Archive for June, 2008
I’m knackered. What with work, freelance stuff, studying, and then trips to hospital with PW, it’s all been a bit too much.
I’ve noticed that being tired has made me more abrupt and more likely to put voice to my frustrations. It isn’t very me and makes me uncomfortable, but it is more honest and there’s some satisfaction in saying how annoyed you are, rather than going home and kicking something (hopefully not the chickens).
Sorry if you’ve been on the receiving end but the chickens are grateful.
another I want…. a Treepee
I reckon that’d be a good use of the huge ecalyptus that has decided over the years that our garden is way nicer than the place it was planted.
We do annual appraisals at work. They help book-end a year, create a framework for reflecting and making plans. I’m glad we do them but there are inevitably a compromise, a negiotiated contract between boss and employee. I don’t feel morally and emotionally held to the resulting document, just professionally obligated.
Every year there will be stuff on there that my boss needs me to do but isn’t something I get that bothered about. And there’ll be really big things I want to get done that year that won’t feature, either because they are not about work at all, not things my boss is supportive of, or just because there wasn’t space.
So I thought I’d do another one this year. All for me.
I’m not drawing distinctions between my main job, other paid work and general endeavours. In the world of my appraisal there is no such thing as work-life balance, there’s just lots of stuff I want to get done.
- finish my certificate in contemporary science (by Jun)
- start a more substantial academic course (by May)
- re-learn to play my guitar (by Feb)
- write a little every day
- write for a new publication (by June)
- select and attend some editorial training (by May)
- talk to a family member every week
- correspond with at least one person from event I attend
- comment on a blog I read at least once a week
- visit 4 new places in the UK (by June)
- at least one new place a month in London
- the library once a month
- end my last magazine subscription (by Jul)
- buy a sheep for the freezer (by Sep)
- quit buying coffee at work (by Aug)
- drop a zone from my travelcard (by May)
- buy blackcurrant bushes and plant them (by Feb)
- propagate at least 5 of the following: yellow pansies, lamium, sedums, vinca, winter jasmine, dogwood, mallow, red honeysuckle, yellow honeysuckle, golden hops (by May)
- breakfast at least 6 days a week
- at least one dish each of foraged elderflower, wild garlic, blackberries and mushrooms
- give 1 presentation to university students (by Jun)
- propose an IA Summit workshop or panel (by Dec)
- register as an IAI mentor (by Sep)
- write something each week aimed at people learning IA
- one item of clothing (by Dec)
- muffins, pita and roti (by Sep)
- at least one handmade Xmas present for everyone (by Dec)
- a cake or biscuits every week (but not cheesecake every week)
- my deer mosaic (by Sep)
Mental Models: Aligning Design Strategy with Human Behavior is the first book from the Rosenfeld Media stable.
Mental Models is a very detailed step-by-step guide that gives you everything you could need to know to follow Indi Young’s process. The name ‘Mental Models’ doesn’t really convey the most important (in my opinion) aspect of alignment diagrams, the aligning bit.
The original announcement of the book defined Alignment Diagrams as mental models married to proposed features. Indi explains the debate about the title at the Rosenfeld Media site but I do feel the title only refers to half the process.
Here’s how our UX trading card from the IA Summit explains ‘Alignment Models’:
Diagram that breaks down user activities into discrete tasks, arranges these activities in columns, and then uses the same columns to align the product features, functions, and content that support these activities. May also align business objectives.
Provides gap analysis, shows product opportunities, and helps develop task-based information architecture. Serves as a roadmap, and anchors conversations about future features and content in actual user needs instead of individual stakeholder agendas.
In spite of being familiar with the principle of the method I felt that the book launched into the detail of the first step a little too soon without selling the overall methodology. I found it easy to forget the overall point of the method whilst immersed in the (admitedly very helpful) details of participant recruitment and interviewing. Given possible confusion over the title, this might explain the more baffled review on Amazon.
This is a great book if you know you want to get stuck in and start creating one of these diagrams and to do it properly. It could be a bit overwhelming if you hadn’t already come across the concept.
More detailed review to follow for Freepint…
I’ve noticed that I don’t get stressed as easily working at home.
I’m getting non-work stuff done. My screen breaks involve stuff that would otherwise be done in evening and weekend. And if there’s a parcel to be delivered I’m in and that saves a Saturday morning trip to the main post office. That’s generally calming, I guess.
I cook for myself which is a happy activity. I eat well. Substantial breakfasts, fruit, decent lunch with fresh veg from the garden (canteen does tasty chips and overcooked veg ). No chocolate supplies because there’s no generous colleagues or holiday gifts. Still too much coffee but at least not as jitter inducing at the lattes from Mangiare.
Less exercise though as there are no walks to station and back. Occassional lunchtime plant potting doesn’t really count.
But a big part of it is setting goals and achieving them. The potential for getting distracted by new tasks and waylaid by events is much less at home. There’s also a curious pseudo-obligation to keep track off your achievements when you work at home to prove to yourself that you really are working.
I also communicate with a different set of people. At work I talk alot to the people I sit near. At home I email and call people and their location doesn’t come into it. I’m not a huge fan of phone calls (worst of both worlds compared to face-to-face or email) but lots of my meetings have no real need to be conducted face-to-face, particularly those with people I have know well already.
I’ve come across a few ads for a junior IA/designer that I think are for the same job. Always interesting to see the differences in how agencies advertise the same role.
From Skillbrokers, advertising for a Junior Information Architect/Designer
SME based in the centre of the West End is looking for a junior information architect/designer – the technical environment is made up of: photoshop, HTML, CSS, Wireframing tool (such as visio or axure), Ecommerce/ebusiness.
Ideally you will be able to demonstrate some experience in this area, have design experience, but want to become an information architect with a passion for user experience and business performance above design aesthetics – you will need to have a solid understanding of Web design and development along with a working knowledge of Web technologies, be well versed in tools such as illustrator, Photoshop and visio, an understanding of digital agency processes.
You will either be a Web designer with a good grasp of user experience design looking to move into information architecture or an Information Architect with a good eye for design.
And from ABRS, advertising for an Information Architect/Designer
Junior Information Architect / Designer sought by leading consultancy to create wireframes, site blue prints and input into the functional specification. You should be able to turn these into high quality site designs as well as contributing to other design projects.
You should have good photoshop knowledge, good understanding of HTMLS and SS, and wireframing tool (such as Visio or Axure).
To succeed in this role you will have some design experience and want to become an information architect with a passion for user experience. This is an excellent opportunity to develop competencies on high profile projects for someone with limited experience but with the right attitude and skills.
I had the opportunity last week to attend a brilliant course called An Introduction to Visual Methods.
“The aim of this workshop is to provide participants with a step-change career enhancing skills in visual methods; and to provide an ongoing and integrated visual methods resource for researchers with experience in visual methods at intermediate level that is stimulating, challenging and grounded in ‘best practice’.”
Dr Jon Prosser and friends are running an ESRC funded initiative to “build visual method capacity across the social sciences. Part of the initiative was these dirt cheap training courses, aimed at academic and non-academic researchers alike.
The two days involved three hands-on activities and a number of presentations covering:
- Katherine Davies : photo elicitation and family tree drawing to explore family resemblances and sibling relationships
- Stuart Muir: video diaries to explore contemporary rituals
- Rob Walker on children’s photo diaries
- Andrew Clark on map making and walkabouts to understand urban social geography
- Tessa Muncey on auto-ethnography through writing and photos
- David Gauntlett: making documentaries with kids, drawings of celebrities, identity models made of Lego
- Steve Higgins: using cartoon templates to find out childrens views
- Ruth Holliday: using video diaries to explore gender identity
- Jon Prosser on the ethics of visual methods.
There’s a Visual Methods Symposium in July that will explore some of these themes in more depth.
Pretty much every job ad asks for experience, which can make trying to break into a new field seem nigh-on impossible at times.
If you are trying to break into information architecture and hitting the ‘experience-required’ brick wall then consider doing some volunteering:
- The IA Institute is always looking for volunteers. There’s a list of opportunities on their website and most of them can be done anywhere in the world.
- Use the advanced search on do-it.org and select ‘computers, technology and website development’ to get results for charities looking for help with their websites. Or try idealist.org or the equivalent service in your part of the world.
- Approach a local charity direct and offer to help with their website. Usually they’ll be looking for help write, publishing and troubleshooting but you can start there and suggest other improvements as you go along.
- Get familiar with how people use technology – volunteer to help teach basic IT skills. Age Concern are currently looking for IT trainers and Help the Aged run a similar scheme. Schools and other community groups are often looking for help like this as well. Try the same computers search on do-it.org but narrow with the keyword ‘trainer’.
Volunteering gives you an opportunity to try out what you’ve read about, build up your portfolio and it is great experience at making IA improvements with a limited budget (or more normally, no budget). That’ll be attractive to any employer.
Undoubtedly family business represents the most lasting type of business. The expert in family business, Professor Willian O’Hara, in one of his books mentioned about family business the following: “Before the multinational corporation, there was family business. Before the Industrial Revolution, there was family business. Before the enlightenment of Greece and the empire of Rome, there was family business.”
The oldest UK company in the list is Brooke’s Mill in Yorkshire which dates back to 1541. It is still owned by the same family but is no longer a wool mill, nor do the buildings date to 1541. These days it is a “Heritage Office Park”. The name, family and location persist but everything else has changed.
For most of my BBC career, the website wasn’t really about TV & Radio. Discussion were filled with talk of news, sport, weather, recipe finder, GCSE Bitesize, initiatives like iCan and products like Connector, MyBBC, and search.
There were lovingly crafted programme showcases for the top shows like Eastenders and Doctor Who. And there was Radioplayer, well ahead of its time.
But most programmes had no coverage (a temporary schedule snippet notwithstanding) as I discovered in my first few weeks at the BBC. Part of my job was to respond to users who had emailed us via the ‘contact us’ link on the search engine. Query after query asked for information about a programme recently and not so recently seen or heard. We resorted to back catalogues of RadioTimes and lots of apologetically framed replies.
Now the situation is somewhat different, with a number of projects having re-homed programme content on the internet, mostly notably:
- iPlayer 7 day catch-up, TV and Radio
- Catalogue (currently offline) Text based records of the back catalogue, based on the BBC’s internal catalogue produced by Information and Archives
- Archives Trial collections of archive audio, video and written material
- Programmes A page for every programme from October 2007 onwards, some with embedded audio & video from iPlayer
Diverse teams tackling the original problem (no programme support) from slightly different angles and a more experimental, innovation-friendly culture has resulted in an information architecture headache. Part one of solving the resulting problem is integrating the data from Catalogue into Programmes. I’m sure that’ll be a cinch