I’m in Colombia (Medellin) making salad – try to make Colombians eat salad! Food culture in Colombia, and especially Antioquia is incredibly “traditional”. Sushi is good (it’s hard to mess up sushi), but anything “thai” or “indian” gets watered down to the level of being veggies cooked to death without any flavor.

Peter Morville has a way with words and ideas:

“Next year, after the bubble bursts, we will enter the era of
Information Architecture 3.0. This won’t surprise Tim O’Reilly who
slyly positioned the polar bear atop the #1 Google hit for Web 2.0 and commissioned the third edition just in time to clean up the mess.”

I’ve added a list of sites to the IAsearch.net information architecture search engine, the list is now:

Now that I’m playing with the IA of a site of mine, here are some things that keep coming back.

  • Start with the user and the content, not with the IA.
  • Editorial vs. user-generated: it’s a mix. Some things need to be editorialized. Some things user generated. Sometimes it’s in between, where stuff is user generated and then slightly editorialized. This goes for both org schemes and content.
  • Comprehensiveness is very important in some contexts when providing content.
  • If you look very very closely at the content, you’ll find that it’s often not what you thought it was. For example, a travel guide you write while on the ground is different than one you write while remembering how things were.

This is too vague – badly written too, let me try to repost this in 2007! :)

By the way, I’ve spent a while here in Colombia writing some urgently needed travel guides. They have details on where to stay (for example, places to stay in Bogota), prices etc. The current Lonely Planet on Colombia is about the worst LP ever written, so there’s definite demand for a better travel guide. I think travelers, with the right help, can write travel guides that are better and address some of the inherent problems of printed guides (like being 3 years out of date and leaving out lots of great places).

I’ve also found that writing travel guides is kind of fun – I enjoy visiting new places and thinking about the best way to describe them. And I love making maps – I’m an IA after all!

The Performancing plugin sits in your browser and lets me write these quick notes. I like it, I think I’m adjusting my blogging style. Of course there’s a bunch of things I’d like it to do… oh well. Gotta keep learning to program better. Or surround myself with more programmers. To get stuff done.

Inside out IA

I’m thinking about Inside Out IA, starting with the users and content, then the local IA (the IA on the page), then the sitewide IA. That’s how I find myself doing sites these days. None of that starting-with-the-navigation. Anyways.

Om talks about the sofaweb, although I like the term gamerweb better. It’s all about the new generation of gaming devices (wii, xBox 2, Playstation 3) that are connected to your TV and have broadband internet.

It’s a big opportunity, but I’m not sure it’ll take off. The mobile internet never took off for 1 reason: it’s a closed platform. The mobile companies control too much of the access, and the devil is in the little details. The same thing happened when Sony messed up the PSP: because they loose money on the hardware they never really opened up the platform, a big mistake imo. So sure, these gaming platforms are connected, but the question will be how much control the owners try to excert in subtle ways. If they really open things up, a whole new ecology of startups could grow around these platforms.

By the way, I like the Performancing plugin for these quick blog notes. It could use some improvements, but it’s FAST and right there in my browser, which is a big deal.

Offline access to web services (email, editing, …) is the next Big Thing (I’m sure Google must be working hard on this). SocialText seems to have an interesting approach: embed the application in the html (as js), download it, use it to edit and such, and when you’re back online synch back. (If I understand the approach correctly). That’s smart, it doesn’t require a new browser or anything. Could Gmail do this for me?

Drupal considered dangerous for startups?

Mike mentioned on a mailing list that he “can think of at least 5 startups that were seriously hurt by using Drupal”.

I have to agree, I can think of at least three cases.

But you could say that that’s more a case of startups being hurt by technical incompetence because they thought they could use an open source CMS as the basis for their company. Not to say there aren’t any successful companies using Drupal, but if you’re building anything else than a content company (which you could probably run on any cms), you’d be foolish to start by using Drupal. That’s just what I think.

Why? Drupal keeps evolving to solve a lot of different problems, it tries to be a swiss army knife. You’ll probably use 20% of Drupal, which means you have 80% cruft (which 20% can be different for everyone), and you’ll probably only have 20% of your needs addressed by Drupal, which means you’ll have to hack around the 80% cruft to get your 80% needs addressed. It’ll just keep frustrating you.

I call this Peter’s “generic-cms-warning 80-80 rule”.

S3 continues to rock

Amazon S3 really rocks. We generate a LOT of thumbnail images at mefeedia.com for all the videobloggers, and earlier this year all these millions of small jpg files were slowing the server to a crawl (servers aren’t generally good at having millions upon millions of little files stored, even though we used a sensible directory approach).

Last month, we were hosting 120 Gigs worth of tiny files on Amazon S3, and transferred 150 Gigs of data. All this for 46 US$ for that  month. You couldn’t rent a server for that cheap, let alone you’d have to deal with all the management and scaling problems yourself. Rocks!

I am totally looking forward to the IA summit (as always), almost the only conference worth going to for me, but who the hell decided to hold it in god damn Las Vegas? I was in the Las Vegas airport once, full of slotmachines (or what do you call those), it was as close to hell as I have ever been. Ugh. And don’t tell me I can study the user experience of Las Vegas!

Winer and Co are talking about building a true podcast device: no DRM, wifi, podcast subscriptions. It’s indeed incredibly that neither Apple, Sony nor M$ have taken this opportunity yet, and I think the community can totally spec and build a device. Open source hardware, it’s the next step.

Speed is still a very big deal in UX. This yahoo research says that one of the easiest improvements you can make is having less objects (images, js files, …) per page, which reduces the amount of requests the browser has to make. There you go, Yahoo said so. Drop those images.

If only I was a good programmer, I would have known to expect the weirdest stuff with data coming from outside the system. At mefeedia, we aggregate RSS feeds, and anything you can imagine is out there. Loads of invalid feeds (but we take them anyway), invalid data, missing elements, and so on. What a mess :)