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Peter Morville: Ambient Findability: Libraries, Librarians, and the Internet of Things

Peter Morville Presentation Title: Ambient Findability: Libraries, Librarians and the Internet of Thing
Information that’s hard to find will remain information that’s hardly found.
Peter's latest book is Ambient Findability, Peter is a librarian, member of ALA, and Information architect for major companies such as LL Bean, Johnsohn & Johnson, AT&T. Peter fell in love with the web in 1990’s – designing gophers at U. of Minnesota – on to developing info architecture.

Structural design of shared information environments – so people can find what they are looking for. But this is broader than the web. Interface design involves a balance of art and science. Be creative!
Emerging discipline and community of practice - bring principles of design and architecture to web.
To businesses – Peter helps corporate and public entities find multiple ways to find the same information – not about “one right way?
Search interfaces depend on labeling – tremendous pressure on one or two word labels – need to bubble up categories – what lies beyond door #1.

Find this presentation at: http://semanticstudios.com/cic.pdf
Notes contributed by Loanne Snavely and Ellysa Cahoy

Usability as a concept has been heavily promoted by Nielsean and others – good. “more useable? the word has grown to mean quality – good or better. Peter provided a Honeycomb of other words complementary to the term ‘usability’. His point is that there are other aspects to usability. (See Peter’s slides for all of the other terms) In relation to usability, Peter says we must ask, “Is it useful? Can it be more useful? Are there better ways??
Peter also notes that we must strive for desirability in web sites. Attractive things work better, make us happy – image and identity – deal w/ softer side of design challenge.

Some important questions to ask yourself about your library web site:
Can your users find your organization’s website?
Can they find their way around?
Can your users find what they need in spite of your web site?
Is your organization’s web site accessible?
Credibility – do users trust our information? Visual design has a tremendous impact on perceived credibility. Who are vast majority of visitors to your site? – In Peter’s example of cancer.gov – the largest audience was the public seeking information on different types of cancer. “Cancer? is the single most common search, but in more specific searches “breast cancer? or “lung cancer? the National Cancer Institute does not come up on top link on those searches. Must focus on having information relevant to all of the popular queries coming into your site readily indexed and findable.

CSA, Proquest CSA--Peter worked with them to refine their search interface down to a single text box– a quick interface that looks more like Google and was pleasing to students. Didn’t have to select database first – could choose between 4 major categories (this was also a change from the old CSA interface, and Peter opined that he wished they would do away with all of the subject categories as part of the initial search interface.)
Info architects need to have one foot in past and one in future – we are always designing systems into the future – have the bigger picture for tomorrow. Findability – locatable and navagible – an object or the whole system – to what degree a system supports wayfinding, navigation and retrieval.

Peter discussed ambient technologies. – These are new innovations that take everyday objects (pinwheels, pens, watches, etc…) and use these objects to link users with dynamic technologies (i.e, the pinwheel that spins when your email box is full)
In information age – most people in developing countries do not have access to a wealth of information. But we live in age of overabundance – creating absurd amounts of information – “A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.? Herbert Simon, Nobel Laureate Economist
Examples of new and upcoming technology:
Importing and combining physical information –google maps and earth – astonishing amounts of metadata rendered searchables. Mash-ups; Google Maps – success was beauty of interface, but value lies in text instructions.
Smart phone – convergence w/ GPS, can share info as needed. GPS Wrist watch for child – lock onto wrist, track location, breadcrumb feature – trace child’s path.

Bruce Sterling – in a keynote at an OReilly conference---discussed the Internet of objects – won’t be here for 30 years (googling the location of your socks from bed) using RFID tags to track objects –Track and return wheelchairs in hospitals. Also a wayfinding tool – people get lost in hospitals and other public places. A dynamic “You are here? sign.
The web presents scary issues and exciting potential – a combo – the web in our pocket – high resolution, higher speed is coming. The Transparent Society. (book on privacy issues.)
Findability challenge is increasing – intelligent agents and visualization solutions are not helpful in finding info.
“Revenge of the Librarians. Not your mothers metadata, free tagging environment “The old way creates a tree. The new rakes the leaves together? David Weinberg
Piles of leaves rot, and make food for trees that live a long time. Peter: find ways to bring new and old technologies together.
“Library thing? has worked. Tagging works when users tag their own stuff – not when asked to tag items owned by other entities. Lots of web architecture in web 2.0 – most of Peter’s work doesn’t relate to 2.0.
The Future of search – is the search box (go). (for at least the next 5-10 years)
Amazon is tremendously dense. Has done more in offering a complex interface – searching and browsing.

Peter showed some interfaces that he thinks are on the leading edge:
ENDECA NCSU interface example. Top level tagging taxonomy
Flickr – clusters – is only going to get more complex.
Podzinger – speech to text – making it searchable. Audio and video content rendered searchable – coming soon on large scale.
The relationship between Google and blogs – an inverse fishing net – bringing user to my blog.
Wikipedia – putting people into info systems
Del.i.ci.ous library – scan in personal collections.
Peter recommended the book Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug: A common sense approach to usability.

To wrap up: Peter told the story of 3 stone cutters – wandering in the wilderness to quarry. 3 stonecutters; what are you doing? 1. Making a living; 2 best stonecutter in county; 3 I’m building a cathedral We must be like the third stonecutter, and focus on the big picture, the end result (not on the little tasks and details that come together to comprise a larger effort).


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