Notes on IA

Some quick IA notes to jot down. Details later on when I’m not eating.

  • A solution that creates more problems than it solves is not a solution (if someone knows the source of this, please tell me).
  • Information Architecture is a lot like being a marriage counselor: facilitating communication between two parties in such a way that both parties feel as though they are being heard and listened to.
  • Empathy is the most important attribute an information architect can have. After that, it’s patience.
  • Creating wireframes is not as important as knowing how to ask a question.
  • Being able to design intuitive navigation is only possible if you know who’s navigating.

The above are some things that I hold on to in my day-to-day dealings with my work. If any of you out there know the source or such of any of them (some of them may not have one), please let me know so I can give credit where it’s due.

I’m particularly interested in hearing what other IAs use as their mantras when designing, asking questions, theorizing, etc. Feel free to send along so I can include it here and credit you.

Crazy as a … writer?

I get fidgety about being creative. See, I’m a writer, by nature. Not by trade, but then that’s my own little piece of the “cross” to bear, as it were.

In my head there are stories of heroism and lust, history, passion, gadgets, and adventure. Plays and movies and novels and short stories all swimming around vying for my attention. None of them get any.

Writers, see, are kind of crazy. We have this impression that the things we have to say are valuable to folks other than ourselves. That is to say we believe that the stories in our head — no matter how absurd — have value outside the confines of our skulls. With me, though, there’s this meta-person keeping a tight reign on that insanity. Tight enough to matter, anyhow.

It’s true that by nature I’m a writer. It’s also true that I put a limiter on the amount of insanity I will let myself experience. In other words, I don’t let myself go where writers need to go, so I falter. Fail at putting my ideas down or really working on them at all. So this is how I live.

A hundred ideas for stories, a thousand plot twists and turns, millions of people living in the world between my ears. There they’ve been for 31 years, and there they’ll stay until I learn to let go. To be a little more crazy. To truly let myself believe that those stories, plots, and people are worth sharing.

Home to the flood

I’m riding home on the train to an uncertain future. Questions — possibly unanswerable questions — swim amidst the dampness of my brain as the train meanders northeast along the coast. What is the state of our basement, I ask myself. How warm is it now that the heat is back on, I wonder. Will I finally be able to take a hot shower? These questions remain unanswered, and my future remains unknown.

Pictures of our flooded basement

It seems that my earlier report of three inches of water in our basement was premature. I took a “last look” and the water had risen about a foot. Fifteen inches of water with an untold amount of pieces of our past drowned. Luckily, we’re all okay and there are plenty more opportunities for us to make more pieces of our past. For that, I’m grateful and humble.

Here are some pics of our particular slice of the flood:

General shot of the basement corner.
General shot of the basement corner.

Stairs leading down. The stuff on the stairs are some of the things to dry out.
Stairs leading down. The stuff on the stairs are some of the things to dry out. That’s a box of books at the bottom. Art, old love letters, and xmas decorations make up the rest.

Kitchen staging area.
Wet books and old toys of Gabe’s in the kitchen. They’re still draining onto the linoleum.

Box of special things.
Our entrance room is filled with wet boxes. This is a closeup of one of the ones that was underwater: a box of memoirs from our first years of marriage and Gabe’s first year of life.

We are relatively lucky, as we’re all okay and we didn’t lose all that many things. It could’ve been worse. And heck, we’ve got another three days of rain on the way, so who knows?

Basement flooding …

If April showers bring May flowers, what do May showers bring? If you live where we do, the answer is water in your basement. Three inches, to be exact.

Now, sure, you may think three inches isn’t a lot of water, but it’s enough to ruin college-era artwork of your wife’s, or damage one’s $1200 — hocks for $250 (ask me about Fitchburg somehow) — alto saxophone, for instance. And remember the food coloring and celery experiments in Biology? Capillary action? It’s amazing what a corrugated cardboard box can absorb in a morning.

Luckily most of our things were on palettes above the water line, and the rest of the things that weren’t I was able to move.

In addition to the wet weather, I’ve had some thoughts on Google, lately. Gmail pictures, calendar, notebook, etc. Aren’t they just supplying to Firefox users the kinds of funtionality that have been available to Mac OS X users for a while, now?

Sure, the cost of entry is definitely lower, so that’s a plus. I wonder, though, whether we’re not seeing just the evolution of hotmail and geocities. It certainly does make a future where the browser is the only application entirely possible. Something to watch for, anyhow.