Tag Archives: ia

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 (del.icou.us, blogger, flickr, slideshare, blip.tv, 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 Trentinosociale.it”. They told us how they worked through the (re)creation of Trentinosociale.it, 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.

Report from the Information Architecture summit (day 1)

During the past weekend near Trento there were many interesting events: a conference about new media and communication “Creativita’ in video” in Rovereto, the South Tyrol Free Software conference 2007 with speakers from Google, Gnome, Samba, MIT, OpenOffice, in Merano and the second Italian summit on Information Architecture in Trento.
I decided to attend the latest and I was satisfied with the choice.

On Saturday we were more than 200 people, some of the speakers were from abroad and the summit was really worth, I really enjoyed it.

What follows is a short summary of the talks I found more interesting and, at the end, about the summit overall.

The summit was opened by Gianluca Salvatori, local minister for Research and Innovation of the Autonomous Province of Trento. I asked some people how they found his talk and many were surprised by it (“Wow, it was not the typical talk of a politician!”). In fact Salvadori knows a lot about innovation and research trend and research management (I suggest you to follow his very interesting blog, in Italian). Actually I was a bit disappointed, I think he could have been much more insightful and provocative but maybe he didn’t want to.

The opening keynote was given by Eric Reiss and was titled “Invention, Innovation, and the Future of IA”. It wanted to be a show and it largely was. I didn’t get entirely its points (is X innovation or invention?) but I got some laughs and this is already something.

“Confusi e felici: il Web 2.0 e le nuove sfide cognitive di Internet” by Cristina Lavazza – Andrea Fiacchi reported a small experiment (only 10 people) about how young and not-young people browse and find Web2.0 sites. The results were somehow as expected but the talk was very well given.

I liked a lot the talk by Luca Mascaro “UI per applicazioni Web 2.0: FaceTag”. He spoke about a small, but real case of participative redesign. The main interesting point is that he really did something and shared the process with us. Coming from academy, I’m really more willing to listen to people who did things and share their experience instead of people who instructs on how things should be done!

After the first part of the first day, I was asking myself: “what is the worst feature of Trentino research? Well, it is too much top-down. Maybe it would be much better to just finance lots of very small groups of young people like the ones we have seen presenting, without asking 200 pages of possible project in order to decide if it is worth financing it. Being more bottom-up and more fast in assigning (small amounts of) funds to many different small groups. Maybe this is another possible path, trying to reproduce the venture capital dynamism of Silicon Valley with public funds, I don’t know, it is not an easy task.

The afternoon was opened by Alessandra Cornero and her talk “Architettare per trovare: la documentazione della Pubblica Amministrazione in Rete” about how to make accessible documents created by the public sector. The current situation is too fragmented, every administration builds from scratch and independently its information portals and architectures, sometimes well, sometimes not that well. People often resort to search engines but they cannot be used for reliable information (“is this the last applicable law?”). She was suggesting that investing in human-edited catalogs should not be seen as a cost but as an investment, because they let citizens save time and find “reliable” information. I asked her “what about one of the mantra of Web2.0, participation, in this case involving citizens in the loop? Are you thinking about this? For example public sector sites could display on every page a widget by which citizens could “report as inaccurate” a certain information. Or on the other extreme the public sector could reverse all its (already electronic) documents on a wiki, with a big disclaimer on top such as “this information is not necessarily accurate”, and let citizens integrate it, comment on it, build on it…” Well, the answer told me that there is still a lot of work to do. And this of course is an opportunity.

Jess McMullin, with “The Business of Experience”, gave as another fancy presentation. By fancy I mean “lots of cool full screen images and lots of single word slides and black background”. I don’t have much experience with this kind of presentations. I’m more used to see boring, very textual, white background, academic presentation. I’m not sure I get a lot from these fancy presentations, at the end I’m often left wondering “wow, that was cool, but what I remember of his points?”. I’m also a bit curious about how you learn creating presentations like these. Just by viewing a lot of similar presentations? And how long does it take to create such a presentation (more or less than boring, textual ones)?

Alberto Mucignat, one of the organizer, tried a fancy presentation about “SEO & IA”. I didn’t follow it too much but he got an applause when suggesting we should move, after Web2.0 and Web3.0, to Web5.0, as an homage to Fibonacci. This is the picture that opens this post in fact.

Franco Carcillo and Vincenzo Mania presented “Tag per i cittadini: il caso TaggaTO”. TaggaTO is a very very interesting service provided by the city of Torino, which is really become an hub of innovation in Italy, see for example TorinoValley and the fact Sterling moved to Torino for 6 or 8 months). The service TaggaTO is a service of social bookmarking by which Torino citizens can tag resources provided by the local administration, in a way very similar to del.icio.us. Some of the questions they raised were: can classification of public services be an object of sharing? Is there a conflict between burocratic/law terms and popular jargon for tags? Which kind of monitoring is needed on tags? Also very interesting the fact they didn’t ask to Torino already web2.0 savvy citizens to switch over TaggaTO but they let them use their social bookmarking services (such as del.icio.us) and just tag resources there with “for:taggato” so that TaggaTO can fetch the tagged resources. I wonder if they were already the target of some tag spam attack.
The talk was very interesting, but not fancy style, which I actually preferred because there were a lot of interesting content in it.

Peter Van Dijck gave us the concluding talk for the first day “Global IA: How to Organize Global Websites”. It was very interesting and very fancy, but I was too tired. Some concepts I might want to search on his blog later on were: in Craiglist Dubai (women seeking women?!?), Google Korea and animations, Dewey vs the Maori, …

And then there was the summit dinner which is something people always look for when they come to conferences in Italy. It was good. ;-)