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Another note on yesterday’s search engine rant: the search sites probably got away with being so lame because they were “dancing bears” – we didn’t care they didn’t work so well ’cause the fact that we could even get to that information was amazing for the time.

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I think a lot of the early, and current, search engines have mis-managed expectations of what they can deliver. They’ve offered a simple search box with a bit of instruction and imply that’s mainly what the user needs to find what they’re looking for.


Imagine if you walked into a library and had a question but didn’t know what kind of collection to start searching through. You might seek out a librarian to help you. Would you approach them and say “London weather information”? Or would you say something like, “I’ve just started a new job which will require me to travel to London at various times throughout the year and I’d like to find out what the weather is like at all of those times.” The former is what we type into a search engine query box, and the latter is how much information the search engine actually needs to give you decent results.


A site like Ask Jeeves has done a bit to correct those expectations. They’ve changed three things:

  • They not only accept but encourage natural language queries
  • By accepting natural language, a user is more apt to phrase a question more thoroughly (not scientifically proven, just my own theory)
  • They index documents by subject matter and not by word content and frequency


    Other ways of doing this:

  • Encourage, by examples for example, the writing of longer queries
  • Use a multi-step process, a wizard perhaps, to zero in on a result.

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    WHEW WEEEE… We’d had an off-site meeting yesterday of a bunch of the Information Designers from Razorfish. There were so my ideas thrown around that at the end all our heads just exploded. Here’s some the the random ideas I jotted down:


    Contextual site maps – instead of drawing one supermap consider drawing them according to a particular use or user.


    For dynamic, modular sites, site maps may not make sense. I’m thinking of working on a combination of a screen schematic and site map, where a callout (composed of a description, module, thmb nail of an entire screen element) is used to describe how that module will morph into something else. It seems like each dynamic site will work differently and might require its own documentation solution.

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    Coming home today I’m walking through New York City’s West Village and at the corner of 6th and Prince there’s a fire truck and police car stopped in the intersection. There’s also a cab and on the ground in front it a bicycle and its rider. I didn’t see a helmet.


    I thought back to a couple months ago when I took a nasty spill off my bike. Even with a helmet on I experienced a temporary memory loss which was scary. I’m sure I would have at least fractured my skull without the helmet.


    A letter in my bike club newsletter tells of someone with the same exact fall and symptoms I had. He also had the same incredible gratefulness for his helmet. I remember writing to the helmet company (Giro) to thank them, and being oh-so-glad to lay out cash for a new one.


    And this afternoon at lunch a friend at work told us his girlfiend fell off a moped on Day 2 of a vacation in Cancun. No helmets, luckily she only broke her leg and nothing more.

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    I’m working on creating a financial news portal and have been thinking about the information architecture of portals. It seems portals like My Yahoo! are a sophisticated set of bookmarks: you pass through your portal into a set of selected documents.


    I need to invent a new term, which I’ll call a shell until I think of something hipper, that is more of an intelligent intermediary, whatching where you go and making an effort to shape the context on each page according to your selections.

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    Hmmmm, I misinterpreted the function of the date header, thinking it would insert after each post, when actually it only inserts at the end of each day’s posts. NOW it should work OK, with my nice little rule in between each post, noisebetweenstations style.

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    Yeeehaaaa. T’Works! Only thang I forgot was the time tag. That should be here this time…

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    This is my first post using Blogger and I’m very excited. My only concern is whether I entered all the paths correctly, I’d like to see examples along with their otherwise helpful instructions.

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