated when he and the people he works with - who in some cases are personal friends - are called fascists, and worse, by someone who clearly has no idea what he's talking about.

Derek, the reason nobody engages your "issues" is because frankly, buddy, your ideas are incoherent. There's nothing there *to* engage, you see what I'm saying? There's nothing to debate, no pro or con position embraceable.

All that's left to deal with is a guy who is not an IA, or anything close, and who comes onto IA lists and boards, and complains that the leading practioners in IA feel free to define the field they work in and he does not. You're surprised at this?

Seriously, Derek, I hope you take some time this holiday season and think about what it means to call something a "police state," what it means to call people "sheep," and why folks might tend to get irritated with someone who slings words like these so heedlessly. You are nowhere near as righteous, or as innocent, as you portray yourself.

Comment: Derek R (Dec 23, 2002)

If you were intelligent enough to understand the notion of *scanability* -->
you would know 'findability' is a marketing technique, dreamt-up by marketers looking for that 'golden sale.'

You see Adam, users don't read; they scan. Most humans innately know that they are not going to get what they want out of life. They take what they can (scanning). The 'golden ticket' is a pipe-dream for losers and people who play the lottery. Grow up! Small is better. Take what you can get.

Read it again -->

Sooner or later you will have to learn how to live out here where the *real* wind blows.


" In the abundance of water
The fool is thirsty "


Comment: Eric Scheid (Dec 24, 2002)

Scannability and Findability are orthogonal concepts. The validity of one has no impact on the validity of the other.

To understand the difference between the two concepts requires more than simply analysing the root terms. Surely you don't need a lecture on holistic understanding, right?

Comment: Derek R (Dec 24, 2002)

If you bothered to read Nielsen's explanation -->
you would be speaking with more authority:

"Users scan rather than read"
"People attempt to minimize the number of words they read"
"The Web is a user-driven medium"
"Users feel that they have to move on"
"Users don't know whether this page is the one they need or whether some other page would be better"
"[Users] are not willing to commit"
"Most pages are in fact not worth the users' time"
"Experience encourages [users] to rely on information foraging"
*Note that 'foraging' absolutely does not imply 'finding' -- it implies the process, the act -- nothing is 'found' (an end).
"Users move"

As you can observe from the above, and by reading the article, there exists no concept of 'finding' anything. In fact, the *exact opposite* is explicitly stated -- that users are aware there is no 'golden ticket' and resign themselves to *the process* -- NOT THE END.

Grow up! Stop lying to people. The concepts are in obvious conflict.

**Small is better. Take what you can get.**

Comment: Eric Scheid (Dec 26, 2002)

I have read Nielsen's article, but (a) it's not gospel, and (b) even if it is it doesn't support your position.

I read Jakob's scanning article as instruction as to how to format the content on a page - avoiding obtuse blocks of dense text, and employ specific techniques to cater to scanning. In doing so users will be able to more quickly grasp the core and context of the content ... and determine if this is what they are looking for.

It does not explicitly state that users avoid having goals, nor does it state that users prefer "the experience" over and above gathering information (albeit one tasty morsel at a time). The age of the web as a theme park ride is long over. People use it to gather information, and anything (eg. increasing the ease of finding things) we can do to help people do that is a good thing.

In my experience of watching users they most certainly *do* have a concept of "finding". In fact it's not unusual for them to stop at some early discovery and say "that's it". They most certainly don't attempt to gather more information, weigh it all up, compare and contrast, and so on. What they find may not be perfect, but it will suffice.

Sometimes they'll even find something and come to believe it is the fount of all wisdom (eg. useit.com and dictionary.com) ;-)

I'm still trying to figure out what advantage your anti-findability stance has. Surely you are not suggesting we should take content and break it up into small morsals and scatter them across many pages intermingled with other content?

Comment: Derek R (Dec 27, 2002)

>| what advantage your
>| anti-findability stance has ?

Well Eric, the advantage is that those who would build architectures that other people have to use would have the benefit of building an architecture which is not cast-into-stone, fixed, and presumes its stance is the end-all-and-be-all of existence. That, in fact, 'finding' something absolutely implies and means that one has 'arrived' and you do not need to keep 'looking' because you have already 'found' what you sought. This is the basis and foundation of 'marketing,' to convince by hook-or-crook that what product company A offers is 'as-good-as-it-gets' and one need not 'look' any further.

Please note here that:
finding = absolute end
arrival = absolute end
found = absolute end
marketing = absolute end
scanning = process/towards (no end)
looking = process/towards (no end)
seek/sought = process/towards (no end)

IF you really feel you have the clout to provide the 'golden ticket' for all the world's users out there, then, I commend you. Obviously this is not the case. The *reality* of the situation is that for every product, company, information, etc. which exists there are competing versions, all equally valid, which also exist, and therefore, positioning one particular product or information as superior and absolute over another is fascist in design, publicly intolerable, and just-plain wrong.

IF the inventor of the 'findability' concept knew anything about semantics, that person would have chose a better word. The current word and what it denotes/means is a presumption/assumption that the 'architect' has it all-figured-out and knows better than all the world's users. That product X is what users will want and there is no need to look any further because users have 'arrived' and 'found' exactly what they have needed.

Again, planting into people's minds that product X or information X is something which satisfies a users 'need' or 'want' is a marketing technique and has no place in architecture for the whole-wide-world. People are different and distinct from each other and will fight to maintain control over there own destinies. Neither you or anyone else can 'play God' and suggest 'this is it,' the end-all-and-be-all, in a macro-sense -- the sense you mean to instill through the use of architecture.

IF I understand you correctly, you intend to be an architect, which means foremost, to build *for use,* not to control, subjugate, or otherwise enslave to your fettered whims (marketing). I don't need your 'golden' products Eric. I don't want to buy them, I can easily live without them, and I will, together with other like-minded *individuals* fight against being forced to accept them as absolute.

You need to accept the concept of 'findability' as a knock-off of 'scannability,' poorly done due to ignorance of semantics. 'Scan' and 'find' are as far apart as you can get in the discovery-racket since one is inclusive and perpetually feeds us, where the other just excludes and does no more.

Comment: sonia kaur (Mar 27, 2003)

i wont to know about your company and your data entry.

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