InformationArchitecture and social software tools

Hmmm. The IA Wiki looks much like any other. What are information architects bringing to their own wiki? Or is wiki perfect and unimprovable already?

There's a discussion : to to which I added :

This is an interesting topic but I think you've lost sight of the important challenge to IA.

The lessons from HowBuildingsLearn seem to be :

  • use vernacular design techniques (including local conventions and materials) rather than anything fancy. Because things in your locality that work are probably doing something right. Whereas
  • most radical or innovative design is likely to be uncomfortable rubbish. (MagazineArchitecture?) It's too focussed on short-term and irrelevant goals (impressing the client during presentation, aesthetics etc.)
  • Also design "loosely" because if you're over-specific and focus too much on one explicit problem (energy saving, cables for networks) you can become redundant when the environment changes (hazards in the air-conditioning, wireless networks)

The problem is that there's not much room for professional IA design in these things. (Architects get pretty short-shrift in HowBuildingsLearn. Brand's heroes are builders and refurbishers with vernacular heuristics.) In the same way, maybe on the web, information architects would be better getting out of the way and letting a group self-organize it's information environment with personal tools; borrowing the vernacular conventions : the standard Slashdot style news and discussion forum, the weblog layout (with it's attendant blogroll and gutter), Google's search box etc.

Wiki is the biggest challenge, because it's evolving conventions go beyond the layout of a single page, and let people adapt the higher level information space to their own preference. Personal and alternative classification schemes can be hacked-up on a new page. CategoryCategory allows searchable classification. UseMod?'s REDIRECT? can implement a basic thesaurus.

Meanwhile Google and Daypop and Technorati's statistical tools are mining the space for new information.

So the question is : what does IA bring to the party? For example, how have any IA techniques or methods or theories influenced the organization of this wiki?

I guess they could become more like Brand's savvy builders. Or they could become more like usability people, creating testing programmes to monitor and compare self-organized information spaces, making interventions to correct problems. Or they may come up with some design standards which are real improvements on the vernacular traditions. (Though if they do, the vernacular will quickly absorb this wisdom too)

I think now is exactly the time to get embroiled in this debate.


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