July 2008 Archives

Interview by the Viewzi Folks

During Adaptive Path's MX Conference, the guys from Viewzi were giving folks demos of the site. Viewzi is a new search engine that displays results visually, rather than your typical list of results format.

They recorded demo, as well as questions and feedback we had about the site. The video has finally been posted to their site. Video of my Viewzi interview.

They stopped it before I tell them that it looks more pretty than useful. But other than that it seems to be pretty intact. It's very strange to see yourself on video. Glad to see they finally got it up!

A New Blog

I spent most of yesterday putting together a brand new blog. No, don't worry. Chiara Fox isn't going anywhere. But I decided that I have too much passion and excitement about all the crafty-goodness I've been up to lately. Rather than try to keep that all in, I decided to give it its own space where it can run free. It also means this site can stay focused on information architecture.

I introduce: Like I Need Another Project. It's a place for me to document projects that I'm working on. As well as ideas, patterns, books, tools and tips. Come on by and take a look!

Tag Spamming Is Not a Best Practice

*** Originally posted on the Adaptive Path Blog ***

This weekend I attended the BlogHer conference in San Francisco. There was lots of talk about traffic to blogs, and what you can do to increase readership, and generally promote your blog. Most of advice made sense, but there was one thing mentioned that got my blood boiling.

I was in a session on DIY Content Syndication and Promotion, and one of the audience members asked how you could use tags to help with promotion. One of the speakers, I don't remember which one, advised that the best way to use tags is think of the most general topic you post is about and tag with that. Also, if you are commenting on someone else's post or video, you should copy all of their tags and add a few of your own.

Um... excuse me? Sure, that's best practice if you want to add tag spam, water down results and piss off people when they come to your post only to find that you are tangentially related to the topic they are interested in. Remember, it was this broad spectrum, shotgun approach to tagging that taught search engines they couldn't rely on the keywords metadata field..

The rules for tagging are very simple:

  1. Tag only significant mentions.
  2. Tag at the level the item is about.
  3. Use one tag per concept.

I like to use this rule of thumb to check to see if the tags I've chosen are accurate: If I did a search for the tag I'm considering, would I be happy getting this post/image/content item? If the answer is no, I drop that tag.

Following these rules to tagging insure that your tags are appropriate for your post/image/content item. Targeted tags help ensure that recall as well as precision are high. You want the folks who are interested in your specific topic to find your thing. If you are talking about the giant green dinosaur with glowing red eyes in South Dakota, you don't want to tag your post with general terms like "United States" or "statues." Better choices would be "Wall South Dakota," "dinosaur statue," "glowing red eyes," and "kitschy roadside attractions."

BlogHer and the Explosion in My Head

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Wow! My brain has been firing off ideas non-stop ever since I got home from the BlogHer conference last night. I have so many ideas for posts and projects, as well as big chunky thoughts that deserve sitting with and thinking about for awhile. I hardly know where to begin.

Rather than post a conference review, I thought I'd post some quotes I heard throughout the weekend that stuck with me. I tried to capture who spoke the words where I could.

"The universe bows down to the power of women blogging." Jane Goodwin

"It takes a village not just to raise a child, but to nourish the adult. " - Jane Goodwin

"It's karma. It's linky love."

"Writing is not about the words, it's about connecting brains together." - Amy Gahran

"Writing is enforced reflection"

"How you think about writing is as important as the writing itself. It's about the *process*." - Amy Gahran

"I think better through conversation. I don't have to know the answer up front."

"People are more engaged by conversations than monologue." - Amy Gahran

"Blogging is like the mob. I try to get out and they pull me back in." - Mena Trott

I also want to thank the lovely ladies that I had the pleasure of chatting with during and between sessions and over lunches. Some were new faces. Others are dear friends I love so much. You all helped me have a really great experience this year. Thank you.

Desiging Search Checklist

*** Originally posted on the Adaptive Path Blog ***

Recently on projects I've found myself designing a number of search results pages. While each project has its own set of requirements and nuances, I think there are a handful of elements that should be included in most all result page interfaces. If you start out with this list, and then tweak as your situation requires, I think you'll end up with a pretty good page.

Here are the items on my checklist, in no particular order:

  • Highlight the query term in the results.

  • Restate the query on the results page.

  • Show the number of results that were found.

  • Include next and previous buttons, as well as links to additional pages, to move through results. These should be smartly linked; no link on previous if you are on the first page and so on.

  • Include a query box so the user can search again.

  • Don't show the URLs of the result pages, unless your audience is techy enough to derive meaning from the URL.

  • Have meaningful page titles and descriptions for each result.

  • The page title should be the link to the result.

  • Allow sorting and refinement tools if appropriate for your users and content.

  • Indicate if a result is not a regular page (e.g., a PDF file).

What items do you have on your checklist?

What User Experience Means To Me

One of my most favoritest and talented co-workers, Leah Buley, just interviewed me for the talk she will be giving at UX Week next month. She is revising her talk, "A User Experience Team of One," which was a smash hit at the IA Summit this past April.

During the interview Leah asked me an interesting question. She asked what it was about user experience that got me into this business in the first place. I think it all goes back to my days when I worked as a page at the CH Booth Library in Newtown, CT. I love hooking people up with the information they are looking for. It's the best part of customer service. I love being able to take an often amorphous need and translate it in to resources that directly solve it. And I love the smiles and how happy folks are when they get their questions answered.

If you look at my career as an information architect, it becomes clear that this is a driving force to most of my projects. Whether it's specs on how enterprise software functions or the address of a local dry cleaner or details for treatment of medical condition, it all boils down to essentially the same thing. Solving that information need.

I want people to have the best time while they are filling that need. And I love that "best" means different things in different situations. It might be speed, maybe it's via an entertaining way. Perhaps it's just being authoritative and all inclusive. Making the systems and designing the structures so information is the most findable and usable is just plan fun for me.

Thanks Leah for helping me articulate that. It's good to be reminded just how much you love what it is that you do.

Almost Time For BlogHer


Next week is the BlogHer conference, here in San Francisco. I attended the first BlogHer conference 3 years. This year Kate asked me if I wanted to go and I said yes. She and I had a blast at the Women in Tech unconference last year.

I'm getting a bit uneasy about BlogHer though, as I remember that it is coming up. The first time I went, I was alone. Sure I met folks, and there were a few people that I knew who were there, but they were wrapped up in their own thang and I felt like a hanger-on for most of it. I've been to conferences by myself before, so I'm not sure what it was that made BlogHer so different.

Maybe it's the fact that I don't really identify myself as being a blogger. I'm not a mommy-blogger (god what a horrible term). I tried focusing this blog on information architecture and it didn't really take. I ending up blogging about things interested in, which is a fractured collection of lots of stuff. And my blog reflects that. It's not anything to be ashamed about, and yet in a way that's what I feel. I'm not making money off my blogs. I haven't started an OmniMedia company around it. I'm happy when my logs hit 20 views in a day.

I look at the women who are into the whole BlogHer thing and I feel like a big fat nothing next to them. Which is crazy because my life is full in a million other ways. I don't know... I guess I'm just starting to worry that it will be a depressing two days for me. I'm not 100% sure what I'm looking to get out of the conference. I guess to get inspired. Maybe meet folks. Perhaps I need to figure out that first, and then put the energy into making those things happen.

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This page is an archive of entries from July 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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