If you want to order prints of your digital pictures online, I can really recommend Shutterfly. You can order 15 prints for free when you sign up, just to try them out. Although I found myself ordering a lot more on my first order because it was so easy.

Basic level categories

I’ve been waiting for someone to write about basic level categories as they relate to information architecture. No luck so far (apart from a 1999 Peterme post in which he says: ‘the trick would seem to be to get people to the basic-level as quickly as possible.’). So I’m picking this up again. There’s gold in them mountains folks!

Coginitive science has been making many discoveries about how humans categorize, like: that categories have fuzzy boundaries, that members of a category may be related to one another without all members having any property in common (this is called Family resemblance), that some members of a category may be �better examples� than others (this is called centralicity), and most interestingly, that categories are organized into a hierarchy from the most general to the most specific, but the level that is most cognitively basic is �in the middle� of the hierarchy. These categories in the middle are called basic level categories.

For example, “cat” is a basic level category, “feline” or “Siamese cat” are not.

Basic level categories have some characteristics that make them interesting for information architects:

– Things are remembered more readily at basic level.
– People name things more readily at basic level.
– The basic level name for things is learned earliest in childhood.
– Languages have simpler names at basic level.

In short, people naturally, at a deep cognitive level, deal easier with basic level categories.

It is important to understand that basic level categories are not just easier on a superficial level, because they are shorter or something. Cognitive scientists say that basic level categories are cognitively real. They seem to be ingrained in the human mind somehow, in a way that makes it easier for us to deal with basic level categories.

Does this mean that information architects should be aware of the basic levelness of the categories they use? I think so, but I’m not sure how exactly. Remember that basic level cateogories are processed more easily, faster. That has got to mean something to us!

The only research I found about basic level categories in information retrieval is Using ‘basic level categories’ to retrieve multimedia from the World-Wide-Web Hoenkamp, E.C.M. (1999). Proceedings of the 21st Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, 1999, 796.

Other interesting things I came across while doing research for this:
one user�s classes are another user�s attributes.
To test whether a category member is more or less central to the category, you can ask a series of questions, compare how long it takes people to answer.

Learn more:
– It’s all Eleanor Rosch’s fault, well explained by George Lakoff’s in Women, Fire and Dangerous things.
More goodies.

It just occurred to me we should have a tag to indicate where in a quote we are doing this: “[the program] crashed twice” (it’s not paraphrasing – what is this called?)

Kottke is redesigning his site, and trying out giving different types of content (book reviews, links, …) a different look on his homepage.

Jason identifies 5 content types on his site:

– Movie Review
– Book Review
– Remaindered Links (“hey look at this thing”)
– A Comment (a comment posted on another site)
– A Regular Post (Jason says this means “here’s what I think about this thing”. It’s really an ‘everything else’ category – classify here if a post fits in none of the other categories.)

Any given post can be easily classified in 1 and only 1 of these 5 categories – there are no obvious overlaps, especially if we treat A Regular Post as an ‘everything else’ category. No post will belong to more than 1 content type.

Next, apart from fields that are generic to all content (author, creation date, …), different content types each have different fields, “microcontent-specific entry fields”. For example, a movie review has a title, a link, a rating, a photo, and some text.

The discussion talks about how this can be supported by weblog tools, while staying generic enough. I’ve been doing this semantic stuff for the past year at my job, and it’s hard, but doable and useful.

BBC news: “The designers say the 70-mm-tall device could be used as a “flying camera” to enter earthquake-shattered buildings. ” Plain cool.


Why is it that on many all-CSS sites, selecting text becomes almost impossible? (See for example the new Sprint site.) I compulsively select some text when browsing the web (don’t ask), and CSS websites often don’t let me. Apart from my obsession, breaking text selection seems like breaking a fundamental UI interaction pattern to me.

I’m OK with Outlook, and adding contacts to my contact list is easy, but the interface to browse/use the contacts is useless. So: am I missing something, or is there some plugin to Outlook I can use to browse my contact info? Export it and use another app? All tips welcome.

(I used to ask this stuff on mailing lists, I don’t know what happened …)

Tanya confirms my understanding of boundary objects. I’m happy, because I wasn’t entirely sure I was getting it right. She also points to a study that looks at the wireframe as a boundary object.

For me, it’s been useful to think of many of our deliverables (taxonomies, wireframes and such) as boundary objects that build bridges between different communities of practice. It alleviates much frustration.

LANGUAGE = DISEASE? (in the comments): “The fact that for thirty years or more it’s been possible to get certified as a linguist without knowing any languages beyond your native one seems to me a perversion of the order of things that likely presages Armageddon.”

Welcome to the TEI Website: “Initially launched in 1987, the TEI is an international and interdisciplinary standard that helps libraries, museums, publishers, and individual scholars represent all kinds of literary and linguistic texts for online research and teaching, using an encoding scheme that is maximally expressive and minimally obsolescent.”

I have a bunch of books I’d give away of someone would want them (if they come and pick them up). Is there something online where I can do that?

I’m looking for a political cartoonist who is interested in doing a cartoon or 2 a month for my redesigned website about Colombia. Subject matter will be much about Colombian politics, and how it relates to US politics (so characters include Bush and the Colombian president Uribe). I can work with you to develop the cartoons (ie, you don’t have to know too much about Colombian politics, we can work together).

Anyone know where to look?

(via Simon) PHP.net have implemented a javascript autocomplete for their function search. Note that this is not the browser autocomplete that lists things you typed in before. Instead, this dropdown lists all valid functions starting with “my”. Very, very useful.


Simon notes that the javascript is not being shared (it’s scrambled), and in the comments Sergi points to this autocomplete script (which isn’t half as nice). A quick Google reveals:
How to make your own.
– You can ask IE to show the dropdown on your form elements.
How to make your own (another one).

I am very dissapointed that the W3C isn’t putting these controls in the HTML specs (correct me if I’m wrong here). Things like autocomplete, list or table sorting, ordering lists or validation should be taken care of by the browser by specifying a simple html tag or attribute.

All this javascript is nice but it isn’t really going anywhere – if a truly useful and compatible javascript library for this stuff that didn’t require lots of customization was going to happen, it would be here already. (With my respect to the authors of the various libraries out there – they’re doing a great job – but it’s not good enough. Not easy enough to implement. Not standardized enough.)