Monday, November 27, 2006

What a Document Is

From: Linda Lane
Sent: Monday, November 27, 2006 5:34 PMTo: 'buckland'

Subject: a 'document' is what it is used for; something that intends to inform, a document also refers to that something itself.

Hi Dr. Buckland,
Thank you for your recommendation for me to read “What is a Document” - I found it more informative than expected, especially regarding the spiritual overtones which while scratching the surface so lightly I would not expect to spring so quickly and significantly to the surface.

One thing is that I remain unsure of is - what you think a Document is. The closest I can figure out is that you have closely analyzed other’s opinions and feel that although they did not say it so clearly as have you, that a document has nothing to do with it’s flatness or what medium it’s in or is stored in, a document is what it is used for and also refers to that thing itself. You infer:

“1. There is materiality: Physical objects and physical signs only;
2. There is intentionality: It is intended that the object be treated as evidence;
3. The objects have to be processed: They have to be made into documents; and, we think,
4. There is a phenomenological position: The object is perceived to be a document.”

But you question even these things. I can think of things that inform which may not be documents, until they are documented in a way that others can read them. Such as termas.

The question “is it art because it’s framed as art” – no pun intended I hope – by this you seem to be saying that you agree that information, and documentation can be defined by the context it is in. That’s it is relative to use, to what you are using it for, that it is for informing one about something.

So to give a crude example which suddenly came to mind, a person on an outhouse throne can read a Sears and Roebuck catalog page, but the second that they intend to use it for something other than entertainment, say as toilet paper, it’s no longer a document (unless it was to be then used as a sample for medical reasons or other research).

Besides the obvious reasons I care about your definition, is back in the dark ages of home computer use (1989-1991), I labored as a technical support worker at Microsoft. One day while working in the Works unit, not the preferred department, a confused customer called and after speaking for a while I said, “ok, open your document.” And the person having just discussed whatever file they were having trouble with, said, “What is a document?” This person said they had never heard that word before.

Bang! ‘What is a document’ I thought – that’s a real basic question. But having supported 18,000 individual questions over a 2 year period, I was used to questions such as “File Menu? What is file? What is menu?” and “where do I put the mouse?”. The repetitive nature of answering simple questions with very practical answers = “Yes, the print menu item is always in the same place, from now on.” For the 6th time with the same customer. Sort of causes you to stop thinking about the symbolic or higher meanings of just about any question. (and caused me to think it was the fault of the software.)

Regarding signs, I foresee soon a kind of digital display device that I will see in my lifetime in wide use that is displayed on some medium like ionized air and hangs down in long brightly lit transparent panels.

Back to your paper – so you are inferring that a document is something that intends to inform. If you wanted to tell me what a document is, you would have named your paper that, but since you asked a question, that is exactly what your paper does – posit the question, not necessarily tell us, but to get us to think.

So I will read the second document – “What is a digital document.”

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Information as Belief Systems: 9 and 10

from The Prestige
“Every great magic trick consists of three acts. The first act is called The Pledge: the magician shows you something ordinary, but of course, it probably isn’t. The second act is called The Turn. The magician makes his ordinary something do something extraordinary. Now, if you’re looking for the secret…you won’t find it. That’s why there’s a third act, called The Prestige. This is the part with the twists and turns, where lives hang in the balance, and you see something shocking you’ve never seen before.”

So the 9th method is the art of the turn -

9. The Magic Key
Every person has a key to their belief system, finding and using that information, turning the key is the unlocking of motivation. Keys turns either way.

("To every man is given the key to the gates of heaven; the same key opens the gates of hell" Proverb)

Since we have the turn and the key what do you have left? What you hold back is the secret, how the pledge transforms into the prestige. It is the act of holding back something, so that the tenth means to transform is -

10. The Secret
Always hold something back.

“No one respects you for a secret, no matter how good it is,” the magician explains. “It’s what you can do with the secret that they respect you for.”

Sunday, November 19, 2006

RE: Feedback on Solving the Problem to design an Information System

Date: Sun, 19 Nov 2006 19:54:11 -0800

To: "Mike Eisenberg"
From: Linda Lane
Cc: "Cheryl Metoyer" "Jagadish Yadavadri","Mike Crandall", "Dave Hendry"

Hi Mike,

Thank you - I am very flattered. Thank you for recognizing the validity of this idea and being so encouraging.

Hopefully I'll be appointed as the ASUW liaison to the Faculty Council on Educational Technology and then my lab will be the University of Washington's intelligent information issues. For right now my lab is my cohort.

Several related ideas I have been kicking around with my friend (former Boeing) engineer Brent Barr. I have felt it's best to draw them out slowly so as to be informed by the MSIM program which gives me incentive* to learn to write in an academic style. (*read 'forces')

For your consideration in terms of solving information management problems I refer you to the film "Ronin" staring Robert DeNiro, written by John David Zeik and David Mamet. If you consider it from the point of view of a capable information manager, and think about how to resolve related problems, this film provided me with some ideas.

1. Maintain a full toolkit
2. Survey the situation/ recon
3. Identify the problem and refine it iteratively
4. Don't put yourself at risk, have a clear exit strategy
5. Identify incapable/immoral individuals or orgs and minimize their responsibility and/or capacity to enforce decisions
6. Trust yourself
7. Be quiet
8. Be bold

So that's something I've been excited thinking about. This is related to enthusiasm for transitional processes - strategies for enforced change. In other words how to effectively get people to pivot their belief systems, or invoke belief systems to solve sticky human and technical problems.

Here's four strategies to effect human change:
1. The Anointed:
The Deity of your choice anoints you as the one to solve "the unsolvable" - the unsolvable is of course an illusion.(Religions)
2. The Qualified: [changed to 'The Elite']
You are the best on the planet chosen as the elite to solve this problem (Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, lifted by Microsoft)
3. Special Forces:
Your training is that of the special forces, a spy/warrior who arrives unannounced to resolve the unsolvable. (Ronin)
4. Death
You will solve this problem now or you will die. Solving technical problems in the midst of survival to earn survival.(US Naval Underwater Warfare Command, Navy Seals, CDC / disease and most small businesses)

In addition to these ideas, I am very excited about some human technology business ideas I have directly related to the idea of libraries but use modern companies, which I am certain are worth mucho dinero. Like you I love to interact and welcome any feedback you have.


RE: Feedback on Solving the Problem to design an Information System

Subject: RE: Feedback on Solving the Problem to design an Information System
Date: Sun, 19 Nov 2006 18:16:04 -0800
From: "Mike Eisenberg"
To: "Linda Lane"
Cc: "Cheryl Metoyer" "Jagadish Yadavadri"

Linda –

I am very impressed in you and also that this class can initiate the kind of thinking you display in this message—especially in relation to belief systems and information. I don’t know if there’s been any work on belief systems as information systems. But, it certainly makes sense. What are the attributes of a belief system as information system and what are the implications? Batya Friedman’s “value-sensitive design” is relevant, but your point goes even further. Cheryl’s work on user needs across cultures speaks to this but is also informed by it.

Very intriguing. Thank you for sharing with me.


Feedback on Solving the Problem to Design an Information System

From: Linda Lane
Sent: Sunday, November 19, 2006 2:00 PM

To: Mike Eisenberg

Cc: Cheryl Metoyer; Jagadish Yadavadri
Subject: Feedback on Solving the Problem to design an Information System

Hi Dr. Eisenburg,
Thank you for attending our class on Saturday. It was great to have you, your Big6 & 3 process outline was very clear and useful.

It's a great class to be in. Dr. Metoyer makes easy to enjoy and assimilate information by calling for group and individual participation and comments. Personally I learn better in interactive environments.

During the session I caught your comment in response to my claim that we had solved the problem. Briefly you said that we were not asked to solve the problem but to create an information system. It is likely that you did not hear Dr. Metoyer's comment that she would consider solving the problem (perhaps for extra points) but that was not the main thrust of the exercise.

However solving a problem may be core to developing an information system, especially when the end user can be considered every living person.

In discussions with my class study partner Jaggi Yadavadri (a Senior Software Engineer, from India) originally he felt that the problem the information system endeavored to resolve was communication and information for the WTO group. But after a period of debate and refinement we agreed that poverty, thus war-famine-overpopulation and so forth were the root and not just a symptom of the problem.

Then Jaggi used the key term "Heart of the Problem" This caused me to look even more closely at the situation that we were asked to create a solution for.

At this point I reasoned that a lack of belief itself was the core problem, and that the pivot point or critical informative pivot was to change the belief system, which too is an information system. Belief is a human information system. Behind belief stands the commitment to change through information systems like a call to action and so forth.

In order to do this I would first need to change my own belief system, because informing those out there somewhere starts with the proper motivation, with the one, with ourselves. Otherwise how can one justify it? Only if I can believe it is possible myself to cure world poverty and so forth can I hope to design an effective system to do so. Then, once I believed it, then could I hope to communicate and convince Jaggi. Using our own framework we could endeavor to create an effective system information, communication, and recursive feedback to change belief systems, which Jaggi is easily able to model.

To this end I thought of someone familiar to us all who did the impossible, a human model. To Jaggi I offered the example of a simple man, an attorney who was able to lead his people to do something that no one considered possible at the time. A man using non-violent means in total deference to the country of India's deeply rooted ethical view, got the British to leave willingly. Someone who, had you told him at, say age 20, that he would lead his nation to freedom through this method, marked by periods of fasting (of all things), and communicating through local meetings -- would not have believed it himself.

Immediately Jaggi understood the example and believed it was possible. Thus we were immediately able to begin designing the system.

What we solved was the belief in ourselves that it was possible to solve the real problem, and communicate that critical informative pivot and those complex and wicked human problems related to it.


Monday, November 13, 2006

Recognizing the Need for Change in Human Aspects of Information System Planning

The assignment at the University of Washington's iSchool to create a group site in SharePoint was an excellent choice to help us as teams and individuals discover issues around teamwork and technology as an intrinsic part of today’s information engineering challenges. The many technical limitations preventing access and the freedom which technology allows when applied well are two ends of the same scale of usefulness. Impediments I encountered to gaining access to the iSchool system and SharePoint combined with my expectations about the way information should best be presented made me consider my own work in the information management field, as well as social conventions, such as hierarchies in a free society, power and responsibility, and the tradition of prayer when beginning new endeavors[1].

Consider human factors in the designs of large scaled structures and the difficulty of accomplishment in building anything -- it’s not just the fact of scale of the Great Pyramid at Giza that is such an amazing engineering feat, it is the fact that it was ever made by people working together at all[2]. This lead me to wonder what is required to plan and build effective systems. Projects working with people and technology are inherently difficult to accomplish; what methods do people use to remove doubt, and successfully overcome problems.

While technology is generally considered an enabler, the human factors of what to implement, when to implement, and how to implement makes building useful systems more complicated. The more information and tools there are available, the more scattered individual efforts may become as demonstrated by our cohort’s first assignment strategy. Moral issues might not be considered at all. Many serious problems in technology are from the outset considered unsolvable. Clearly it is the human element which makes building new technologies and changing or integrating old ones so difficult, and many times unsuccessful.

There was little or no planning focus at the beginning of the SharePoint project. As a group we did not consider if we should do what we were asked, or how best to accomplish these tasks for the entire group as a unit, or evaluate ethical considerations. We simply accepted the assignment and acted upon it, trusting each other to put our best skills to the task. In class, we discussed the role of planning in product and software design and development, and then the groups broke into discussions.

Initially, I assumed we would meet to plan our projects. The brief meetings which did occur had little effect on our group or on the whole cohort. What actually happened was a very eager group of individuals acting alone performed actions, and then reported back to the MSIM2008 and their own groups respectively, usually via email. None of these actions hurt the group, but on the whole one could argue that they decreased the value of what could have been possible. The apparent strategy was we worked enthusiastically to create evidence, information as thing[3], and as a by-product accumulated knowledge, to prove the assignment complete.

The roles that Mountford[4] described in her article, the “explorer”, “artist”, “judge” and “warrior” all were found in the energy and expertise of the group effort. Another role I would like to propose, ‘the planner”, was not found (one could conclude that these are combined as parts of the judge and warrior) in anything but informal ways. One informal way was ad hoc meetings and without these Leader-Planner-Admins we could not have been as successful as we were. Documenting this assignment serves in the role of Leader-Planner-Admin, as a reflection, a meditation, not just as the judge, but combines aspects of all the others.

An example of this concept of individual effort situation was when one of the cohort students purchased space on a remote storage server for external sharing purposes. When the student announced that he had made this purchase, another disappointed student responded with the fact that he owns and leases server space and would have provided the group the same storage space at his cost. Another example was when a team member reported that he had set up a cohort focused Google Group, with read access set to public, even though we already had a University hosted SharePoint server, and the ability to set up many subsequent SharePoint sites, for a variety of demanding needs. During a brief meeting with the technical Leader-Planner-Admins we came to the understanding that if anyone wanted Google set to private we would do so. In practice our Google Admin waited until several votes arrived for private to change the setting.

The lack of cohesive planning lead to confusion regarding the reasons for the public Google group’s existence. Problems about the accessibility of the other storage area ‘the Share’, and SharePoint sites lead to questions about how each was to be used. No common consensus was reached. Impromptu Leader-Planner-Administrator’s ad hoc meetings in the class concluded there was no harm, but I felt that confusion by the class made them less likely to take advantage of the resources. In practice this means conducting searches in at least three places to find class notes and other information.

Experiencing issues using SharePoint I responded with information to my cohorts that the Microsoft browser and SharePoint were built to function together, and advised them to access the SharePoint sites using Microsoft Internet Explorer; however, this lead to serious discussions regarding Open Source verses Microsoft’s proprietary software. There is a significant rift in preference of open source technology over proprietary technology that runs deep in our cohort. I felt the class could benefit from a session on how to use the Microsoft technology due to simple questions about use and configuration which came from my fellow students. Despite these issues and problems I remain hopeful that through common consensus use of the SharePoint, the Share, and Google Groups repositories will grow.

SharePoint allows for images to be displayed giving each site a unique look and feel. My personal experience has demonstrated that a strong visual identity aids recognition and will make experiences using these sites feel more familiar and personal. Therefore, I sought images for the sites which would reflect the purposes behind the site’s use but are in the public domain. After reading about ethical concerns[5] I have substantially more questions about copyrights, property and power than I did before.

To ensure that any image I choose would be a safe image from a copyright perspective, I settled on a drawing to form the logo for Group5, from the High Renaissance goldsmith and artist, Wenzel Jamnitzer, b.1508–85. For the MSIM2008 logo I chose to create an entirely new design, based on my skill, made on a computer I own, using legally licensed software. My motivation was to aid in the identification of the group, with as little attachment to it being changed or discarded in the future as possible. Also Group5 needed customization using the web parts such as for calendar functions, discussion forums, and to change positions of parts in the page layout, making them more accessible. Everyone feels the need for systems to provide for personalized customizations to make them useful and not all needs are the same.

In summary, implementations in information management need to encompass approaches for planning in a better way than how our group and the larger cohort approached it. The need to plan is inherent in good system design and should not be included just because law requires it, such as the SOX act, as just a last ditch patch to system flaws, or as an afterthought. The individual efforts of students to provide alternatives to the iSchool supplied SharePoint server were helpful, however, in the long term, they seemed to be more confusing as many students either did not know where to look for information or were forced to look in many different places. Also, customizations of the SharePoint were directed by each teammate’s need for certain functionality, including customized look and feel, scheduling, discussion and positioning capabilities, and the need for such preferences should be included as part of systems design, including on the backend for Administrators, or system members.

During a recent interview, an iSchool professor voiced his desire to inculcate the cohort to plan and build better information systems. Thus prepared by our university level education, we would go out into the world to change and improve it. In the same conversation he expressed his well founded belief that the University itself would be unable to change its own information systems due to deeply engrained, incurable, and obstinate problems with systems and entrenched human issues.

This mindset tends to invalidate our education in real practice, unless a radical, progressive system can be created which effectively deployed enables intelligent[6] information system change anywhere it needs to be. Overcoming these kinds of objections begins with the belief that the transition is possible. Otherwise people at grand, thoughtful, and complex institutions will continue to experience interminable technical issues wasting money, time, and increasing their own and other’s frustration for the foreseeable future. This will place such institutions behind their more flexible competitors, and in time may reduce their odds of independent long term survival.

[1] Fleming, Alice (1979) Alcohol: the Delightful Poison: a history. New York : Delacorte Press. Page 32.“The rituals of ship launching started with an old pagan rite.”

[1]Khenpo Namdrol, Rinpoche, (1995). The Practice of Vajrakilaya. Ithaca, New York : Snow Lion Pub. Pages 25-32. Regarding obstacles and starting rituals, the 8th century arrival of the teacher Padmasambhava (traveled to Tibet to establish and transmit Buddhism) started the transmission of his religion by building a monastery:
“Once he arrived in central Tibet, he blessed the site where the king has been trying to build Tibet’s first Buddhist temple, and so finally, Samyé monastery was able to be constructed.”

On preparations to performing religious practices:
“…prior to performing any important practice such as a great accomplishment ceremony, or drupchen. … Then our practice of secret mantra will be free from any malignant force and auspicious circumstances will be securely established from the very outset.”

[2] This is true even with an absolute ruler in charge, Khufu, a king whose negative reputation lasted until 450 BC when Herodotus, the 5th century Dorian Greek Historian, “was told further stories of that king's cruelty to his people and to his own family in order to ensure the construction of his pyramid. ” and documented that kings reputation. We don’t want to emulate these kinds of means for accomplishment. Khufu. (2006, November 14). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 23:16, November 14, 2006, from, cashed on Webcite at: <>.

[3] Buckland, M. K. (1991). Information as Thing. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 42(5), 351-360.

[4] Mountford, S. Joy, (1990). The Art of Human-Computer Interface Design. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co.

[5] Moore, A. and Unsworth, K. (2005). Introduction. Information Ethics: Privacy, Property and Power. Seattle, WA: UW Press. “The Euthyphro Objection to Theological Ethics”

[6] Choo, C.W. (2002). Information Management for the Intelligent Organization: The Art of Scanning the Environment. Chapters 1-2.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Concepts, an Update on Work

Luckly I landed a job in the games Tools Team at Microsoft Entertainment. After stumbling around for a few days with a wonky mouse and a sickly old laptop, thanks to my understanding supervisor I have new toys and can get down to beeswax.

Among other things I am a scrum master, and working on a tool which if we combine with a work flow tool, embed some functions in Outlook / email we'll have a product which every program and product manager in the world will lick your boots to use because it visually shows you the status combined with the hours of work remaining to complete projects or programs.

As a result of being in the belly of the game beast my childhood spent reading a statistically alarming amount of science fiction is all coming back to me now. My first volunteer work as a 12 yrs old child was as a 5th grade librarian so I could gain access to books considered over my age group to read without permission. "I Robot" by Isaac Asimov was the first book I cracked open snuck a peak at the pages reading it with a feeling of mystery and awe, while hiding behind the book cart between the dark library stacks and classrooms at Williwaw Elementry. Then I read every thing I could find by Robert Heinlein - the "Heinlein juveniles."

Halo is one of the Microsoft's premiere games, I found mention of it linked off the intranet to a public review about Gears of War. It is for all these games I work on the back end tools for the devs as a PM. Today in a hardware meeting discussion one of the PMs said he found four types of Xbox games that come in Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes and I can hardly wait to see them. I don't know much of anything about MS games, but I am ready to learn.

Halo’s subject matter reminded me of Larry Niven, the scifi writer, one of my tertiary faves for good reasons --

"Apparently, the video game titled Halo has used a lot of ideas from Ringworld. Items such as the Kzinti Blade, the Kzinti itself, and the puppeteers share relations with: Energy Sword, Brutes, and Prophets respectively.

Various other objects between both
Ringworld and Halo may be noticed, including the entire principle of the "Ring" in Ringworld, and the "Halo" in Halo, while the ringworld's sun is a weapon on the ring, the actual ring itself is a weapon in halo."

Here Niven introduced =
"The idea that luck is a genetic trait that can be favored by selective breeding."

I very much enjoyed the concept of flash crowd – I thought it brilliant> vertainly he had foresight:

"Larry Niven introduced the idea of a
flash crowd in his story "Flash Crowd" (1973), which evolved in 2003 to the flash mob in which people meet together to protest in a creative way at a specific time and place to disappear as quickly as they appeared some minutes later. The term Flash Crowd is also used to describe a web site showing little or no response due to excessive amounts of traffic. A Flash Crowd on a web site is synonymous with Slashdotting."

Slashdot has my vote but for other reasons.

May I tell you I am very comfortable among this group of people? Some place in Entertainment may be the best gig yet. It's hard to beat working with Microsoft's SuperTeam though.

Probably I stopped reading scifi because it was so difficult to find new concepts or even fresh writing in the hard scifi class of literature. You have to actually know something, and there are so many traditional classics and fine authors to read instead.

What's scary is when you realize that you have actually read many of these books:

Banned or otherwise:

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Solomon's Mine in Time -- on Children's Information Retrieval Behavior and Survey of MP3 Usage by Mark Latonero

"Children's information retrieval behavior: A case analysis of an OPAC," by Paul Solomon, 1993

“Survey of MP3 Usage: Report on a University Consumption Community,” by Mark Latonero, 2000

Solomon's Mine in TimeOn reading "Children's information retrieval behavior: A case analysis of an OPAC," Paul Solomon’s 1993 study published in the Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 44(5): 245-264, I learned how important context, especially the date a study was written, is to critical analysis when reading articles in our rapidly changing information environment. Overall I enjoyed his kind and informative tone. He showed real empathy with his study subjects and introduced new ideas to me, which I enjoyed the best.

Solomon opened his introduction with a literature review. By using the term “excitement” in the second sentence I felt Solomon might be a writer who possesses enthusiasm, and finding his mention of Case, knew that this writer was someone to read thoroughly. Solomon also assumed that studying new algorithms for search would not add as much to the field as the study of human subjects would. I was encouraged by this viewpoint.

Solomon’s article was written in a clear, factual manner. I especially enjoyed his self aware sense of humor and sense of playfulness as expressed in his problem statement:

“Searchers, in turn, have their own way of thinking about their topics and interests. Although tools such as the four-volume tome, Library of Congress Subject Headings, are sometimes made available, users for the most part either avoid them, are unaware of their availability, or do not know how to use them. (Solomon 1993)”

By using the term “tome” he gives some idea of what remains unstated – that information searchers are probably not going to read a huge set of books on subject headings to become expert in the science of information seeking and retrieval. This is especially true since we later hear about young children looking up “dinosaur” and having trouble with their spelling.

In the problem statement, Solomon addressed the ubiquitous answers computers give to not finding searches (“TERM NOT FOUND” or “QUERY ERROR”) and suggested that information retrieval systems provide instruction and support instead of dead ends. His main theme, supported by the evidence he collected, was the importance of practical solutions to such problems, so that even a child can use search systems effectively.

The feeling of respect he imparted regarding the children he interviewed and observed was very enjoyable. As a result, I felt he did not go into the field knowing it all, or with something to prove, but that he actually did his work with a marvelous sense of discovery.

Solomon’s observations and call for future research – “Continued testing with different groups of children has helped to refine the interface into one that lessens the skill barriers that searchers face. These barriers, such as search term generation (recalls) are often problems for adults. Thus, workable interface solutions for children may influence designs for other users as well.” (Solomon 1993) and when discussing Grade-level impacts –

“…the syntactic idiosyncrasies of the OPAC software influenced all users from time to time.” (Solomon 1993)

-- struck me as hilarious, because rewording with his prior observations it adds up to:

“Everybody, regardless of age, likes more well designed tools for search, not brain dead ones.

This is humorous because I am reading this study as someone who has had search engines like Google available for many years -- Solomon didn’t have advanced search and neither did the children he studied. To find information, even with a computer-based OPAC system, they had to know how to spell and how to remember a search. They also had to understand related and broader search concepts. I have the luxury of terribly garbling
[2] my spelling in a search and then most online search engines will attempt a correction. In addition, I can completely forget a search, because I can store the results as a favorite. There are many ways to stumble onto the same information I once found, to recall it, through tags, and other tools commonly available to those on this side of the digital divide.

In fact, the reason I noticed the date of the study is because the OPAC search tool Solomon was using at the time sounded like some kind of torture tool to me; using graphics effectively he included the user interface as a screenshot, details with other screenshots, with the description of how searches returned results. Those graphics and description led me to check the date.

Prior to that I wondered who would put their kids into such a backwards school, were they neo-luddites
[3], or did they have other reasons such as the context of the study itself? The date told me everything. Then my mind turned completely and I felt these students may have done better in their lives as a result of Solomon paying attention to them. As a result of the training that occurred naturally, they learned how to find information faster than other students[4].

In a way his problem statement can be reduced to: ”Information retrieval systems need to be designed for real people, even kids.” He reasons that children are a perfect example of people who use an information retrieval system with no expectations, and learn it. Researchers can learn about what information retrieval solutions needs are to improve these systems. Solomon’s research question was “How do children use Information Retrieval Systems?” using the OPAC system. The methodology was very appropriate for his research problem; I was especially fascinated by searching for information rituals that he discovered in children in his study

Clearly in light of new search engine technology we see that his conclusions and recommendations were true and correct. Possibly his own studies brought forth fruit. Those very things he recognized and wrote about have changed in modern retrieval methods on the World Wide Web.

In hindsight we see that having too much information return in a retrieval can be nearly as bad as nothing being returned, but he brushed by delving much into that, possibly due to the nature of difficulty of returning large amounts of data successfully.

I could not interpret some of Solomon’s statements. On page 247 of the publication of his work in the Journal of the American Society for Information Science, he speaks about “children of average intelligence investigated more themes,” and I wondered in contrast to what kind of intelligence in performance? Offering only the middle point is difficult to understand if you mean higher or lower intellects investigate more themes. Some highly intelligent people focus more on one thing so may not have a broader range of understanding.

On page 254 the truncation reference to “e.g. (hurr@)” raised questions. Perhaps the @ sign was being used as some kind of wildcard. In such a way would someone from the future be unable to interpret code, software, hardware or related terms embedded in a current Hacker Koan
[6]? If you use symbols, it’s important to reference their meaning in some way so it’s not lost in time.

My plans are to return to Solomon’s study and mine it for more information in the future.

Latonero’s MP3 Study

Upon the recommendation of my cohort Jagadish Yadavadri I read Mark Latonero’s survey results on University of Southern California students’ consumption of MP3 sound files and self reported purchasing patterns. The fact that as a master’s degree student he obtained funding of $2,000 dollars to perform the study
[7] while others just cried foul, reminded me of the old adage, “Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does any thing about it.” Latonero took up the actual inquiry into the subject of MP3 use, its effects on purchasing patterns, and published one of the first empirical studies on the subject.[8] He deserves credit for his thoughtful approach, although his study reports results, and does not serve as well to inform.

One of the notable differences in the style of these two kinds of reports, Solomon’s case analysis and Latonero’s survey, was the amount and kind of information provided. The survey stands alone lacking outside reference materials; it contained no references and no recommendations for further studies, related or otherwise. The study particulars are visually very well documented with graphs and short explanatory interpretations. The reasons driving the study refer to “speculation” and “most media reports” without quoting one professional publication or news article. However, readers can imagine the worried music production company executives pacing back and forth wringing their hands and wondering about depressed marketshare, Dr. Latonero’s survey focuses on what 275 randomly selected respondents actually reported at the time.

His main conclusion was clearly expressed on the first page and second paragraph of his study, where he stated that –
“MP3 File sharing is wildly popular, but contrary to most media reporting, the majority of students surveyed are still willing to pay for recorded music. The study found little persuasive evidence to indicate that student’ aggregate use of MP3 technologies has been harmful to either the recording industry or artists.”

Since this study is self reported and does not focus on the actual marketplace I wondered how Latonero could backup this statement. Stating facts and backing them up with more evidence lends more weight to evaluation and analysis. Clearly there is something going on in the music industry related to file sharing and the Internet.

For example as reported in our class the popular music store Tower Records filed for Chapter 11, on Feb. 9, 2004
[9]. At the time this was widely reported in the media, and articles written at the time said Tower “suffered from rapid changes in the music business, especially the exploding popularity of downloading music for free from the Internet.[10]” Not presented in our class was that Tower Records pulled out of Chapter 11 protection only 35 days after filing[11]. This calls into question not only the causes but also what exactly the problem was. The reason provided by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission quoted in the same article was that Tower, after borrowing money for expansion, failed to make a profit -- “revealed the retailer had lost money for 13 straight quarters.”
Similarly contradictory reports from record companies and artists call into question just where and how people purchase music, such as in which formats
[12]. This also creates questions regarding changes in the music industry which appear that their actions are now and will be enforced in the future by the new technology more than the law enables enforcement of anything.

There are such a wide number of variables, and possible solutions to what some view as a problem. Others in the music community view these same issues as an opportunity. No longer do individual artists require huge marketing machines to promote their music, which prior to this meant locking themselves into a unique form of debt termed “an advance”. These same artists can promote themselves to their audiences directly using new Internet based marketing techniques and many business and technical models.

Internet wags offer that “major record labels have been criticized for failing to take advantage of the potent marketing opportunity presented by the Internet and the MP3 download rage
[13]” are in my estimation correct. That industry is resisting inevitable change through a newly enacted law, THE DIGITAL MILLENNIUM COPYRIGHT ACT OF 1998[14] in the Web’s Wild West environment. Regarding the law, educated and informed individuals’ express confusion of what the laws even are and how such laws are related to digital media, as repeatedly shown in studies including our own “IMT510 – Final Report – Group 5” detailed on pages 5-7.

Though I appreciate Dr. Latonero’s survey it is far too simplistic to say downloading music doesn’t appear to be affecting the industry based on just one survey. Even taking into account the date it was written the opinions seem naïve.
[1] My original margin note read “Stupid software hurts everyone.”
[2] While I draft this paper in Microsoft Word, Word fixed the word “garblling” to “garbling” but I could not make it stop correcting it for this note, nor stop auto correcting a capitalized word unless I turned off the function for the entire page.
[3] Reference term Friday November 5, 2006 located description at:
[4] “Change in Competence of Children”, Solomon, P. (1993). "Children's information retrieval behavior: A case analysis of an OPAC." Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 44(5): 245-264.
[5] Rituals may be something not well understood in information retrieval.
[6] Reference example Friday November 5, 2006 located at:
In the days when Sussman was a novice, Minsky once came to him as he sat hacking at the PDP-6.
"What are you doing?", asked Minsky.
"I am training a randomly wired neural net to play Tic-tac-toe", Sussman replied.
"Why is the net wired randomly?", asked Minsky.
"I do not want it to have any preconceptions of how to play", Sussman said.
Minsky then shut his eyes.
"Why do you close your eyes?" Sussman asked his teacher.
"So that the room will be empty."
At that moment, Sussman was enlightened.
[7] Reference downloaded Tuesday December 5, 2006 located at:
[8] Reference downloaded Tuesday December 5, 2006 located at:
[9] Reference downloaded Tuesday December 5, 2006 located at:
[10] Reference downloaded Tuesday December 5, 2006 located at:
[11] Reference downloaded Tuesday December 5, 2006 located at:
[12]Case, D.O. (2002) p. 263. Looking for Information. New York: Academic Press. “Journal of Marketing …”How do Customers and Consumers Really Behave?,” Donald Lehmann (1999)… the focus must shift, Lehmann says, away from viewing the consumer as a conscious, rational “decision maker” and toward the customer as an emotional, unfocused, learning human. Allegedly “irrational” behavior should not be merely identified as an aberration but should be modeled and explained as much as possible.”
[13] Reference downloaded Tuesday December 5, 2006 located at:
[14] Reference downloaded Tuesday December 5, 2006 located at:

Dr. Paul Solomon's Website at The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Review of two papers for the IMT510b, Masters of Science in Information Management, at the iSchool, University of Washington, Seattle. Wednesday, December 6, 2006.

Who or what lives behind the Gates of Eden? What does it mean to be human?

What does it mean to be human, what is a unique object that could illustrate or frame what being human means?

Anything can symbolize what it means to be human because it is we ourselves who are the interpreters. Meaning itself is open to interpretation, symbols already are an abstraction. Considering symbols brings to mind the more abstract parts of being human.

Googling “What it means to be human” returned religious essays. The kinds of images which immediately came to my mind were religious imagery, and ideas around trust - from the most trusted - to enemies. Trust itself was the basis of Windows NT (and later) “trusted systems”, these are rings of related authentication and validation systems which trust each other to allow just the right access and levels of privacy permitted for use by the appropriate systems and persons.

Thinking about physical aspects of being human, first ‘fingers’ came to mind, and then ‘children’ came to mind. Children are our mirrors, and these as ideas are used in database propagation. Almost anything human can relate to the design of information systems. But what about things of a more abstract nature or the deeper things which make humans special, forgiveness, kindness, freedom, honor, beauty – and thinking itself? Or less pleasant or poisonous things? Doubt, insecurity, hatred, stupidly, cruelty? Do these relate to information systems?

Information systems are abstractions; which human experiences are naturally abstract that can be applied to information systems, whether they exist already or not? At some level of humanity abstract things are those that we are most interested in, and at a more practical level, it is the attribute that humans possess in abundance -- the ability to abstract applied with imagination. We have used systems to aide nearly every aspect of human endeavor, past, present and future; research, medicine, flight, extrapolation, supply chains, deliveries, living machines – finding and designing shelter. Information systems can provide for all these things and more, they are useful when they serve us. But for now computer information systems can not be human, and can not have human experience.

What information systems can do is assist humans to do things or communicate. They in themselves lack consciousness. While consciousness is a thing it is not a thing you can bring somewhere, other than it naturally resides in humans, and Kirlian photography aside, you can not take a picture of it, like you can a smile to express emotion.

So it is consciousness itself is the most interesting human thing that an information system could do, or at least mimic. Consciousness, thinking, acting like a human, and giving human like responses is very interesting. If meaning can be derived from experience, if information systems can give the appearance of human behavior, this could be the most creative because it is possible that anything which mirrors us could help us think about things in a new way, just like mirrors do.

Robots, androids, and sentient beings without emotions are fascinating to people and a frequent subject in science fiction. Isn’t our real question what would it be like to have perfect intellect, vast knowledge, wisdom and no emotions, in effect a machine like human or a human like machine? Is this our idea of the perfect machine, like the perfect human?

My questions: It is helpful to have a system trust you, because security is one of the basic human needs, would it do any good to have a system pray for you? What would a system which prays for you be? How would you know if it’s working? Would you gather merit as a result? Would you spontaneously forgive? Could information system take requests and as output pray for a person and as long as the person was aware of it, would it then have an effect? Is doing things easily Nirvana? Who or what lives behind the gates of Eden?

My choice of something that symbolizes what it means to be human is a modern Prayer Wheel filled with prayers in text form, stored as PDFs on CDs ready to plug in and pray.

Written for Dr. Cheryl Metoyer's IMT 510

Dr. Cheryl Metoyer's University of Washington's iSchool Website

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

It Works and We Like Using It

No matter how comfortable and well upholstered a chair is, if a person’s goal is not to sit down but to take a shower they need a shower not a chair. With basic and common sense approaches to system design authors on task analysis and usability outline ways to test and examine real people performing actual or visualized tests so that the resulting system designs both function and do so elegantly; these methods can compliment each other to derive the best from both forms of analysis.

In the early days of the Web, basic text sites, with just simple links sold merchandise; one classic site that sold quite a bit of merchandise was a Christmas gift site, center-justified colored text with many links running straight down a single page decorated with randomly placed candy canes. Certainly such sites were not easy to find, nor easy to use and, in a word, ugly. But they were useful.

One might think by now we were way past questions around online goals, and into customizing beautiful interfaces, but with the plethora of reasons to use Webs the need to evaluate what people’s actual goals are in unique situations and combine ease of use customized with real goals has grown as the world reaches past the 100 million mark of live sites(1). We seek to both have things work and enjoy using them; using these techniques ensures both are likely.

To help designers improve systems Task Analysis focuses on what real people do to achieve their goals (Greenberg, 2003), and Usability Evaluations are based on evaluating how discoverable and possible the interface allows for people to achieve their goals (Krug, 2000). Both have the same goal – usable systems – but by different means. The difference is Task Analysis captures the working environment and demonstrates who the user is and what they are trying to achieve, what their goals are including failures. In the Usability Evaluation method the goal is to help designers increase how well end users can accomplish tasks, and even measure the difference from old systems to new ones.

Following the advice of these authors, from the beginning envision incorporating task centered design to follow and watch how users actually work, and make notes as they demonstrate the Web based software for the design process.

As you learn more about a system you tend to forget that you are making due, using workarounds to make up for system flaws, so it is just as you enter a system that it is best to carefully document and record what your own experience as well as the users immediately.

Paper prototypes are a swift approach to get to the first level of task centered design, and it is with this approach that the beginnings of usability start. Working with teams dispersed worldwide one plan of action is to rely first on local teams, using their feedback begin to construct clickable wire frames, iteratively requesting feedback. Scenario based design (Carroll, 2000) will also help make the designers job easier in terms of what it takes to display lots of data and make it useable.

Several authors make the same point that having just a few people perform some usability tests is better than no data at all, notably Nielson. All in all combining pulling from several methods from beginning to end will make both the process and the results better for everyone.

(1)“Web reaches new milestone: 100 million sites” CNN article located at:

Written for IMT 540

Dr. Dave Hendry's University of Washington's iSchool Website

Friday, November 03, 2006

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Screaming caller's right to use software revoked by manufacturer

A while back working for a local software firm I heard a ruckus when an upset woman phoned into the support line and later she got more than she bargained for. She screamed so loud into the phone about her software problems and sounded actually furious enough to kill someone that the tech recorded the call, and summoned his supervisor to listen in, and put the call on mute so they could discuss it as the woman ranted and raved - as part of the slacker generation he found it utterly hilarious, the more he had tried to do something to fix the apparent problem the worse she became.

I was in the next room at the time listening to the bustle, and the tech laughing; playing back the end of the unbelievably loud call.

Well of course we weren't actually working for the software company directly we were working for an outsourcing firm, but we did have access to their old backend database which included detailed records of coded support calls.

Checking out the history of her calls it was discovered that this is what she did to get new software, call in sounding mad and escalate to sounding insane. The techs always blamed themselves so frequently a manager was called in to pacify the enraged woman and, of course, give her something - the something was always more software.

Kinda like throwing lighter fluid on a flame to extinguish it.

Using this tried and true technique she was able to have any software product (manufactured by that company) she wanted (I believe records went back to Aldus) - she had been taught that it worked so she used it.

It worked - at least until she met someone with a high degree of self confidence, experience, knowledge of the tools at his disposal, and an understanding of human nature.

Following up on the details I heard the following:
Managers called her to discuss the matter but in the first few minutes of the call the pattern repeated - confirmed -- they sent her a formal letter revoking her licenses and asking her to dispose of the products as she did not have legal copies any more.

In addition a team of lawyers visited her in person and served her with a legal notice that her licence to use the software was revoked.

Somehow I enjoyed the thought of these suited gentlepersons at her door giving her the news, there she is on a bright sunny day, was just working in her garden and doing a little design work - when surprise - karma boomerang! - even though that's a little sad.

So, speaking of sad - this is the kind of link that I would like to warn people about emotionally before clicking on it, I found it really disturbing -- Dolphins being harvested, including being dragged while alive behind trucks, and having their throats slit open:

A frowning face does not convey enough seriousness of the expression of potential harm to a viewer / friend -- so go there forewarned.