Ambient Findability – Intervista a Peter Morville

Ho avuto modo qualche mese fa di leggere “Ambient Findability” di Peter Morville, famoso per chi si occupa di Information Architecture in quanto co-autore di “Information Architecture for the World Wide Web” (ho avuto anche modo di intervistare a questo proposito entrambi gli autori).

Leggendo Ambient Findability (che ho recensito per Mytech) mi sono sorte alcune domande che ho condiviso con Morville, che ha gentilmente accettato di rispondere.

Ambient Findability seems in part the answer to the preface written by Jakob Nielsen to the second edition of Information Architecture for the World Wide Web. In it Nielsen talks about the need to teach information architecture at school…Do you agree? How will our children’s lives change in this sense?

In the polar bear book, we focused on enterprise information architecture because large institutions tend to have interesting challenges and the resources required to address them. But I agree with Jakob that from individual and societal perspectives, personal information architecture is perhaps more important.

The lemur book provided an opportunity to explore how the convergence of the Internet and ubiquitous computing will raise the stakes, making information literacy a prerequisite for success in the 21st century. Our children will need to be intelligent consumers and producers of information in an increasingly complex mediascape, and hopefully our schools will help them to keep up.

What is the difference between an information architect and a findability engineer?

The required skills and professional responsibilities of an information architect are fairly well defined. In a wide variety of environments, information architects collaborate with designers, developers, and authors to produce web sites, applications, and experiences.

The number of practicing information architects is significant and growing, and I see that as a real success for the field. In contrast, very few findability engineers exist today, and I’m not sure that should or will change tomorrow. I would prefer that architects, authors, designers, and developers recognize the vital importance and cross-disciplinary nature of findability.

That said, in some organizations, an entrepreneurial findability engineer can make a real positive impact by focusing attention on findability and serving as a bridge between disciplines.

Isn’t Ambient Findability too broad of a term? It spans from finding people to finding internet resources…it seems to me similar to the definition of web 2.0.

Ambient Findability describes a world, at the crossroads of ubiquitous computing and the Internet, in which we can find anyone or anything from anywhere at anytime. In this new reality, the lines between wayfinding and retrieval begin to blur as we use similar interfaces and algorithms for finding information, objects, people, and places. So, while ambient findability is certainly a big picture vision, it’s not difficult to define or imagine.

Some parts of the book seems based on 1984 by Orwell. What if I really don’t want to be found?

GPS, RFID, and other location-sensing technologies raise serious questions about privacy. However, they also promise a wealth of useful services that may save time, money, and lives. My guess is that we will sacrifice some privacy in the coming years, and those who would prefer to stay hidden may find themselves without much choice.

You say that folksonomies and taxonomies are like leaves and trees, but also that they are not mutually exclusive. How can a company use both to build a better product? Are folksonomies useful only in the short period? And are they useful on situations where you are working with a shoestring budget?

From a navigation perspective, it’s quite easy to imagine taxonomies (trees) and tags (leaves) complementing one another. Publisher-defined taxonomies can provide a useful foundation and starting point while user-defined tags can enable the emergence of novel discovery paths and rich cross-linking.

The hard part is creating a context that manages image and incentive. Most large companies are afraid of letting users tag their products. They fear that tags like “thisproductsucks” may harm their image. And it’s unclear how many companies could enlist a critical mass of user participation. So far, Amazon’s foray into tagging has returned disappointing results.

How is the lemur book related to the polar bear book? Are they complementary or not? Do you suggest a specific order in which they have to be read?

The polar bear book provides a practical, in-depth introduction to information architecture. It’s appropriate for aspiring information architects and anyone involved in web development and user experience design. The lemur book offers a conceptual overview of the future of the Internet and ubiquitous computing through the lens of findability. They’re very different books. I suggest reading the last one first. It’s shorter.

In a recent interview you said that the Google search isn’t without bias, even if it’s difficult to see it. Why?

Google is a great company that has made a wonderful contribution to society by making the world’s information more findable. However, like any other company, Google is largely motivated by profit. So, in cases where the needs of users and advertisers differ, it’s likely that Google will favor the paying advertiser. Along these lines, I believe that Google’s moves into personalization are more about targeted advertising than improving relevance.

Potete trovare altre interviste a Morville a proposito di Ambient Findability su Boxes and Arrows ,Aiga e Business Week.