What kind of book is this?

Amazon.com: Books: Observing the User Experience: A Practitioner’s Guide to User Research (Morgan Kaufmann Series in Interactive Technologies) […]

Amazon.com: Books: Observing the User Experience: A Practitioner’s Guide to User Research (Morgan Kaufmann Series in Interactive Technologies) (The Morgan Kaufmann Series in Interactive Technologies)

Scroll down on the page and look at the cloud-display.
(if gone, try the Widgetopia screenshot)

I think the future of metadata is not how it lets you retrieve things (which is all well and good) but how it lets you perceive things.

For some time I’ve thought tag clouds like those on del.ico.us & flickr’s are far more useful for understanding the mind of a group, as opposed to retrieval (I think they are stinky at directed search, and just okay at undirected). This particular instance is a good example of telling you about the nature of the book. Not just the prominence of “people” over “users” but the size of the word “should” which I first thought to be useless– it is, if you want to know what the book about, but not so much if you want to understand the tone of the book.

It would be interesting to compare, say, Jakob Nielson’s first and last book to see how his language changes as he goes from scholarly to didactic.

Now image if it wasn’t just the author’s language, but the tags as well– you could compare intent with effect.


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  1. 2
    George Girton

    I scrolled down but did not see the cloud display, unless it was the list of TOP 150 terms as determined by some amazon algorithm. Let me just drop it in here (as presented, some words had larger point size than others — a nice touch)

    cheers! George

    although analysis answers ask audience behavior between change chapter
    company create data design development different does even example
    experience features feel find first focus get give goals going good
    group help however idea important information interview kinds know list
    may method needs new note number often once page participants people
    person possible problems process product profiles project provide
    questions recruiting report research responses results schedule search
    see service set should since site situations someone something specific
    survey take target task team techniques test testing things time tools
    two understand understanding usability use used useful user value want
    web week work

  2. 3
    Austin Govella

    (I love this topic.)

    The key phrase is that “we couldn’t see [it] before”. It’s irrelevant whether this information was *really* there.

    Surfacing not the information, but the information in context, next to the book, affects the book’s relevance. The book will have more or less authority for us based on what we perceive in the tag cloud. We “triangulate” the book as closer or farther away from our needs.

    Andrew asks where the book begins and ends. Where does any collection end and it’s meta data begin? From one view, the author is a part of the book’s meta data, but from the other, the book is part of the author’s meta data.

    Everything is meta data.

    All information is connected in a subjective network that communicates relevance. On paper, this is an ontology. Hierarchical networks aren’t dying. Now we can view the networks from different vantages, turn them on their heads, make the top the bottom.

    Practical applications of these ideas include both database and application design. Databases should let information networks look like information networks. Currently most assume a concrete hierarchy even though you can turn hierarchies upside down and inside out all the time. Applications should similarly handle data.

    These ideas also heavily influence IA and IxD. Context, relevance, message are just as important to an interaction as the interface, and in fact, precede the interface.

    I don’t use a bra not because I can’t operate the interface (though the fuckers are difficult to use), but because a bra isn’t relevant to me. Make the irrelevant relevant and I’ll use it.

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