Archive for February, 2006

Giving up on internal search

I’ve completely given up on using internal search features of NZ public sector web sites (well, actually all web sites really). I’ve recently discovered the ‘Search this site’ button in the Google bar for Firefox. You can of course just use the site: modifier, but the button makes it one step easier. I consistently get much better results using Google than I do the search features on individual web sites. Often they won’t turn up anything for a particular query, whereas Google will have exactly what I want right at the top of the list.

I can’t help but think that Google has some options in terms of exploring alternate business models for exploiting this advantage they have. Corporates are unlikely to tolerate ads in the search results from their own site, but having some method of paying Google to make it fully transparent that Google is driving the search on a particular site might be attractive.

Spatial memory vs linguistic memory

My colleague Dan is about to launch a new version of his software. They’ve replaced their existing files and folders system with a tag based one. That’s gotten me thinking further about the benefits of taxonomies vs folksonomies. The thing folksonomies lack is the ability to use our spatial memories. With a taxonomy, represented by a navigation tree I can remember physically ‘where’ I put something. It’s up near the ‘top’ of the tree, and about four folders to the ‘right’, and about ‘halfway down’ the list of files. Of course this spatial distinction is arbitrary, the computer could display those folders many different ways depending on sort order etc. Most of the time though, we leave the tree displaying a particular way. With folksonomies there’s no ‘where’. Everythings in this kind of void, addressable through search and tags. It relies solely on our ability to remember words, to remember what we called something, rather than where we put it. Don’t get me wrong, I love folksonomies, and am an avid user of Flickr,, openomy and other tag based sites. Maybe position in a tag cloud might help us use spatial memory to achieve similar results? I’m intrigued to see how easy/hard it will be for people to shift to folksonomy style approaches. I wonder if people who rely heavily on their spatial memories will find it harder than those who are more linguistically oriented.

The vibe of the thing

For almost 10 years now I’ve had my own browser start page. Having always worked with, rather than for, large corporates I’ve never been forced to have a bland company Intranet as my start page. I am, earlier in my career, guilty of architecting and project managing large (perhaps bland) Intranets, however in my defence I always argued strongly for introducing personalisation, even before there were portal technologies to make it easy.

The first versions of my browser start page were just static HTML files, populated with links to sites I used to visit often. I then moved to a content management system that allowed wysywig editing of this. When Google launched their personalised page service last year I started using this. Being able to have the blogs I read feed into portlets was the killer functionality for me. I wanted more though, being an early adopter of Web 2.0 services like and Flickr I thought it’d be great to be able to integrate those. Google hasn’t done that yet, but there’s a new service called Netvibes which does. It’s a fully customisable start page, into which you can feed blogs, Flickr photos, your bookmarks and a whole host of other things. It feels like Portals have actually come of age, when all they are is a single aggregator page for your own purely self selected content…

The Art of Demotivation

Organizational Storytelling is becoming a big movement. So much so that it’s been satirised wonderfully by Despair Inc.. There’s a link to an audio podcast and a video podcast at the bottom of the page.

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in a world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it.
Muhammad Ali