Archive

search and findability

Alex Wright on the wikipedia / autonomy!=authority thing:

“What irks me about some of the dialogue to date is an assumption (usually implied) that networked systems are somehow inherently more “fair” than top-down systems. Democracy, like unregulated free markets, are no guarantee of fairness. And while networked systems surely give users more opportunity for input, they also abide by power laws which, though perhaps ineluctable, are neither equal nor fair (especially insofar as they favor early adopters). Top-down systems, while seemingly authoritarian, may paradoxically do a better job of defending the interests of the individual. Just as mob rule is no way to run a country, so purely democratic classifications could lead lead to groupthink, favoring conformity and marginalizing dissent.

But again, I don’t believe that top-down and bottom-up systems necessarily have to stand in opposition; the two models may ultimately prove consilient.”

Amen.

“Fast [to iterate] at the bottom, slow [to consolidate] at the top” to paraphrase Alex quoting Kevin Kelly.

This, however, does seems to be the überpattern of wikipedia afforded by its structure, as demonstrated by Historyflow, with some catastrophy and punctuated equillbrium thrown in.

“(Medium-)Fast at the bottom, slow at the top” was the principle behind iCan‘s information architecture, enabling campaigners to say exactly what it was they were campaigning for, and letting casual browsers have a way in which had some stability, and common currency of meaning at the top levels.

Neologism alert – after all this talk of ‘folksonomies’ can I say information arcology yet?

Heh.

Bruce Sterling [via Heckler and Coch]

“It seems to me there’s something direly wrong with the Information Economy. It’s not about data, it’s about attention. In a few years you may be able to carry the Library of Congress in your hip pocket. So? You’re never gonna read the Library of Congress. You’ll die long before you access one tenth of one percent of it. What’s important — increasingly important — is the process by which you figure out what to look at. This is the beginning of the real and true economics of information — not who owns the books, who prints the books, who has the holdings. The crux today is access, not holdings. And not even access itself but the signposts that tell you what to access — what to pay attention to. In the Information Economy everything is plentiful — except attention.”

Martin’s blog is becoming a great clearing house for links and smart commentary on search engines and findability:

“…a quote that i think should send chills down the spine of anyone running a web service that claims to care about their users and who thinks technology can solve search:

“Spending hours pouring over thousands of search queries, one can hear the pained voices of customers who are desperately looking for help. The…search engine, with its simple word spotting routines, can not come close to providing the expert support that a good clerk or call center representative can.”


» Currybet.net: the pained voices of customers who are desperately looking for help

Sounds like a great name for a pulp-fiction character. A UI Engineer that by night, uses his uncanny Fitts-law-honed reflexes to FIGHT CRIME.

Alternatively, it could be something Stefan cares about a lot in his user-experiences.

FWIW, I agree with Stef. Tabs have mutated as to create such wildy different expectations in people using interfaces that feature them; but showing different modes or views of data based around a central point of departure or query seems to have emerged as the default understanding.

In 1999, Jakob Neilsen was bemoaning the fact that tabs where moving away from this meaning:

“I still think that less than 50% of sites use tabs in the (erroneous) meaning of navigating to the main sections of the site. Thus, I still think that the correct use of tabs is preferred and I recommend using different techniques to visualize the main areas of the site. But this may be a losing battle and I may have to revise this recommendation in a year or so if more and more sites adopt a misguided use of tabs.”

So, he was keeping his eye on whether the consensus/convention had shifted. With UI changes in 800lb convention-setting gorrilas like Hotmail and Amazon in the meantime, has it?

What’s your experience?

» Whitelabel.org: “Search engines and maintained keyword state”

Martin Belam from the BBCi search team is thinking about how ‘word bursts’ could help improve the performance of our “best links” recommendations:

“…what I set out to do was to capture these ‘bursts’ of words from day-to-day on the service. That in itself isn’t hard, my principle of comparing snapshots of the service usage and calculating the differences works fine for this, but there is no context to the individual words.

Because it is nearly comic relief day, there were bursts in the use of ‘red’, ‘nose’ and ‘day’ as individual words within search – but on their own, without a human eye over them, they don’t logically group themselves together.

I wanted to find a way to put them into their context automatically for our editorial team – so they can concentrate on finding the best sites for our users, and not have to second-guess how they are going to look for them.”

» Currybet.net: “word bursts within BBC search log”