Posts filed under ‘Ambient Findability’

More from Ambient Findability

And yet More notes from Ambient Findability by Peter Morville. Maybe the finale?
P.145 the shape of information…“Reproduced and Emergent Genres of Communication on the World Wide Web” Crowston and Williams.

P.146 Discussion of genre and its role in navigation: visually we know we’ve found what we need. Semantics and structure are codependent. Structure contributes to understanding and comprehensions, while meaning helps establish a sense of location.  Digital genre plays a significant role in search and navigation – document findability, sorting by content type; document recognition = understanding document purpose, we know we’ve found what we need; Document navigation,  Consider the shape of a scientific document, “we can review the abstract then skip right to the results.” Oh, and attractive things work better.  “Scrolling Forward” Levy.

P.147 “What is a document?” Buckland. Blogjects and Spimes. Metadata and the blurring at the edge of data and metadata, “…data was the content in the book and metadata was the Dewey Decimal number on its spine. [now], all data is metadata. “The End of Data?” by Weinberger.

P.150 Newsmap, a visual representation of Google News. History-entrenched digital objects, Spimes, can support social navigation…with respect to findability we’re comfortable trusting the wisdom of crowds, popularity metadata.

p.151,2 Findability of information biases it’s perceived quality – manifesto for the reputation society, and popularity is attractive: in real networks linking is never random – Barabasi. What is the role of spatial location in finding and remembering? How do people organize their desktops? Timelines, temporal landmarks, and spatial memory for document management and retrieval.

P.153 “[With an information overload of data and metadata], to manage complexity we must embrace faceted classification, polyhierarchy, pluralistic aboutness, and pace layering….we must collaborate across categories using boundary objects to negotiate translate, and forge shared understanding.”

P.155 “The Mind’s I” and “Godel, Escher, and Bach

P.156 Discussing AI, our partly rational minds adapt well enough to saticfice but don’t generally optimize. Simon’s theory of “Bounded Rationality”

P.157 Human irrationality and decision making traps: Anchoring – we are influenced by what we find first. Confirmation – seek data that supports our view and avoid contradictory information. Memorability – we are influenced by recent or dramatic events, status quo – conservatism bias, we look for reasons to do nothing, sunk cost – we make decisions in a way that justifies past choices.

P.160 Accessibility is the single most important variable governing the use of information…we absorb most of our information passively and rely on who we know for much of what we know. Search can be an integral part of decision making. What we find influences what we do. But the first step is deciding to search, and the smallest of barriers will deter us.

p.162 Regarding the schism of online vs. traditional information resources, Morville paints one extreme as conservatives clinging to traditional views e.g the totalitarian regimes of the Oxford English Dictionary and the Encyclopedia Britannica. Yet the OED, as described in The Meaning of Everything, was very much a people oriented project and involved the collaboration of many ‘readers’ that submitted examples of word usage from all sorts of published works. In fact it was a very wiki-like project. Perhaps it is totalitarian in the sense that they attempted to list every possible use of a word?

“Truth is a virus of many colors,” reminds me of Michael Moore’s “Dude, Where’s my Country:” [it’s not a lie, it’s an] opposite truth.

“…and in the middle [of traditional vs. online resources], the silent majority suffers from Information Anxiety, trying to allocate trust in a maze of memes where networks supplant hierarchies and fact fades into opinion.”

“…we enjoy incredible access to free information. But with freedom comes responsibility, and with free information, finding is not only a right but a duty. In short, access changes the game.” Information Literacy!

p.163 “We must take responsibility for ourselves and our loved ones.” “It’s increasingly in our best interests to find our own answers.” Healing Back Pain, Sarno.

p.164 “To not use the data and expert opinions and collective intelligence at our fingertips reeks of personal malpractice.”

p.165 Mooer’s Law – “people may not want information because having it can be painful and troublesome. Non-use of information systems – Why Indexing Fails the Researcher.  When it comes to information, sometimes less is more.” “Information overload harms concentration more than marijuana” “….Clinging tenaciously to all choices available to us contributes to bad decisions, to anxiety, stress, and dissatisfaction – even to clinical depression.” – The Paradox of Choice, Schwartz

p.168 discussion of how information shapes our memories, beliefs, predictions, decisions, and behaviors includes mention of On Intelligence, By Hawkins a very interesting book,”…the neocortex stores hierarchical sequences of patterns in an invariant form, and recalls those patterns auto-associatively. This lets us recall patterns when given only partial or distorted inputs….”Our brains use stored memories to make predictions about everything we see, feel, and hear…Prediction is not just one of the things your brain does. It is the primary function of the neocortex, and the foundation of intelligence.”

p. 171 Information can feed and perpetuate ignorance. “Researching and Shaping Information Literacy Initiatives in Relation to the Web” Buschman and Warner; “Information Literacy, a worldwide priority for the twenty-first century“, Rockman. Looks like both of those are pay-to-play….

p. 172 “…access trumps literacy. Information that’s hard to find will remain information that’s hardly found.”

p.173 “…computers are not about the creation of artificial minds, but the augmentation of real intelligence.”

p.174 “The Cathedral and the Bazaar” Raymond. Quotes Lessig, who quotes Winchester? “…the Oxford English Dictionary was “mankind’s first large-scale collaborative open source text project.”

p.175 “Will we still turn pages” Kelly

p.179 “The Garden of Forking Paths” Borges

This book goes down as one of the most interesting I’ve read.  It ties together a lot of ideas and suggests places to learn more.  It’s well written with a wow-that’s-so-cool voice that is inspirational and insightful.


July 12, 2006 at 8:23 pm Leave a comment

Finding folksonomies

And yet More notes from Ambient Findability by Peter Morville.

p.135 All of chapter six of this book is pretty interesting compelling stuff.  Clay Shirky describes social software in an article entitled “Social Software and the Politics of Groups

p.136 Folksonomy = user-defined labels and tags to organize and share information, informal social classification, user-created bottom-up categorical structure development with an emergent thesaurus” Thomas Vander Wal. “Folksonomies + Controlled Vocabularies” where Shirky comments, ” folksonomies [aren’t] better than controlled vocabularies, it’s that they’re better than nothing…the cost of tagging large systems rigorously is crippling….”

p.137 “…users tag objects with keywords, with the  option of multiple tags.  The tags are shared and become pivots for social navigation.  Users can move…between objects, tags, authors…  Things get interesting when many people apply different tags to the same objects and when many people apply the same tag to different objects.”  Akin to recommendations and listmania on Amazon, for example, you come across things you didn’t realize you were looking for, but that are related in terms of tag, or interest, etc. 

On you can browse the list of other people that have tagged the same object as you, or used the same tag.  Sometimes you find another user who has similar interests.  Sometimes their scope of interest is so broad (or narrow) that it leads to new insights.  For example, the tag informationliteracyon is used by others.  Browsing the list of objects thus tagged, I see a site titled, “Information Literacy for All” tagged by user and it turns out she’s into lots of the same topics as I am. Her page at has a link to her blog and a number of relevant links and papers dealing with information literacy.  Awesome.  Her latest post was for a page ‘how to make a faceted classification and put it on the web.’  Cool.  I tagged it too but I tagged it ‘informationarchitecture‘ as did others.

p.138,9 Folksonomies flourish in the cornucopia of the commons without noticeable cost….They are an amazing tool for trendspotting…not bad for bookmarking and keeping found things found, but when it comes to findability their inability to handle equivalences, hierarchy, and other semantic relationships causes them to fail miserably at any significant scale.  [But] ontologies, taxonomies, and folkonomies are not mutually exclusive…a hybrid metadata ecology that combines elements of each may be ideal.

p. 140,141 References Stewart Brand and Pace Layering in buildings as conceptually similar to this discussion of metadata.  Taxonomies and ontologies provide the solid semantic network that connects interface to infrastructure.  And the fast-moving…folksonomies sit on top: flexible, adaptable, and responsive to user feedback.

p.142 networks and the connection between semantic and social networks…activity – connectors, betweeness – boundary spanners, closeness.  Boundary spanners could be people or documents found in a library or google search.  Nodes can be people or content, and can serve as end or path, data or metadata.  Articles, books, and blogs are not simply destinations, for they often serve as inverse queries that draw users to authors. 

p. 143 mentions the great book describing the science of networks by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, Linked, and the long tail as described by Chris Anderson.  A Barnes and Noble ‘brick and mortar’ book store contains 100,000 titles, yet a quarter to a third of Amazon’s sales come from outside this top 100,000 titles.

p. 144 What are ‘documents’ and what is the future of ‘the document.’  See “Electronic Discovery in 2010,” Juhnke; “Beyond the page” Smith; “The Social Life of Documents” Brown and Duguid.

July 10, 2006 at 12:42 pm Leave a comment

Finding ambience

And yet More notes from Ambient Findability by Peter Morville.

p 131 Morville rehashes here many topics from Information Architectureincluding ontologies, controlled vocabularies, faceted and polyhierarchical classification.  The structure of an expression in RDF, or Resource Description Framework is a collection of triples: subject, predicate, and object….allow an infinite array of typed relationships.  See "What is RDF?" by Bray and the metadata schema developed by the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) = Dublin Core Metadata Standard.

p 133 Why have RDF and Dublin core, etc. failed to change the messy world of Findability?  "Our primary organizing principles are…piles and files.  We pile stuff on our desks, tables, floors, (I love this) linear graphs in reverse chronological order.  We file stuff in cabinets and folders and directories, simple taxonomies instantiated analogously in atoms and bits….many of the world's largest corporate web sites still reply primarily on the rudimentary hierarchical model of buckets within buckets.

Ontology, in philosophy, refers to the branch of metaphysics that studies the nature of reality and the basic categories of existence. Most categories we employ in everyday life are defined by fuzzy cognitive models rather than objective rules….members may be related without sharing any common property….membership gradience and centrality: some categories have degrees of memberships, and some are better examples than others….the ways we categorize are rooted in language and culture.

p 134 "Sorting things out" Geoffrey C. Bowker, Susan Leigh Star, "Eash standard and each category valorizes some point of view and silences another.  This is not inherently a bad thing – indeed it is inescapable.  But it is an ethical choice, and as such it is dangerous – not bad but dangerous."

Folksonomy = mob indexing.  The notion of people using computers to collaborate can be traced to the memex of Vannevar Bush, which allowed people to share trails in hypertext. "Tracing the evolution of Social Software" Christopher Allen.  'Social software' term used first by nanotechnology pioneer Eric Drexler at Hypertext '87 conference: A system that enables users to automatically display some links and hide others (based on user-selected criteria) is filtered hypertext.  This implies support for what may be termed social software, including voting and evaluation schemes that provide criteria for later filtering….The possibilities for hypertext-based social software seem broad.

June 21, 2006 at 12:48 pm Leave a comment

More findable comments.

And yet More notes from Ambient Findability by Peter Morville.

p 121 The Scientific American article, "The Semantic Web," by Berners-Lee.  It's real interesting trying the find this article in an "Anarchist in the Library" sort of way.  If you search from the home page you are allowed to read the abstract and then pay $8to read the article.  If you use Google to find it, you end up deep-linking to the same article on the same site for free.  Or, just read about it from the w3 site  There's a link to the article on that page too.  Another site I just came across, "Together toward a web of knowledge."  Hmm.  And a quote from Berners-Lee's very interesting book, "Weaving the Web:" "If HTML and the Web made all the online documents look like one huge book, RDF, schema, and inference languages will make all the data in the world look like one huge database."  What I remember about the book – it was a fascinating story about the imagination, excitement, ingenuity, frustration, pain, and hard work that went into the birth of the web as we know it.  Berners-Lee stayed fairly objective, yet you could certainly sense his frustration, and now his I-told-you-so attitude, when people would look at what he was doing and say, Um that's great but so what?

p 123 Responses to the semantic web concept, from David Weinberger, "The Semantic Argument Web" and Clay Shirky, "The Semantic Web, Syllogism, and Worldview."

Mr. Weinberger says "normalization of metadata works real well in confined applications where the payoff is high, control is centralized and discipline can be enforced. In other words: not the Web. "  In other words, if we can't agree on the particular tag to use, e.g. FirstName, First_name, name_first, then it just won't work.  Yet in his article he suggests that some metadata is better than nothing.

Mr. Shirky's argument, to me, boils down to the following conclusion: you can't do math using words, because words and language are incredibly ambiguous and context dependant.

Responses to Mr. Shirky's article by Paul Ford, "A response to…" and Peter Van Dijck's "Themes and Metaphors in the Semantic Web Discussion."

p 125 Metadata – descriptive information used to index, arrange, file, and improves access to a library's or museum's resources.  Meta = with, among, after, behind. When we assign names to individuals, places, and possessions, we are tagging those objects with metadata.  …we employ a word or phrase to describe the subject of a document for the purposes of retrieval.  We try to…encapsulate…aboutness now, to support findability later.

p 127 The organization of ideas and objects into categories and subcategories is fundamental to human experience.  We classify to understand.  In taxonomy, see lumpers and splitters on wikipedia.  Polyhierarchy allows cross-listing of objects in multiple categories.  Faceted Classification defined by S.R. Rangananthan in the 1930s, where objects can exist simultaneously in many locations, e.g. by date, by subject, by color.

I remember the discussion of the human need to organize in Questioning the Millennium, by Stephen Jay Gould.  In the chapter, Our Need For Meaning, he quotes Robert Louis Stevenson: "The world is so full of a number of things, I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings."  But sheer variety can also be overwhelming and frightening.  In taking arms against this sea of troubles no tool can be more powerful, or more distinctly human, than the brain's imposition of meaning upon the world's confusion.  This need for meaning becomes especially acute when we suspect we humans may inhabit this planet for no special reason and with no goal ordained by nature.  And: Among the devices that we use to impose order upon a complicated (but by no means unstructured) world, classification – or the division of items into categories based on perceived similarities – must rank as the most general and most pervasive of all. 

I grabbed these quotes just now off Amazon search-inside (and my pet brain) While I could find these comments by full-text searching, which is really cool, it is amazingly cumbersome to read the book this way.  The text is displayed as pages in a book and leafing back and forth between pages is really a pain – based on bandwith I suppose.  So I want the ease of use of a book plus the functionality of full-text search and hyperlinking.

p 128 mentioned an interesting sounding book, Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things by Lakoff.

p 129 Controlled vocabularies to manage ambiguity of language, preferred terms, equivalence relationships, 'see also' links.  All subject taxonomies are inherently political  – advancing a particular worldview.  Reminded of Doctorow's Metacrap comments, and the real-life conclusions: people lie, people are lazy, and people are stupid.

June 16, 2006 at 1:31 pm Leave a comment

More Findable Annotations

And yet More notes from Ambient Findability by Peter Morville.

p 95 personal video capture, inverse surveillance, reciprocal transparency, David Brin in The Transparent Society.  RFID tags that have a liftime of ca. 20 years injected into fatty tissue of hospital patients.

p 99 Lao Tzu taoism

p 110 Standford Guideines for web credibility,  Usability and aesethics were not expected to correlate, but attractive things work better: Emotional Design, Don NormanSpeed up your site, Andrew B. King, Jeff Veen and "I don't care about Accessibility" .  Designing with Web Standards, Jeffrey Zeldman.

p 111 Findability hacks, discusses findability issues like search engine optimization, and comments like "over half of all internet users never go past the first two pages of search results.'  Mentions personalization as a blend of pull and push, e.g. collaborative filtering, contextual advertising.

p 119 The Sociosemantic Web.  Intro quote: "Man's acheivements rest upon the use of symbols," Korzybski.  Susan Leigh Star, 1988, "boundary object" describes artifacts or ideas that are shared but understood differently by multiple communities.  Us and Them, describes the topics of "The Semantic Web," Tim Berners-Lee, et. al., and the social software communities, with thought leaders Clay Shirky and David Weinberger.

David Weinberger's book "Small pieces loosely joined" was one of the first sociotechnology books I read and I remember it fondly.  What is the web for?  Why do we accept that bananas sit in the far corner of the grocery store, making us walk past everything else to get to them, but we won't stand for it when we have to click more than a couple links deep into a website?

The browsing to find the links I dropped here turned up a few more sites:

 "There’s a post by Louis Rosenfeld on the downsides of folksonomies, and speculation about what might happen if they are paired with controlled vocabularies." From
folksonomies + controlled vocabularies Posted by Clay Shirky.

Field tested books, with the idea that reading a certain book in a certain place uniquely affects a person's experience with both.  Oh man is this true.  I'll never forget reading Lovecraft's Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath at my inlaws.  You've got to be kidding – this has been made into a movie!?

June 12, 2006 at 1:19 pm 1 comment

Finds from Ambient Findability

And yet More notes from Ambient Findability by Peter Morville.

p 67 mentioned; also, "We have an unprecedented ability to choose our own news and to see all sides of a story before making an informed decision…." [but now we have to – it's becoming expected that you're gathering as much information on your own as you can] "Our [mobile-outboard-memory] gadgets become part of our lives.  The transition from nice to necessary can happen surprisingly fast." Reminded of Doctorow and Stross?  Interesting, though, I find Pocketmod much more useful than the to-do list feature of my phone.  My "PIM" technique is to make sure that I've always got a piece of paper and a pencil with me at all times.  More reliable and faster than thumbing an entry into my phone.  And if my pocketmod goes through the wash, I print out a new one and start over. 

p 70 mentions Weinberger's Cluetrain Manifesto and, "We don't know what the web is for but we've adopted it faster than any technology since fire." Also, check out "Design Engaged: The final Programme" by Adam Greenfield also the author of Everyware.

p 87 surveillance camera project

p 88 pattern recognition and "waiting for the gun" by Eric Mankin

p 90 The Ambient Orb, and where the physical environment becomes an interface to digital information.  Tangible Bits, at tangible media group realizing seamless interfaces between humans, digital information, and the physical environment.

p 92 The emerging relationships between physical and digital architectures, Digital Ground, by Malcolm McCullough.

p93 Steve Mann and WearComp, wearable computing.  And his book Cyborg.

Ah!  While looking for that on amazon I saw a new book release: "The Wealth of Networks" and underneath the title it had the name, Siva Vaidhyanathan, which I took to mean he was the author.  Cool!  He wrote The Anarchist in the Library, a very interesting book.  But it was not so, the author is Yochai Benkler and Mr. Vaidhyanathan wrote a review of the book.

Not Siva

Other books look interesting on this stream of consciousness path: Me++ : The Cyborg Self and the Networked City  by William J. Mitchell.

June 1, 2006 at 2:51 pm Leave a comment

Findable Annotations

And yet More notes from Ambient Findability by Peter Morville.

p.65 Metcalfe's Law – the usefulness, or utility, of a network equals the square of the number of users.  In other words, the value of networked systems (e.g. telephone, fax, email, Web) grows exponentially as the user population increases in a linear manner.

No mention of the telegraph?  Read "The Victorian Internet" by Tom Standage.  The early history of the telegraph is another story of Metcalfe's law.  Comments on the telephone, the Internet, and the WWW, and the growth of those networks, and the effects on innovation by imposing control on those networks, is described by Lessig in The Future Of Ideas.  There is recent legal activity surrounding the control of the internet right now that I need to come up to speed on (keywords 'net neutrality' ?).

Hunter, in World without Secrets takes Metcalfe's Law further and says that "The power of a network in a given context equals the square of the number of people in the nework, times the intrinsic power of those people in that context."  So the 'quality' of the 'nodes' matter?  Linked, by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi is a fascinating introduction to networks from a more scientific point of view than the also popular Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.  Also related, in a network as a superorganism sort of way, is The Lucifer Principle, by Howard K. Bloom , which seems to build on Dawkin's concept of memes.  Other places I've mentioned 'meme.'

May 25, 2006 at 12:54 pm Leave a comment

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