Learning, Doing, Selling: 2006 IA Summit Wrapup: Saturday

“In a world where facts are a dime a dozen, and tags are the new black, will knowledge become a commodity?”

Opening keynote
David Weinberger
Conference description

Reviewed by: Liz Danzico

For some keynote speakers, the opening plenary is an opportunity to talk about a trend or the prediction of a new tipping point, concepts illustrated through a carefully constructed PowerPoint with charts and graphs to back up those concepts. For David Weinberger, the Summit’s 2006 keynote speaker, it was that, but it was also a unique opportunity to work through new material, material that hasn’t been figured out yet…even by him. Of note, these concepts were key themes of each Summit presentation that followed in the subsequent sessions—the implications of tagging on the creation of meaning and our definitions of authority.

Authority, in the past, appeared to be an objective concept. Merriam-Webster, Encyclopedia Britannica, the New York Times, and even the fantastical that was “Sesame Street” all offered a sense of objective truth. “Because I said so” often meant the end of the conversation when dealing with authority figures. A doctor’s diagnosis was only countered by a “second opinion,” but nothing further. These dead ends were largely a result of the lack of opportunity to discover different or alternate opinions.

David Weinberger

Photo credit: Javier Velasco

Likewise, there was a time when authors might have been the best judges of what their works were about. A single person or group of persons was the automatic authority on the content because he created it. Weinberger claims this is no longer true: taggers are. Users, he boldly introduces the Summit by saying, are now determining the social order, and there are new definitions of authority.

What implications does this have? Does it matter that I want to tag a “penguin” a bird, although it may not be the best example of the commonly held definition of “bird?” Weinberger would argue, “Many,” and “Absolutely,” respectively.

It seems, he lets us know that we are seeing an externalization of meaning in a way that not only hasn’t happened before, but wasn’t possible before. If you were to understand a hammer in the past, you would have to understand not only nails, but the economy, the sun, the et cetera, creating referential context. Now, none of that is necessary. Whereas once books externalized knowledge and calculators externalized arithmetic, now new systems are allowing the externalization of meaning.

But, sure, it’s not perfect.

We create messy playlists; we create our own “poorly designed” homepages. And, without question, they’re not perfect, but they are good enough. “Good-enough information,” as Weinberger calls it, is, in fact, pretty good.

We’ve spent a long time creating knowledge; now we’re building meaning. In a world where facts are a dime a dozen, and tags are the new black, will knowledge become a commodity? We just may need to wait for his upcoming book Everything is Miscellaneous, to find out.

Opening keynote, continued

Reviewed by: Donna Maurer

In this inspiring keynote, David Weinberger drew on work from a range of philosophers and linguists to answer the question “What’s up with knowledge?” He discussed the fact that the data, information, knowledge, wisdom continuum is the wrong way around; the seven properties of knowledge; and the differences between knowledge in the real and digital world. He also discussed the nature of authority and finally, the topic of this year’s summit, tagging.

He noted that despite tagging’s current popularity, we will still have hierarchies, we still have the semantic web, and we will continue blogging to pull together rich information.
Although minor, one thing that stuck with me beyond the session was a comment about a recent attempt at defining tagging. David suggested that instead of defining it, just point at del.icio.us and flickr (both prototypical examples of tagging)–that’s tagging. It doesn’t need to be defined when we have such strong examples.

I can’t wait until his next book comes out and I have a chance at understanding all this…

We Are Not Alone: IA’s Role in the Optimal Design Team
Jared Spool
Conference description

Reviewed by: Hallie Wilfert

Why is the iPod miles more popular than any other mp3 player? What makes Netflix more popular than Blockbuster? It’s not the features or functionality of these products, but rather the experience that they provide their users that drive their popularity. Jared Spool’s presentation centered on UIE’s current research that is looking at how to build the “iPod of user experience teams.”

When people talk about how much they love Netflix, they don’t talk about the amazing information architecture (IA) or the seamless use of AJAX. Experience design, when done well, is invisible—which can sometimes make it difficult to sell. However, when done poorly, experience design can have a huge impact on a business.

The skills required for a good experience design team are multidisciplinary. A great team has expertise in analytics, copy writing, IA, usability, ethnographic research, understanding of social networks…the list goes on.

In their research, UIE has discovered that there are three ways to build an experience design team:

  1. Consulting. Often defined as getting in the “guy from the east coast with charts.” This approach only works in a small organization with a few projects.

  2. Review and approve. A consulting team cannot touch everything, so policies to review and approve designs are implemented. This approach moves very slowly and bottlenecks are created.
  3. Educate and administrate. The team does not touch every design. Instead, by giving people the resources and education they need up front to create a good design, the team can ensure understanding and commitment to UX throughout the project

The Educate and Administrate model is an empowering approach and it allows for the entire organization (including the boardroom) to become engaged in designing the experience. This approach is made up of a few key elements:

Educate

  • Have a clear vision of success

  • Disseminate user knowledge—talk and share what works and what doesn’t work
  • Embrace the teachable moments. When a problem occurs, look at it as a chance to learn.
  • Build a communication path to all design agents

Administrate

  • Make it cheap to collect feedback on new design ideas
  • Share learnings across the organization—don’t just keep the knowledge within the design team.
  • Make good design the path of least resistance. If it’s easy, then people are more likely to comply.

So what is the role of the IA in the experience design team? Just as not every hospital can afford to employ someone who just performs hand surgery, few design teams can afford a person who specializes only in IA. Jared stated that information architecture is a skill set within UX design and does not have to be done by an information architect.

Jared Spool

Photo credit: Javier Velasco

Flexibility is essential for practitioners since the need for specialization is driven by the economy. Specialists, that is, people who can dive deep into a specific discipline, exist and survive only when there is demand, while generalists, people who can bounce between disciplines, serve lower-demand economies. Both generalists and specialists can gain experience and skills through repetition and study and both are required for UX to succeed.

Lest the IAs become uncomfortable with this pigeonholing, Jared made it clear that specialization is not equivalent to compartmentalization. Specialists, he said, have enough experience with other skills to understand and interact in those areas whereas compartmentalists only work in what they know. In this light, he stated that IAs must be versed in other UX disciplines.

Additionally, Jared’s talk ended with a call out to the IA community who should support:

  • Information architecture as a skill set for the UX generalist,
  • IA as a specialty, and
  • Moving to the Educate and Administrate model to build a successful UX design team.

Setting the Agenda for IA Research
Don Turnbull, Peter Morville, Jamie Bluestein, Keith Instone
Conference description

Reviewed by: Donna Mauer

Keith Instone

Photo credit: Javier Velasco

Don Turnbull introduced the discussion by outlining what they mean by research, providing ideas on possible areas of IA research and discussing the forthcoming Journal of IA. Keith Instone talked about what a research agenda is, comparing it to research agendas for other fields. Jamie Bluestein discussed some of the types of hypertext research that had been undertaken and were still continuing and some of the viewpoints considered at the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) hypertext conference.

Peter Morville, who spoke naked (i.e., without using PowerPoint), talked about the uses for research–as a weapon, to ask the big questions and looking at other dimensions of our field. Peter highlighted that there is value not only in having IA research, but also that there is value in the labeling of it as IA research–this label adds authority to the research conducted and the field as a whole. This, to me, was the most important point as I have long felt that there were already many areas of research that informed IA. I think this is the real value in IA research–that it is ‘ours’, focused for our community and labeled as such.

There were no big conclusions from this panel, but it did provide an interesting perspective on the role of research for the IA field.

IA: Not Just for the Web Anymore
Dan Brown, Lou Rosenfeld, James Melzer, James Robertson, Seth Earley
Conference description

Reviewed by: Jorge Arango

This panel brought together four experts in the area of Enterprise Information Architecture to have an open conversation about some of the most relevant issues about this topic today. As moderator, Dan Brown did a great job of keeping things on track, while encouraging audience participation. The four panelists were knowledgeable and held strong points of view, which they presented clearly and passionately. However, I find that panels are most engaging when the panelists disagree somewhat, and that didn’t seem to be the case here.

Some of the topics covered included:

  • Defining enterprise information architecture
  • How to plan and budget for it
  • Which other members of the organization can help
  • How to effect cultural change within the organization
  • Technology issues
  • Tips on how to implement EIAs

As with most panels, these issues were addressed from a variety of perspectives and the conversations were peppered with concrete examples from real-world situations.

One of the panel’s highlights was a James Robertson’s impassioned plea for getting down to basics: helping people accomplish their goals more easily, “cutting the crap”. Throughout the panel, he remained a champion of a more humane EIA, arguing for common sense and a focus on benefiting people (something that can be a challenge in enterprise settings).

Exploring patterns in website content structure
Svetlana Symonenko
Conference description

Reviewed by: Christian Crumlish

Svetlana Symonenko discussed prelimary findings from her research into emerging common practices among large-scale websites. She began with some statistics: 16% of the global population is online, 21% of users find the information they’re looking for more than 80% of the time. Most site visitors like to browse. Even self-declared searchers tend to browse first to look around a new site and get their bearings.

Symonenko’s study arose out of observations she made while working for an information vendor, indexing and abstracting websites. Because she was paid per site, she had an incentive to cover as many sites as possible. In doing so, she learned to recognize some patterns.

Her study is designed to look for signs of “conventionalization” in the observable structure of website content. A website is created by its sponsor with an audience in mind. Together, the sponsor and audience form what she called the website’s discourse community.

Symonenko presented preliminary results from the pilot phase of her study, which examined 15 websites (five each .edu, .com, and .gov). Her approach was to spider the sites “breadth first,” gathering title, link URL, link label, and level of each link going three levels down from the home page, recording only links at the original domain, and excluding dynamic pages.

She used analytical induction and grounded theory to analyze her data, meaning she didn’t apply preexisting categories to her data. She combined synonyms (such as “academics” and “school” at education websites, and various terms for product pages at commercial websites).

Categories found in 80% or more of the sites she studied were considered standard, categories found in 50 to 80% of the sites she considered conventional, and categories found in fewer than 50% of the sites she considered unconventional.

Navigation links comprised 1/5 of all links, with “Home” being the most common (“About” and “Contact” were next). Clear patterns were discerned in the three types of sites examined. A larger follow-up study is underway.

Symonenko feels that there are a lot of guidelines and best practices extant for design but not many for content. She is hoping that her study will make best practices apparent.

An audience member asked if she had done ethnographic research in her user study and whether she trusted users to report accurately on their own browsing and searching habits. She said that in her study users were “forced to browse” and then debriefed, and that she did take what they said at face value.

While the preliminary results from the study were somewhat skimpy and not particularly surprising to anyone who has browsed the web or built large websites, I’m looking forward to the results of the larger study to see whether there really are any de-facto content and navigation standards emerging.

“Is it really possible to re-introduce playfulness and creativity into the serious and stressful environments that seem to be the norm in the corporate world?”

Game Changing: How You Can Transform Client Mindsets Through Play
Jess McMullin
Conference description

Reviewed by: Jorge Arango

The promise of this presentation’s subtitle—transforming client mindsets through play—was very alluring. Is it really possible to re-introduce playfulness and creativity into the serious and stressful environments that seem to be the norm in the corporate world? Apparently I wasn’t the only one enticed by the title to join the fun: Jess was speaking to a standing-room-only audience. The anticipation and excitement in the room was palpable.

Jess McMullin

Photo credit: Javier Velasco

We were not let down. With his trademark humor and intelligence (traits that often go hand-in-hand), Jess presented the conceptual framework that underlies his ideas regarding the use of play as a catalyst for organizational change. These concepts, which can easily become very abstract, were kept clear by the use of very appropriate visuals and amusing metaphors. (At one point he described his game-playing technique as a “Mary Poppins moment”, an allusion to that character’s use of sugar to help children swallow their medicine.)

Jess described some games that he and his team at nForm have used successfully in the past, and even invited us to play one of them (“MetaMemes”). Unfortunately, the size of the audience and the limited time available muffled the impact of this exercise. However, including a game as part of the presentation allowed us a glimpse of the possibilities—and sheer fun value—of play in a professional environment.

Game Changing: How You Can Transform Client Mindsets Through Play, continued

Reviewed by: Donna Maurer

Jess presented an incredibly useful and entertaining session on “Game playing: Changing client mindsets through play.”

The primary reasons for game playing are to communicate in a different way with clients and to create effective shared references via shared stories or experiences.

Some of the ways to create games are to modify existing activities, use existing games and formats, create new games, and use improvization exercises. He pointed out that you don’t need to call them games, but can use them within existing activities and processes.

We played a simple game with a neighbor: Using two of the following ideas (drawn from a card deck), we had to come up with an idea or concept to better connect children and a financial institution: Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, anti-aging gene, gross out, connection, swarm intelligence (off you go, brainstorm…)

The session was well presented and entertaining and a great one to do just before heading into the IA Slam.

Architecting self-organizing learning communities
Faison “Bud” Gibson
Conference description

Reviewed by: Christian Crumlish

Bud Gibson, who teaches programming to business school students, presented about two-way learning communities using Web 2.0. He started off with a few observations: Teaching is broadcasting. No information gets back to the broadcaster and only partial info to audience. He hypothesized that collaboration would yield richer information for everyone involved, but two-way flow is hard for a person (the teacher) to organize, so the solution must be self-organizing. People need to feel they are in a shared space to collaborate.

Bud experimented with text-only software for collaboration/sharing. He wanted to use a standards-based approach (using RSS and HTML) to avoid lock-in. He wondered if people would want to share. The guinea pigs were a class of business school students who were very competitive. Given the choice people will only do what provides value back to them
The first time he tried this, he set his students up with Typepad blogs and the re-aggregated the feeds at a single site (one-stop shopping), making all of the blog feeds available in the form of an OPML list. He also invited “guests” via syndication, including Microsoft blogging evangelist Robert Scoble (Scobleizer blog) and Asa Dotzler (Firefox) as examplars. Their blog feeds were included in the syndicated mix and OPML list.

The blog entries were served up in a River-of-News style aggregator, showing the last seven days’ entries. He required his students to post two times a week, and he did see some conversations emerging. People would comment on topics on their own blogs and use trackback to thread the conversation together.

The first time the system ran on a backend provided by a host called MYST. The server farm ran on J2EE with Java servlets and a SOAP interface to a Java API, with lightweight interfaces using XML over HTTP (REST), RSS, and HTML. In the end, Bud determined that this model was heavier than necessary, involving a layered enterprise architecture. He later re-hacked the backend with Perl and PHP and found that the lightweight approach was better.

To ensure participation, Bud based 20% of his students’ grades on participating. Any posts were acceptable as long as they were class-related. He did not judge the posts in terms of content, spelling, etc.

Group

Photo credit: Jorge Arango

He also suggested topics to post, such as problems the class was working on and proposed solutions. After the class was over and the grades had been handed out, Bud surveyed the students and 26 out of 32 responded. About 21% checked the blogs once a day or more. Just over 40% checked twice a week. Another 25% checked occasionally and about 12% checked rarely.

Most students were unwilling to expose themselves in this way, which Bud attributed to their being “status conscious.” Some students wanted their blog entries taken down when the class was over. He did allow the students to be semi-anonymous, choosing Internet handles, although they were expected to let their classmates know who they were. Bud himself used the nickname “Blogonaut” for the class.

About 20% blogged two times a week or more. About 55% blogged twice a week (as required), 12% blogged several times a month, and about 5% blogged just a few times during the semester.

When surveyed to find out why they had blogged, 68% said to understand concepts, 75% to get feedback, 50% to clarify ideas, 41% to hear multiple perspectives, 68% as a source of technical experites and 9% for other reasons.

Students were more interested in writing than responding. Bud blogged about good blog entries by students on his own class blog, sent trackback links, and pointed to good examples in class to model behavior.

The tagging permitted the students to easily create self-organizing categories. He noticed evidence of “follow the leader” tagging, including idiosyncratic tags, such as one called OpinionSlug which was pioneered by one student to tag an opinion post and was adopted by the entire community.

The most popular tags were, in descending order:

  • technology

  • opinionslug
  • classquestions
  • blogging
  • microsoft
  • XML
  • blog
  • remixing

He noted that opinionslug and classquestions were “type” facet categories. HE wasn’t sure you could say that blog and blogging were synonyms the way they were used here.

There were also a lot of singleton tags.

In the future Bud would like to analyze the spread of memes from individual origination to group adoption, and the way tags are used as social cues. He encountered many usability issues for participants, including the fact that it was hard to type the tags in the WordPress interface.

Bud recommended taking a “guerilla approach” to such experiments to deal with sometimes restrictive university bureaucracies. Asked what he learned from this approach, Bud said he learned to have a light hand in moderating the discussion.
The lesson I drew from this talk was that creating feedback loops and a shared space for conversation can enhance the learning experience of a group of people and represents a step forward from the one-to-many teacher-to-student broadcast model.

Selling IA – Getting Execs to say Yes
Samantha Starmer
Conference description

Reviewed by: Jorge Arango

Much in the corporate world boils down to one question: “how can we get the most bang for our buck here?” As any information architect knows, IA can be a powerful tool to help businesses create value and reduce inefficiencies. However, this value is sometimes difficult to explain in terms that are understandable to business folks, and unfortunately many information architects are ill prepared for this task. The inevitable result is IA teams that are either underfunded, ineffective, or both.

Samantha’s talk attempted to fill this educational void by presenting a series of recommendations on how to become more effective IA sales agents. Wisely, she kicked things off by exposing us to our own biases against the concept of “sales:” she projected a photo of a sleazy used car salesman, and asked how many of us associated this image with the concept of sales. Many hands went up.

We were presented with the “top five recommendations for selling IA”:

  • Show the problem – do your research beforehand, and present it effectively

  • Benefit the bottom line – learn to sound comfortable discussing return on investment
  • Manage the politics – pay attention to the organization’s culture
  • Don’t promise a silver bullet – be clear about costs and benefits
  • Pay attention to style – specifically, presentation style: tell stories, know your audience, etc.

Many of these concepts will be familiar to anyone who’s been in any type of managerial position in a large company. This, added to the presentation’s reliance on highly structured “bullet” slides, could have made the talk somewhat tedious. However, Samantha enlivened things greatly with candid examples culled from her recent experiences at successfully funding her IA team at Microsoft.

The International information architecture Slam
Eric L. Reiss, Matthew Fetchko, Chris Chandler, Lynn Boyden
Conference description

Reviewed by: Fred Beecher

The IA slam was awesome! As a first-time Summit attendee and a (obviously) first time slammer, I have to say that I had an absolute blast and definitely plan on slamming again!

When we arrived, we were handed manila envelopes that we were not to open until told to do so. I managed to comply, despite the temptation not to. After a few minutes, the panel briefly described the rules of the slam. We were to be separated into groups of 8 and we would have 45 minutes to respond to a proposal from a hypothetical client. This response would need to be in the form of a “big idea” with supporting documentation. In this case, the documentation we needed to produce was a user flow, data architecture, and a project plan. In 45 minutes.

Eric Reiss

Photo credit: Javier Velasco

After their explanation of the logistics of the slam, the panel assumed their role as the client. They gave a presentation about their company, its background, and their current business goals. This company, led by “A. A. Haffner,” obviously drew heavily upon the history and business model of the Playboy empire. In our scenario, “Bon Vivant” was a company that had its heyday in the ‘60s and ‘70s, but business slumped in the ‘80s and they were forced to close their clubs. In the ‘90s, the online channel allowed them to recover, and now their online brand is well-established. What they wanted to do, they said, was to re-open the clubs and integrate the online experience with the offline. Our job, they said, was present to them a strategy for accomplishing this goal.

Team Red presented first, and as they began to discuss their project plan, my heart sunk. I realized we’d completely neglected that part of the proposal. Ah well, Team Blue shall prevail another day. The presentations were all very good and represented some quality thinking. But after all the teams had presented, I had it in my mind that Team Red or Team Green would take the glory. Of course, it would have been Team Blue had we bothered to make a project plan. Ahem.

The next day at lunch, the winner was announced. Team Green! The crowd broke out into a round of enthusiastic applause, and Team Green certainly deserved it! They got medals too (also well-deserved), and I couldn’t fail to notice that the individual members kept them on all day. But hey, they deserve their bragging rights!

The International information architecture Slam, continued

Reviewed by: Donna Maurer

The IA Slam is one of my favorite parts of Summit. In this three-hour session, participants are grouped (randomly) into teams of eight, given a design problem to solve within 45 minutes and later present their solution to the audience. The design problem is presented as a story and supported with richly detailed materials.

Group

Photo credit: Erin Malone

The idea is always outrageous, and this year was no different. Bon Vivant (loosely modeled on Playboy) wished to take a new direction into exclusive clubs for high-income professionals. The challenge was to offer a strongly customizable and customized client experience and integrate the online and offline aspects of the clubs. The team had to come up with a “big idea” and supporting material such as use cases, functions, and project plans.

This year’s winning team’s was Team Green (James Kalbach, Matthew Frederick, Alecia Kozbial, Eva Miller, Blair Neufeld, Sarah Dilling, Kathy Mirescu, Michael Kopcsak). Their big idea was “It’s who you know and where you go!” The judges awarded it because it had:

  • A “social sliding scale” for privacy, so a client could disclose personal information according to her level of comfort.
  • Initial user flow for clients of BOTH sexes
  • Effective presentation style and very effective use of time limits and timekeeper
  • Phased rollout with each phase clearly identified
  • Their big picture of data architecture had our clients in the center of the diagram.

Thanks again to Eric Reiss, Lynn Boyden, Chris Chandler, and Matthew Fetchko for running the slam. I can’t wait to see what you come up with in Vegas!

Re-invoking Culture and Context in Digital Libraries and Museums
Ramesh Srinivasan
Conference description

Reviewed by: David Sturtz

Ramesh Srinivasan described his recent work with several Native American reservations on TribalPeace.org. This digital library system was designed for sharing media with the goal of re-linking groups that were physically disconnected. Ramesh noted the unique requirements of systems for communities like this due to the great emphasis placed on storytelling. The digital library system must allow multiple accounts and viewpoints to coexist.

To organize the collection, he has facilitated the creation of “fluid ontologies.” These structures encompass the local culture’s evolving self-understanding and identity. Working within the community, he sets in motion the construction of an “ethnomethodological architecture.” Building on the ethnomethodology approach to sociology, this process relies on the actual members of a social group to understand and formalize the relationships and patterns of their society.

Ramesh reminded the audience that both this fluid ontology and externally developed and applied classification systems are boundary objects. As such, they include or exclude members of particular groups. While a locally created ontology results in greater engagement of the community and more complete description of items, an external classification system allows greater interoperability with other repositories, and improved findability in a larger context. Balancing these conflicting demands is central to Ramesh’s research, and results in interesting insights. As he noted, “tension between multiple perspectives allows dialogue to emerge.”

Intranets BOF
James Robertson

Reviewed by: Pat Barford

Working on an intranet then meeting people who do the same at the Summit struck me as somewhat like having a drunken uncle. Just about everyone has one, but no one talks about it until one day you bump into others with the same problem. The dam breaks and you can’t believe you’re actually sharing the same stories. And it’s hard to stop. The Intranets BOF was something like that.

Eric Reiss

Photo credit: Liz Danzico

More than two-dozen people showed up to share their stories, their problems and look for answers. For almost two hours, people put their problems on the table for discussion, feedback and suggestions. James Robertson of Step Two Designs played host, much as he had the day before during his Strategic Intranet Planning workshop. There was no shortage of talk, problems, or willingness to share the pain and pleasure of working on intranets. From those in the process of setting up an open source intranet to others dealing with hundreds of thousands of pages and employees speaking multiple languages in dozens of countries; people were there to talk, listen and learn as much as they could.

It seems that intranets are an area with few, if any vehicles for communication among those working on them. For many in the group, it seemed almost a relief to be able to talk with people doing the same job. One thing that became apparent is that intranet IAs are looking for a forum to share information as well as pose questions to others in the business. It was rumored that Yahoo! Groups has a little used intranet UX group that we should consider reviving. What happens there remains to be seen. The session wrapped up well after its allotted hour. I couldn’t help get the feeling that this was just the beginning of a whole other area of IA ripe for exploration, communication, and networking.

Business & Design BOF (Or, Up, Up, and Away)
Jeff Lash
Conference description

Reviewed by: Chris Baum

Initially, the Business and Design BOF seemed more like oil and water rather than a flock–firms and consultants trying to figure out how to sell their services; internal employees looking for ways to innovate from within.

Then, Harry Max reminded us why we inhabit the same professional space–it’s all about consultative selling. No matter the size of your organization, the project, or your position, in the end you have to sell your ideas and methods.

All folks who practice IA, regardless of their title or type of organization, deal from the same deck. Over the course of the discussion, a few tenets emerged. If we learn to ask the right questions, and really listen to the answers, our practices will help businesses better understand the problem they are trying to solve, find a path to resolution that works for their customers, and make the right choices when allocating resources.
We also need to be aware of the business climate when we are trying to sell our ideas. Pure metrics (ROI, NPV) are most important in times of contraction, when resources are scarce. One participant had a great idea for a “revenue-generating machine” back in 2000, but could not sell it because Silicon Valley was in cost-cutting mode.

Livia Labate deals with this problem by mapping her projects to both numbers and the soft measures (customer satisfaction), so she is ready with ammunition no matter the environment.

After the slow start, the session acted as more of a showcase of the various perspectives, in the end overlaying these approaches in a way that showed us standing in the same place looking out in different. One participant protested our pragmatism, but in the end I hope he realizes that we are in the midst of an attempt to turn businesses into the art he so passionately desires.

Posters and reception

Reviewed by: Jess McMullin

Poster session

Photo credit: Erin Malone

Coming after a full day of sessions, I started out tired and hungry. But walking in the entrance, the poster session immediately set the right tone, mixing the chance to browse displays of cutting-edge thinking combined with the opportunity to socialize with cutting edge thinkers. Held in a huge ballroom, the space was open enough to circulate by the posters on the perimeter, or take a discussion to the center of the room.

Poster session

Photo credit: Erin Malone

The overall quality of the posters was high, and I found myself wishing I had more time to digest it all. I started at the back by the bar, and didn’t make it even halfway around the room–every few steps another poster full of smart thinking punctuated my meander, challenging me to think even more. And you know what? I did – the takeaway for me was that great ideas energize, and I left renewed and invigorated, looking forward to more from the rest of the Summit.

Of the posters I managed to catch, three still stand out in my memory:

  • Billie Mandel’s Enterprise IA Toolkit Under the Hood
    Whimsical and profound, all at the same time. Billie tackles the journey of EIA effectiveness.

  • Stephen Anderson’s Sorting, Organzing, and Labeling the Experience
    Incredibly elegant visualization of experience. Gorgeous. I’m printing my own poster-size version.
  • BranchLogic’s and Yahoo’s Yahoo! Network Diagram
    The largest poster I saw, showing all the elements of the Yahoo! Network. Impressive not just for its sheer size, but for Yahoo! to share it. Fantastic example of a company being open and raising the bar for everyone in industry to share their own experience.

The above posters, and many more, can be found at the IA Summit site.

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