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Conference/Retreat Program

Saturday/Sunday: September 30th & October 1st

Saturday, September 31st
7:30 AM 8:30 AM Registration & welcome coffee/tea
8:30 AM 8:35 AM Welcome and opening comments
8:35 AM 9:35 AM Keynote: False intentions and the fallacy of finding
9:35 AM 9:45 AM Break
9:45 AM 10:45 AM Beyond wireframes: documenting AJAX and RIA
10:45 AM 11:15 AM Morning tea
11:15 AM 12:15 PM Folksonomy to Improve IA
12:15 PM 1:15 PM Lunch
1:15 PM 2:15 PM Lakoff’s ‘Women, Fire & Dangerous Things’ - What every IA should know
2:15 PM 2:25 PM Break
2:25 PM 3:25 PM User research: Questioning the answers
3:25 PM 3:55 PM Afternoon tea
3:55 PM 4:55 PM Sexier, smarter and faster IA through Topic Maps
4:55 PM 5:00 PM Closing comments for Day 1
5:00 PM 7:00 PM Cocktails on the balcony

Sunday, October 1st
8:30 AM 8:35 AM Opening Comments
8:35 AM 9:35 AM Use Web Analytics for Redesigning Information Architecture Information Architecture on Drugs
9:35 AM 9:45 AM Break
9:45 AM 10:45 AM Extending IA beyond the web to ITV Succeeding at IA in the enterprise
10:45 AM 11:15 AM Morning tea
11:15 AM 12:15 PM From Mnemonics to Measurement: designing easily navigable information Statistical concepts & techniques for the practicing IA
12:15 PM 1:15 PM Lunch
1:15 PM 2:15 PM Enterprise IA: confronting unique challenges* Models of Invention*
2:15 PM 2:25 PM Break
2:25 PM 3:25 PM Enhancing access to website content - with indexes* Site maps - towards a common cartography*
3:25 PM 3:55 PM Afternoon tea
3:55 PM 4:55 PM Open Session Open Session
4:55 PM 5:00 PM Closing Comments and farewells


False intentions and the fallacy of finding
Mark Bernstein

Information architecture often sets out to facilitate small and simple tasks — locating facts or purchasing a commodity. The clear, simple, univalent structures that seem to match the problem fail to coincide with the reader’s actual needs or desires. The problem lies not with the exuberance of unrestrained creatives or widget-happy technologists, but with the complexity of meaning, structure, and the reader’s true intentions.


Folksonomy to Improve IA
Thomas Vander Wal - courtesy of Web Directions

Getting the basic of tagging and folksonomy so to improve your taxonomy and improve information use through watching behaviors emerge.

Lakoff’s ‘Women, Fire & Dangerous Things’ - What every IA should know
Donna Maurer

George Lakoff’s book ’Women, Fire and Dangerous Things’ is a fundamental work on categorization theory, explaining categorization from a linguistic and cognitive perspective. Many IA’s (myself included) have had a paradigm shifting moment on reading it.

But it is 583 pages long, weighs a kilo, and is a very, very hard read. Let’s take a short cut - let me do the hard work.

In this presentation, I’ll examine the fundamentals of Lakoff’s theories and those scholars from which his theories draw. I’ll explain prototype theory and basic level categories and will discuss classical categorisation theory and how it fails to describe the real world we live in.

More importantly, I’ll discuss how these relate to everyday IA - particularly how we can use basic level categories and prototype theory to create more intuitive structures. I’ll even explain how folksonomies/tagging are a natural outcome of the failure of classical categorisation theory.

Beyond wireframes: Documenting AJAX and RIA
Dan Saffer

Our websites have become more functionally rich, thanks to Ajax, Flash, Flex and the like. But our documentation hasn’t kept up. We need rich documentation to match the rich experiences we’re now able to provide online. We’ll explore what wireframes can still do, plus new forms of documenting including lo-fi animations and state diagrams.

Statistical concepts & techniques for the practicing IA
Steve Baty

This session introduces you to some basic concepts in quantitative research and analysis, including examples, real-life cases, and a dab of theory. Topics covered include:

  • Understanding research measurements
  • Selecting Research Subjects (Statistical sampling)
  • Describing our data (Descriptive and Summary statistics)
  • What the sample can tell us about the ‘population’ (Inferential Statistics Part I)
  • Comparing two samples (Inferential Statistics Part II)
  • Data with multiple variables & the ‘average user fallacy’ (Inferential Statistics Part III)

A rollicking, jaunty, 45-minute roller coaster through elementary quantitative analysis for the practicing IA.

From Mnemonics to Measurement: Designing easily navigable information
David Sless

During the medieval period in Europe the arts of creating easily navigable information was probably at its zenith. Since then much of these arts have been lost and only partially regained through books and library catalogues. The challenge facing contemporary information architects —without the benefits of those lost arts, and without the 3 dimensional space of the book and library— is to develop easily navigable information in the 2 dimensional low-resolution environment of the screen. This is not easy.

However, having lost many useful arts through ‘advances’ in technology, in our own time we have developed new arts — ways of measuring how badly we navigate through information. This also provides us with the means of diagnosing and possibly fixing some of the worst of the navigational nightmares we currently create and expc other to live with.

I will review some of our lost arts, and some of our newer arts through the work we have been doing at the Communication Research Institute to develop systematic methods for designing information to a high standard. As part of this research we have developed ways of measuring the effectiveness of information navigation aids. In some areas we have been able to set minimum acceptable benchmark

Use Web Analytics for Redesigning Information Architecture
Hurol Inan

IA projects are full of politics. Often the loudest influential stakeholders win! In their absence, the project team goes around circles like headless chucks. Yet another card sorting exercise, another user testing... The result is websites that are not ideal for the end users. Starting the project by studying the past user activities on the site (a.k.a. the Web Analytics) provides context, rationale, method to this madness. Insights gained through Web Analytics help make justified IA decisions, shortens the project time frame, and very nicely dispels the politics from the process. Come and hear real life case studies of how we got Web Analytics to work for large and complex IA projects.

Succeeding at IA in the enterprise
James Robertson

Working within the enterprise, information architects are confronted with new challenges. There is a lack of clarity around needs and goals, organisational issues are paramount, and the real challenge is making things happen and getting users to adopt the new solutions.

This is the focus of what is sometimes called “enterprise IA”, the application of information architecture in complex business environments. To be successful in these situations, we need skills and strategies that focus much more on people than on information.

This talk explores the issues and presents some practical approaches. For a preview of what James will be covering, see his article on Boxes and Arrows.

User research: Questioning the answers
Ash Donaldson

One of the weakest parts of the software development life cycle has always been requirements gathering. Misleading or incorrect requirements are often uncovered from business analysis. These days, many of us are asked to do user research. But how effective is what we do? Can we believe what the users tell us?

Recent advances in social psychology, neuroscience and other disciplines have provided a greater understanding of thought processes and how to best discover natural behaviours. Ash will be providing a brief overview of some common misconceptions of how we think, then exploring some qualitative techniques that are more effective at gaining a true insight into the mind of the user and what they really need.

Information Architecture on Drugs
Stephen Hall & Andrew Boyd

This case study session describes the application of a user centred IA approach to the principal ways in which critical information about pharmaceutical drugs is distributed to the doctors and pharmacists of Australia.

The Schedule of Pharmaceutical Benefits is a complex 577 page manual. It lists those medicines subsidised by the Australian Government, and the conditions and circumstances under which they can be prescribed. The freely distributed (and expensive) hard copy version of the Schedule is being replaced by a range of new products generated from an electronic publishing system. These products include Health Professional and Consumer web sites, plus the entire Schedule for PDAs.

The session will cover:

  • The Information Architecture approach
  • The role of the Information Architect in the broad program of work
  • Practical results to date
  • The challenges of designing for PDA
  • A discussion of the Axure prototyping tool
  • Usability as a key element of stakeholder engagement
  • The needs of the rural/remote user

Stephen Hall and Andrew Boyd are currently working as the Information Architects for the PharmBiz program.

Sexier, smarter and faster IA through Topic Maps
Alexander Johannesen

Topic Maps is part tool, part state of mind; it could simply change the way you work with information architecture. This session will be both highly philosophical and down-right practical at the same time ; how to grab our ideas and put them down in a practical format we can use and reuse, both as a mental exercise and as a technical delivery.

Topic Maps offer a framework (it is an ISO standard for data modelling and has an XML-based exchange format to boot) in which we can express ideas, concepts, structures, items and navigation; we’ll find data and metadata in a sexy symbiosis to present and reuse our ideas smarter through all stages of development, adapt to complex changes faster, and making the whole process a lot more enjoyable. It is especially well suited to highly complex challenges where your domain can’t all fit in your head and your Excel spreadsheets are having trouble keeping up. Don’t deliver an assortment of documents and graphs ready to be mislead, misunderstood or misrepresented; give them a topic map they can pop right into their solution.

Extending IA beyond the web to ITV
Scott Bryant & Adrienne Tan

Our case study discusses the application of information and interaction design principles to the design of iTV applications. It details our experiences of teaching a subject in Digital Information & Interaction Design as part of a postgraduate program in Interactive Multimedia.

Students worked on a design project for an ITV client in which they developed the information architecture and interaction for:

  • A new "Push Video On Demand"
  • An interactive radio service and
  • A range of government information services

iTV was chosen as a novel alternative to designing web interfaces. The students were more than familiar with designing for web environments. iTV presented students with a new technology which many had never experienced directly, as well as new challenges in learning about its constraints and possibilities.

Students had to grapple with the following differences:

  • Limitations in the design of information for viewing on a television screen; compared with the amount and format of information that can be accommodated on a computer screen,
  • Navigational constraints within iTV can lead to a different IA. The limited number of remote control keys and the television environment dictates the structure,
  • iTV can lead to a more scripted experience as the service is emersed within the broadcast environment.

It details the design process undertaken by the students, and the difficulties faced in their attempts to translate and apply their knowledge of HCI and web design to the development of iTV interfaces.

Interactive workshop sessions:

These sessions have been scheduled in response to the question “what could we do to improve the practice of IA if we happened to have 30+ smart and passionate IAs in the one room?”. It’s a bit of an experiment, but likely to at least be fun.

Each session will be kicked off by a presenter, and then handed over to the attendees to workshop the subject. Notes will be taken and made available after the conference.

Models of Invention
Dan Saffer

There’s only two major ways to design something new (and even that’s debatable!): either create something completely unique or else build it from parts of existing things. From these two starting points, other models of invention can be found: coming from design, science, other arts, personal working habits, etc. These models can be used in brainstorming and designing, either when one is stuck or simply as tools to come at design problems from another angle.

This workshop/brainstorming/exploration session will start by looking at the handful of models that have been sketched out, then collectively refine them and brainstorm new ones.

Enterprise IA: confronting unique challenges
James Robertson

There is a growing global movement to recognise and explore the unique challenges confronting these projects. At the recent IA Summit in Vancouver, there was a gathering of IAs (lead by Lou Rosenfeld) around the topic of “enterprise IA”, with the goal of promoting further discussion of these topics.

Many of us are working within large and complex organisations, on projects to deliver improved intranets, document management systems, portals, collaboration tools and business systems.

This interactive session will bring together IAs who are interested in exploring how to succeed in organisations, at the boundaries of IA, UX, IT, organisational change and corporate strategy. The session will give everyone an opportunity to participate and contribute, and the notes will be written up and distributed for the benefit of the wider community.

Come to this session if you call yourself an information architect,but you aren’t interested in Visio, wireframes, sitemaps, or prototypes.

Enhancing access to website content - with indexes
Glenda Browne

Users of books expect a range of features to lead them to the content they need. Website and intranet users, on the other hand, are often expected to make do with whatever feature has been deemed appropriate - or feasible - for that site. This is not good enough. Users need access tools that suit the way they work, that give the best results for their situation, and that allow them to explore a site creatively. Rarely are they offered this. What sites need is an indexing/access mindset, that considers all the options. As well as navigation structure, site maps, and search engines, this includes A to Z indexes and ‘index-like’ creations, offering access at different levels for different needs. Users are often creative and good at exploring, but at other times they haven’t a clue what they’re doing. In a practical sense, managing the single-sourcing of indexes is one of the biggest challenges we face.

Site maps: towards a common cartography
Eric Scheid

Generally speaking IAs make site maps, amongst other things, but we all make them in our own idiosyncratic ways. These site maps are made for different audiences, different purposes, and at different stages of the project lifecycle.

We don’t have any common style, nor symbols, nor even an agreement as to the scope of issues to be communicated. We spend a good deal of time figuring out how to craft our deliverable to effectively communicate our message, when instead we could be refining the message itself.

Taking inspiration from JJG’s Visvocab, in this brainstorming/workshop session we’ll work towards defining a common cartography for sitemaps. We’ll finally be able to read each other’s maps! Scope, lifecycle, audience, symbols, all these and more will be up for discussion.

Open sessions:

Since this conference is also a retreat, we’ve left two session slots open, unconference style, for you, the delegates, to gather together and self-organise some content. Maybe you have a short presentation you want to show off, or maybe you want to organise a networking event, or gangpress some vocal delegates into a panel ... whatever it is, it’s up to you. We’ll provide the rooms, butcher’s paper, flip charts, etc.