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Classic computing titles: The Inmates are running the Asylum

Whatever they teach you on a computing degree, it doesn’t seem to be sufficient to create an effective web site. One of the paradoxes of the modern world is that we are surrounded by IT, and yet those who have studied IT formally seem often incapable of creating software that genuinely meets our needs – a glance at a few developer-led websites is often sufficient to demonstrate that. Alan Cooper’s book, The Inmates are Running the Asylum, although published some fifteen years ago, provides an idea why that might be. The author himself has a highly respectable track record as a developer – he was responsible for Visual Basic, so he can claim some understanding of the programming process, and of the programming mentality. So if he says that programming alone is not sufficient, then you are right to take notice. Everyone with an involvement in IT, whether as a user, or as an information professional as a sponsor and influencer could benefit from his assessment of how programmers think.

 

From eBooks to communities

The curiously named “Beyond eBooks” (University College, London, April 2014) was the latest in a series of annual conferences devoted to ebooks. The title was curious, since ebooks were hardly mentioned in several of the presentations. A better title might have been “epublishing in 2014, including ebooks”. I don’t remember the keynote presentation referring to ebooks at all. Nobody seemed to mind too much that the conference was so broad, although anyone seeking details of how to implement EPUB3 would have gone away none the wiser.

The future of enterprise search is Trip Advisor

So said Roovn Pakiri, co-presenter of the keynote address at this year’s Enterprise Search Europe (London, April). His presentation represented the curious way in which a logical argument can go from a simple, sensible statement to something that is decidedly questionable within a few sentences. There was some justice in the premise, but a sharp intake of breath at the event when this conclusion was stated. How did the argument lead to this point?

Nine things you might not know about search

I was fortunate to be invited to talk at Enterprise Search Europe in London this week, which gave me an excellent two-day overview of the state of search. It was an impressive event, combining practitioners, academics, and visionaries, with detailed, blow-by-blow presentations from large corporations on how they switched the enterprise search system to a new platform (Reed Business Information), or how they implemented search (Airbus Industries), alongside descriptions of small-scale investigations of how search works or doesn’t work in SMEs or institutions.

Content modelling - new bottles, old wine?

Content modelling is on everyone’s lips these days, yet it’s a term that seems not to have existed just a few years ago. Is it some entirely new concept? As usual, a quick look on the Web reveals several definitions, some of which concur, and most of which differ in emphasis.

So, for Cleve Gibbon, a content model is a representation of the types of content and their inter-relationships. For example, a car dealership may have content types for vehicle, dealer and manufacturer. This, of course, is where you start when modelling a relational database.

Creating illustrated books is an Agile process

Years ago I worked at Dorling Kindersley producing illustrated four-colour books - that is to say, with pictures on every page, and the text often wrapped around the pictures. Whatever the subject, cookery, health and wellbeing, or DIY, Dorling Kindersley’s working methods were the same. Designers and editors sat at desks facing each other. To communicate or to explain a concept, the designer would create a quick pencil rough, and the editor would comment on it. Or the editor would explain his or her idea and the designer would visualise it. Some of the ideas inevitably led nowhere.

Safari Flow - can you improve on Safari?

O'Reilly's new initiative, Safari Flow, which is currently available in beta form, is a timely prompt to review the success, and the qualities, of its elder brother, Safari Books Online. For several years Safari Books Online has been a great exemplar of digital publishing. For some users, including me, it represented a far more fundamental shift to digital delivery than the later, and seemingly more successful, rise of e-books.

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