Report from the Information Architecture summit (day 2)

After the first day, there was the second day. Yes, yes, I was surprised as well.

I overslept a bit and I miss the first talk, sorry.
The second one was titled “The Web2Architect” and given by Chris Addison, Antonella Pastore, Pier Andrea Pirani. They work for Euforic which is an organization that is actively trying to push adoption of web2.0 tools in international cooperation organizations and so I was very very interested because I’m actually helping a local NGO with this.
Actually the talk was partially ruined by the fact the lamp of the projector was totally going to die and the slides could just be intuited behind a black veil, very unfortunate, especially because it was another fancy, very visual presentation. Anyway they basically shown us how they use all the web2.0 instruments (, blogger, flickr, slideshare,, pbwiki, google calendar (and all the other services by Google), facebook, …) in an integrated way for their work. It was not extremely unexpected since I guess most of the people in the audience already knew all the services but it was good to get an overall view (and a lot of pointers I should add! “euforic” is on dozens of different social sites!!!). I think they somehow failed to summarize their message at the end. I guess their point was something like “information architecture for us is just reuse existing services, nothing more” but they didn’t make it clear which is a pity since the conference was about “information architecture”.

Another extremely interesting talk was given by Dario Betti and Stefano Bussolon and was about “La classificazione fatta dai cittadini. Il caso”. They told us how they worked through the (re)creation of, a portal for the welfare wanted by the local government.
I liked the suggestion we should speak about stakeholders and not users, since one of the goal is that stakeholders feel the project as their own project. They used the cardsorting technique, with an online tool called Netsorting developed by Stefano Bussolon as part of his phd thesis in sociology at the University of Trento. I really need to dig a bit more into this instrument. The overall goal of the redesign was to let the lexicon and the structure used in the site come from users, in order to give the stakeholders what they really want.
They collected a very large number of feedback reports from users and based on this they were able to redesign the site. Very interesting!

Another intersting talk was given by Michele Iovino “Hardware Hacks e Context-awareness”. He introduced projects such as arduino, processing, wiring and in general the concepts of open hardware.

The Closing keynote titled “The DIY Future: What Happens When Everyone Is A Designer?” was by Joe Lamantia. Another fancy presentation. I didn’t get his main points but I have to admit I was too tired to follow it.

At the end there was the 5 minutes madness session: the microphone was placed on the table and everyone was free to pick it up and speak, about the conference, about the topic, about anything. Some crazy/funny things arose such as “la corazzata Potemkin e’ una cagata pazzesca” (if you are not Italian, you cannot understand this, it is from a Fantozzi movie) and the Buttered cat paradox. There was an applause after every short intervention … so it was not too much madness but it was a very very interesting modality for ending a summary anyway.

A final short point about the summit. I think there were 2 extremes in presentation: one axis was about presentation style, the other was about reality groundness. About presentation style, some presentations were very intriguing and fancy (lots of cool full screen images and lots of single word slides and black background, presenters moving around, making jokes, changing tone) while the rest was very boring (white background, lots of text, presenters never moving, not changing the tone of voice). Unfortunately I think I’m much more a presenter of the second type so next time I’ll try to create a fancy presentation. Anyway I’m not sure that fancy presentations are really that good for conveying concepts to the public: while a boring presentation does not convey any concept (simply because the target is not following it but doing something else (browsing, sleeping, …)), a fancy one might amuse the public but at the end the viewer might be in the state “funny, 30 good minutes, but what was the message?”.
About reality groundness, I have to admit that academics usually propose things that will never ever see any application in reality simply because they are too … uhm … unrealistic, while entrepreneurs and consultants have to propose something that works, now, and so they focus on reality, but I guess this is not a surprise for anyone. I prefer the reality grounded approach, expecially if the topic is information architecture.

Closing, I should really thank the organizers for giving me the opportunity to assist to such a diverse and thriving summit. Thanks to Alberto Mucignat, Emanuele Quintarelli, Andrea Resmini, Luca Rosati.
Also I liked a lot the idea of using a kitchen timer (shaped like a tomato) for setting the time for presentation. It was friendly, funny and ice-breaking, but still very very strict in keeping the speakers on time, I think I’ll borrow the idea if I ever get the will of organizing a (un)conference or similar.

I think I’ve learn a lot from this summit.

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