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10 Best Intranets of 2011

Jakob Nielsen’s Intranet Annual 2011 is out. He notices big improvements in mobile deployments and in knowledge sharing using social media tools. I think this is just natural progression—catching up with what is available on the Internet. But it is nice to see successful executions.

Knowledge management progressed from cliché to reality, based on simpler and thus more-used features. Mobile intranets doubled.

Testing Content

A good article on how to test the content of a website. Angela Colter lists few methods to test the decoding and comprehension of content. Seems like her preferred method is moderated usability testing.

To find out whether people understand your content, have them read it and apply their new knowledge. In other words, do a usability test! Here’s how to create task scenarios where participants interpret and use what they read:

  • Identify the issues that are critical to users and the business.
  • Create tasks that test user knowledge of these issues.
  • Tell participants that they’re not being tested; the content is.


Google’s Nifty Guide To Web Technology

An very nice HTML5 book that reads like an iBook.  The book is filled with pictures and small animations that add that little extra that makes the difference. And yes, the most important thing - the topics are short.

Over 75 Free Rapid E-Learning Resources

Nice list. I found many resources that I can use today!

2-Day Usability Bootcamp with Christine Perfetti

We are organizing a 2-day usability bootcamp with Christine Perfetti. Here are the details.

Will your website or application be successful when it’s launched? Will people be able to use it easily? Will it meet the business objectives? Will you be able to account for the time, money and effort spent on it? To answer these questions, Perfetti Media’s expert usability professional, Christine Perfetti, has put together a 2-Day Usability Bootcamp to help you learn the skills needed to evaluate and improve your designs, be it for a product, website, web application or intranet.

Web customers crave speed, not emotional experiences

Gerry McGovern has a point here about web customers craving speed:

People don’t want experiences on websites. They don’t want to emotionally bond with a website. When was the last time you felt delighted after you booked a flight? Did you have a great experience booking that cinema ticket or did you have a great experience at the cinema?

Making common content work on the intranet

Simon Goh has written a thought-provoking piece on managing common content on the intranet.

The intranet comprises broadly of corporate and business common content. Corporate content are stuff such as backoffice processes, policies, templates, news, corporate events and employee benefits. Business content are stuff such as standard contract clauses, services & solutions offerings, project references, document deliverable templates, delivery samples and methodologies.

Regardless of the category, 5 things need to happen for an intranet to be a trusted place for staff to get common content. Common content needs to be:

  • available as soon as they are
  • at the right place
  • well-written
  • accurate, current and comprehensive
  • rid of Redundant, Obsolete and Trivial (ROT) content

Bill Gates: In Five Years The Best Education Will Come From The Web

Gates believes that in five years time you’ll able to find the “the best lectures in the world”. You can now, but its “unevenly distributed”!

“One particular problem with the education system according to Gates is text books. Even in grade schools, they can be 300 pages for a book about math. ‘They’re giant, intimidating books,” he said. “I look at them and think: what on Earth is in there?’”

25 User Experience Videos That Are Worth Your Time

Nice collection by Smashing Magazine.

“We’re all mostly accustomed to educating ourselves by reading articles. Rare are the opportunities to attend conferences or watch live shows on subjects that we’re interested in. That’s why we are presenting here phenomenal videos and related resources on the topic of user experience (UX) by different presenters at different events. We have focused on current content but have included some older videos that are still relevant. It will take you more than 16 hours to watch all of these videos. So, make some popcorn, turn off the lights and enjoy.”

‘Can I?’ is better than ‘I can’

Interesting study suggests that interrogative self-talk is actually more motivating than declarative gumption that business leaders profess.

“Why is interrogative self-talk more effective? Subsequent experiments by the scientists suggested that the power of the “Will I?” condition resides in its ability to elicit intrinsic motivation. (We are intrinsically motivated when we are doing an activity for ourselves, because we enjoy it. In contrast, extrinsic motivation occurs when we’re doing something for a paycheck or any “extrinsic” reward.) By interrogating ourselves, we set up a well-defined challenge that we can master. And it is this desire for personal fulfillment - being able to tell ourselves that we solved the anagrams - that actually motivates us to keep on trying.”

Some of our work

Glad to have worked with some very talented illustrators and animators. Here is a sample of our work at PebbleRoad.

On education

Dennis Littky writes about a new approach to education in the lastest issue of Interactions magazine. (Subscription required).

“The school was broken down into advisories, with a teacher and a group of students who spent four years together. Each adviser, parent, and student developed an individual learning plan. The school had broad goals of reading, writing, applying math, empirical reasoning, communication, and personal qualities. Every student would have his or her own way of reaching those goals with high standards. The teacher—also acting as adviser—would help the student identify his or her interests and then find a mentor and workplace to help make the learning real.”

Sounds like “Gurukul” to me.

Computers at Home: Educational Hope vs. Teenage Reality

NY times reports that there is no evidence of improved educational performance with having computers at home.

“Economists are trying to measure a home computer’s educational impact on schoolchildren in low-income households. Taking widely varying routes, they are arriving at similar conclusions: little or no educational benefit is found. Worse, computers seem to have further separated children in low-income households, whose test scores often decline after the machine arrives, from their more privileged counterparts.”

UX Myths

“Build your website based on evidence, not false beliefs!” This website documents UX myths along with research findings. Nice reference point to bring out in client discussions and to include in documentation. (via ColumnTwo). Here are some good ones:

Mind Over Mass Media

Steven Pinker writes a classic piece and clears the smoke over the view that new media and Google is making us stupid.

“The effects of consuming electronic media are also likely to be far more limited than the panic implies. Media critics write as if the brain takes on the qualities of whatever it consumes, the informational equivalent of “you are what you eat.” As with primitive peoples who believe that eating fierce animals will make them fierce, they assume that watching quick cuts in rock videos turns your mental life into quick cuts or that reading bullet points and Twitter postings turns your thoughts into bullet points and Twitter postings.”

“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”

I was looking for this story for a while. Finally I found it, so would like to share it with you. It’s about understanding what people want to get done with products—the job-to-be-done. Often we get lost in the features and functions of the product that we forget about the job that the product is designed to get done. The same principle can be used for designing websites and intranets.

“With few exceptions, every job people need or want to do has a social, a functional, and an emotional dimension. If marketers understand each of these dimensions, then they can design a product that’s precisely targeted to the job. In other words, the job, not the customer, is the fundamental unit of analysis for a marketer who hopes to develop products that customers will buy.”

Does the Internet Make You Smarter?

Clay Shirky takes on Nicolas Carr in this excerpt from this book, “Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age.”

“Increased freedom to create means increased freedom to create throwaway material, as well as freedom to indulge in the experimentation that eventually makes the good new stuff possible. There is no easy way to get through a media revolution of this magnitude; the task before us now is to experiment with new ways of using a medium that is social, ubiquitous and cheap, a medium that changes the landscape by distributing freedom of the press and freedom of assembly as widely as freedom of speech.”

Research Ethics Guidebook

“The Research Ethics Guidebook is designed as a resource for social science researchers - those early in their careers, as well as more experienced colleagues.  It aims to help you find your way through the variety of regulatory processes and procedures that can apply to social science research - signposting you to more detailed information along the way, and acting as a prompt for reflection and questioning at all stages of the research process.”

Content Migration: the iceberg of CMS projects

A nice introduction to the content migration effort required when doing intranet redesigns.

“For all the reasons to ignore the inevitable, the truth remains that failure to adequately strategize, plan, schedule, and budget for content migration can easily sink your CMS project. Failure to plan can lead to delays as the content migration drags past the launch date. Conflicts can occur as extra resources are called upon at the last minute to attempt to migrate mountains of web pages into the new system. After all of the hard work your team has put into designing and building the new system, content migration is the last hurdle — one that you don’t want to underestimate.”

Too Cool for School: What the Valley Is Missing in Online Education

Sarah Lacey writes about the education and training opportunities in the developing world:

“But in emerging markets, modern education is still developing on an elementary, collegiate and vocational level. Burgeoning populations who want better opportunities are struggling under the confines of what young democracies can provide, giving a huge opportunity for private, for-profit education systems to play a bigger role than they’ve played in the West historically. And obviously, the Web and mobile is a big part of this. It’s not just about access, it’s about breaking learning down into affordable, consumable chunks—the same way the Web has broken music and media down into sell-able, bite-sized pieces of the song and the blog post. Some of this is happening inside the classroom and some is redefining what a “classroom” is.”

Polyhierarchy in the real world

Snapped this at a local video store. There are multiple Top 1s, Top 2s, etc.


Faceted vs. Parametric search

From an interview with Peter Morville:

Peter Morville: The terms “faceted navigation” and “parametric search” are often used interchangeably, but for the sake of comparison I find it valuable to define interfaces that require the simultaneous, up-front specification of all search parameters as exemplars of parametric search. Like the Boolean queries of yore, this forces users to formulate and execute a search strategy without guidance or feedback. Sliders and pull-downs are easier than ANDs and ORs, but syntax is only part of the problem.

In contrast, faceted navigation lets users begin naturally with a keyword or two. They’re rewarded with traditional results plus a list of facets (or fields) and values, usually on the left. This SERP (search engine results page) serves as a custom map that offers insights into the content and its organization. And, this is a map that’s also the territory. Users can take a simple next step to clarify or refine their query by clicking on a facet value. And, by taking several of these simple next steps, users can construct a sophisticated, powerful query. So, not only do users find what they need, but they also learn along the way.

Deductive vs inductive arguments

I was searching for material on media literacy and came across this very insightful definitions of deductive and inductive arguments:

Mastering the art of picking out premises and conclusions is the first step toward good analytical thinking, but we must also think about whether the premises really do support their conclusions. Making that sort of determination requires that we think a little bit about the different kinds of arguments. There are several ways of categorizing arguments, but for our purposes, we can distinguish all arguments into one of two types: deductive and inductive.

Deductive argument: an argument whose premises make its conclusion certain

Inductive argument: an argument whose premises make its conclusion likely

(Note: Some dictionaries – and even some older logic texts – define deductive arguments as arguments that reason from the general to the specific and inductive arguments as those that reason from the specific to the general. That particular usage of the terms is obsolete.)

The difference between deductive and inductive arguments is easiest to see by way of examples.

Smith owns only blue pants and brown pants. Smith is wearing a pair of his pants today. So Smith is wearing either blue or brown pants today.

This is an instance of a deductive argument. We can tell that the argument is deductive because the two premises (that is, the first two sentences) guarantee the truth of the conclusion. If the two premises really are true, then there is no possible way that the conclusion could be false. Here’s another example:

The soccer game is on either Thursday or Friday. I just found out that the game is not on Thursday, so the game must be on Friday.

Again, this is a deductive argument, for the truth of the premises guarantees the truth of the conclusion. Contrast those examples with this one:

January has always been cold here in Siberia. Today is January 14, so it is going to be another cold day in Siberia.

This argument is inductive. The premises makes the conclusion likely, but they do not guarantee that the conclusion is true. To put the point another way, it is possible that the premises of this argument could be true and the conclusion could still be false. One can, for example, imagine a freak warm day in Siberia on January 14. But one cannot imagine that Smith owns only brown pants and blue pants, that he is wearing his own pants and that his pants are not brown or blue. To make the conclusion about the color of Smith’s pants false, one has to make one of the premises false. But one can make the cold day in Siberia claim false while keeping the premises true. Here is one more:

The local branch of Wachovia Bank was robbed yesterday. Jenny needed money to pay off her gambling debts. She just bought a gun two days ago, and I saw her hanging around the local Wachovia Bank yesterday morning. Today the bookie’s goons stopped looking for Jenny. So Jenny robbed Wachovia Bank yesterday.

This is the sort of inductive argument that should be familiar to anyone who has ever watched an episode of “Law & Order.” Again, though, as anyone who has seen “Law & Order” can attest, these sorts of inductive arguments can be (and frequently are) wrong. Even if all the premises are true, it is still possible that the conclusion is false.

Web 3.0 - the video

Web 3.0 from Kate Ray on Vimeo.

The Productivity Myth

Nice piece by Tony Schwartz over at Harvard Business Review:

So here’s the paradox: Americans are working 10 percent fewer total hours than they did before the recession, due to layoffs and shortened workdays, but we’re producing nearly as many goods and services as we did back in the full employment days of 2007.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke called these gains in productivity “extraordinary” and unforeseen at a recent Senate hearing.

There’s a simple, visceral reason for the gains, Mr. Chairman, and it’s called fear.

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