ARCHIVE: April, 2005

Podcasting Taking Off

Doug Kaye has posted some graphs showing the attention being paid to podcasting at ITConversations. I’m thrilled that Doug is succeeding, and I’m proud to add to his tip jar periodically. He’s doing some of the best work on the Web. Check out

Site Under Construction

As you’ll have noticed, the site is under construction lately. This is not specifically for the May 1st reboot, but I may ride the coattails of that event so as to blend in.

A couple of things I’m working on…

  1. Cleaner, simpler design
  2. New comment/trackback layout
  3. More personal contact info
  4. Blogroll/links section (I’ve never had one!)
  5. Increased interaction with
  6. More focused posts
  7. Restoring GTB, a blog with my high school buddies
  8. A subsite dedicated to a particular topic

As always, I’m interested in what you have to say. If you’ve got any feedback/comments/ideas, let me know. After all, without you this site is not read.

Infoworld using for Related Content

Via Dave Weinberger on Many2Many: Matt McAlister says Infoworld is now using to add folksonomic functionality to its articles. This is important because now we’re seeing existing sites adopting folksonomies…and not just a few cool folksonomy sites. Months ago when I started getting on the folksonomy bandwagon this was the major hurdle and the major question everyone had…Are they useful for the rest of us?

The way that Infoworld is using them is interesting: the editors are tagging the content and then pulling down those tags from to get to related content…so they’re harnessing both writer tagging and user tagging…hmmm.

So, folksonomies seem to be useful to at least one major publication…

Predicting User Behavior

If you were somehow given the choice to predict the behavior of one of your friends or a complete stranger, with your life in the balance, which would you choose? You would probably choose your friend, right?

Ok, so the answer is obvious. Of course you would choose your friend! What isn’t so obvious, though, is the reasoning behind which we make that choice. Put simply, it is something like the following: by observing past behavior we can better predict future behavior, and this results from people being habitual creatures.

Given this, why do we reinvent the wheel so much in design? Why are we coming up with so many designs that must (or should be) be “tested” before we actually know if they work? Can you imagine if we were paid according to the actual effectiveness of our web design, and not the hours we put into it?

When this does come to pass, when we are paid on the efficacy of the design and not the hours we put into it, we’ll see a lot more features that aggregate past behavior in order to predict future behavior. It’s what we do all the time, just not in web design.

SEO and Quality Content

I was talking with a woman last night about her experience with SEO. She had some consulting work done for her by an outside SEO firm who quickly set to work driving traffic to her site. She thought all was well…until several weeks later when she was blacklisted on Google because the company who did her SEO work was blacklisted, too. One of their SEO “techniques” was comment spamming. Because of this activity and the blacklisting, her results on Google plummetted, and she has yet to gain her pagerank back. She’s contacted Google several times and the best they can do is to tell her to “switch domains”.

I then went out on a limb and suggested that much of SEO was bunk. We’re building social systems on the Web, and Google has shown that social systems leave artifacts that, when measured, tell us what we want to know. For the most part, Google weighs their results depending upon incoming links, which is a definite social artifact. The old tricks (old SEO) of keyword farming and the like don’t work on Google, because they are not socially supported…if we can build systems based on the input of many sites, the power to game the system by a single site decreases.

What does work, of course, is good content. Even the folks at Search Engine Watch make sure to pay homage to quality content, as in this article by Frederick Marckini: Why Quality Content is Key for Search.

Shirky on Ontologies

This has been linked to quite a lot lately, but I don’t want you to miss it. So, if you haven’t already, check out this podcast of Clay Shirky’s Ontology is Overrated talk at ETech this year.

If you haven’t read Shirky or just want to listen to someone thinking way ahead of almost everyone, take a listen. It’s well worth it, and deserves its 4+ rating.

Thoughts on Emergence

That’s funny. I don’t feel emergent. Or slimy. Or moldy. How people on the Web are just like slime molds…

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The Interface is Where Innovations Find Value

Simply put, there are technological innovations all the time, but they are not valuable in and of themselves. Only when we put an interface to them can we tell how valuable they are.

Continue Reading: The Interface is Where Innovations Find Value

Interface Design Code, Inspiration, and Camels

Over at Functioning Form, Luke Wroblewski has written a post called The Impact of Interface Design Markup which deals with interface design technologies, certain to be a major topic in the future. He includes a quote from Bob Baxley suggesting that future visual designers might lay out more of their design in production code, rather than in some visual-editing application like Fireworks or Photoshop. A prime example of this, of course, is SVG, or scalable vector graphics. If browsers get support for these, then graphic designers can start laying out complete pages in code, with nary an HTML tag in sight.

Jeff Veen has an interesting post about when/how design happens. He suggests that often the solutions to design problems come after he’s stewed on them for a while. This sounds right, but the usability side of me cringes a bit, knowing how the most inspired solutions, which work great for designers during their time on the project, sometimes end up working not at all when real users get their hands on them. Probably not in Jeff’s case, but users are the ultimate arbiters of any project.

Finally, if you haven’t already, go read Camels and Rubber Duckies by Joel Spolsky. And obviously, don’t just think in terms of software…

Do you believe in Mental Models?

Mental models are often used to express what’s going on inside the head of users. The question is, what do they look like? I think that, if anything, they would be task-oriented. What do you think?

Continue Reading: Do you believe in Mental Models?

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