Blogmapper is so cool it makes me want to go travel and use it. (As if I’m not dying to go travel anyway. What are you gonna do – working in the US means 3 weeks of holiday a year. Arg).

Work in the enterprise market can be a bit of a shocker.

I learnt most of what I know from communities of programmers and IA’s on the web. A lot of information is being shared. So when I started working in the enterprise application market a year ago, I hoped for something similar.

Nope. It is extremely hard to find the kind of down-to-earth information that is available in the open source world for enterprise applications like, say, SAP. Nobody’s sharing. No mailing lists on SAP, and I have yet to see a blog that discusses SAP. A search for blog+SAP yields almost nothing of relevance, except for SAP’s own blogs (not very good).

SAP itself does make an effort to make information available, but obviously, there’s always an angle there.

My SAP link of the day: In the SAP Portals world, a portal consists of little iViews (like iframes) that contain functionality (things like change your address, search a database, view reports, …) iViewstudio lists the various iviews available from SAP and from other vendors. Look at the screenshots to get an idea – below is a small example of an iView.

iviewexample.gif || Notes Toward a Moderation Economy: “Whether you call it Mojo, Karma, “Standing,” or something else, all content rating feedback systems have some sort of currency. While there are many different ways of acquiring and spending such capital, nobody seems to have implemented an economy varied enough to be robust. And this is the key to building a system which can be stable in the long term.” (via EiM)

Taxonomy is a boundary object

In short: designers talking about taxonomies, or business people talking about objects is a good thing, even though they may seem rather uninformed about it to us (you) experts.

(You social science folk, please correct me if I strayed too far from common wisdom here)

Boundary Object: “Artifacts, Documents and perhaps even vocabulary that can help people from different communities build a shared understanding. Boundary objects will be interpreted differently by the different communinities, and it is an acknowledgement and discussion of these differences that enables a shared understanding to be formed.” (from the enTWIne project)

In 1988, Susan Leigh Star [1] introduced the term boundary object to describe information that is used in different ways by different communities of practice [2].

Boundary objects have interesting properties (from Brian Marick):

– If x is a boundary object, people from different communities of practice can use it as a common point of reference for conversations. They can all agree they’re talking about x.

– But the different people are not actually talking about the same thing. They attach different meanings to x.

– Despite different interpretations, boundary objects serve as a means of translation.

– Boundary objects are plastic enough to adapt to changing needs. And change theydo, as communities of practice cooperate. Boundary objects are working arrangements, adjusted as needed. They are not imposed by one community, norby appeal to outside standards.

A goal is often used as a boundary object. “Finish this project successfully” is a boundary project in software development. It means different things to different communities of practice, but it is plastic enough to get everyone working together.

The term “taxonomy” is another boundary object. It is used differently by different communities of practice (designers, project managers, librarians, IA’s).

What Star teaches us is that the fact that we all understand this term differently is not a problem. The boundary object serves to bring different communities of practice together.

So next time someone from a separate community of practice uses a term or talks about something in a rather naive or uninformed way (from your perspective), don’t roll your eyes. Realize that this may be a boundary object, and boundary objects make it possible for you two to communicate at all. They also make it possible for different communities of practice to effectively work together.


[1] Susan Leigh Star introduced the term “boundary object” in “The structure of ill-structured solutions: heterogeneous problemsolving, boundary objects and distributed artificial intelligence.” She also wrote Sorting Things Out – Classification and Its Consequences, a thrilling classic in classification literature (sample chapters). I never realized she was the same person – she’s now my official hero.

[2] A community of practice is a group of people who do a certain type of work, talk to each other about their work, and derive some measure of their identity from that work. Programmers are a community of practice. IA’s are another. (Brian Marick wrote a great paper, boundary objects (PDF)).

Comment spammers

I have been spared the invasion of the comment spammers because my weblog was offline this summer.

But to pre-empt them, now that comments are back, I installed Blacklist. I then did a Google query on blacklist.txt, and pasted the first few results in my blacklist, thereby updating my list before the spammers even hit me.

Here’s my list, compiled out of various sources (I don’t think sharing these would help the spammers, would it?) It certainly feels goood. I’d be up for an option in blacklist that automatically gets other people’s lists.

Blogging again

I’m blogging again. If you ever need to move MT to a new server and accidentally lock yourself out of your old installation, check out MT Medic. It’s a cgi script you FTP into your MT directory, and it lets you recover your password and do more stuff. Nice.

I have probably broken all my old URL’s doing this. Too bad. I hope next time I’m moving server most CMS’s will automatically generate mod_rewrite files to catch changed URL’s, or do something similar. I can’t be bothered to spend the day it would take me to figure it out.