Penguin is an edge case of bird and other lessons from the IA Summit

I’ll be writing a few follow-up posts from the , this is one. Up next: photos from Vancouver.

Searching is about learning
Both Peter Morville and David Weinberger mentioned this. I think it is easy to forget — with a focus is on product-driven, purchase-oriented search — so we miss opportunities, particularly serendipitous discovery. It also means we don’t pay enough attention to what happens once people find things. What do they do then, when it isn’t “add to my cart”?

Know where to focus and iterate, iterate, iterate
James Reffell and Micah Alpern from eBay (one of the things Micah works on is “disruptive technologies”) presented on design patterns. They spent a lot of time working on buttons: “if you are a commerce site, buttons are where the money is made.”

When talking to people in other domains, respect their questions.
Karl Fast made this point during the Q&A for the research agenda session. He went on to say that folks working in a field have spent a lot more time thinking things over than you have, and the questions a domain asks are some of the most important things to learn about it.

Solve little problems, aggregate solutions
This came out of the Mindshift/web 2.0 panel. [A developer also gave the most succinct, engineer-oriented definition of web 2.0 I’ve heard so far: “we can do cool shit without the page refreshing.”] Jared Spool zeroed in on part of the difficulty in doing this — how does a person (especially a person behind the firewall at a large corp) become aware of what other people are doing, so they know what they can use to solve problems?

Penguin is an edge case of bird
In other words, recognize that prototype effects happen and choose your examples with care. A robin or a sparrow is the prototype we have of bird, not a penguin. Del.icio.us and flickr are the tagging protoypes. Of course, if you are in Antarctica, then a penguin is the prototype. Never forget prototypes are culture-based.

For important questions, the last thing you want to be is done.
Weinberger said this during his talk, in the context of explaining his struggle to finish his next book vs the desire to keep exploring new ideas and realizing he’s happy with a blog post never being the last word.

Clueful in Vancouver

This Dilbert quote (Peter Morville used it at his Ambient Findability talk) sums up the conference experience so far pretty well:

Information is gushing toward your brain like a firehose aimed at a teacup

I will write more about the when I get home, right now too many ideas are swirling in my head, and I want to see how some of them end up connecting. I’ve enjoyed most of the sessions, so far I have one clear favorite: Andrew Hinton‘s presentation, Clues to the Future.