E-mail is the new database

8 Feb 2005 - 8:52am
9 years ago
4 replies
547 reads
Rich Holman
2005

Hello all,

I have been part of this list for some time now and apologies for not
being more forthcoming in my comments. This list has been an excellent
resource for me and I would appreciate your comments on the below:

I would like to discuss an article I have just read on the Beeb
website: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4167633.stm titled:
'E-mail is the new database'. An interesting concept where increasing
amounts of information is being stored in searchable online email
systems such as Gmail.

My concern about this is that in my experience users are very rarely
giving much (if any) training in Information Management. As
Interaction designers, we can make the process of retrieving
information much easier, however as systems become more interactive
with users being able to add information themselves, are our roles
going to become increasingly difficult. What steps can we take to make
sure end-users are better versed in Information Management, and indeed
do we need to worry? Will resources such as advanced search, XML, AI
and the semantic web come to the rescue?

Anyway, thanks
Rich

Comments

8 Feb 2005 - 10:38am
Dan Saffer
2003

On Feb 8, 2005, at 8:52 AM, Rich Holman wrote:

> My concern about this is that in my experience users are very rarely
> giving much (if any) training in Information Management.

> What steps can we take to make
> sure end-users are better versed in Information Management, and indeed
> do we need to worry?

Why should users have to be trained in information management?
Shouldn't our applications and devices better allow more natural and
personalized ways of managing information (than is currently
available)? Users should be given the tools and the means to manage
their information their way. To force users to have to be trained,
except on complicated systems, is really an abdication of the
interaction designer's responsibility to make the system useful and
usable.

> As
> Interaction designers, we can make the process of retrieving
> information much easier, however as systems become more interactive
> with users being able to add information themselves, are our roles
> going to become increasingly difficult.

Yes, but on the plus side, our devices are getting faster and more
powerful, allowing for different types of information visualization and
manipulation.

> Will resources such as advanced search, XML, AI
> and the semantic web come to the rescue?
>

Raw technology, until it's put into a specific product that is designed
for use, might as well not exist. Once XML and AI and the semantic web
get put into play (with XML this is already happening) within products,
then we'll know what they can really do and how they can help.

Dan

8 Feb 2005 - 11:23am
Alain D. M. G. ...
2003

--- Dan Saffer <dan at odannyboy.com> a écrit :

> Why should users have to be trained in information management?
> Shouldn't our applications and devices better allow more natural and
> personalized ways of managing information (than is currently
> available)? Users should be given the tools and the means to manage
> their information their way. To force users to have to be trained,
> except on complicated systems, is really an abdication of the
> interaction designer's responsibility to make the system useful and
> usable.
>

This is outside the domain of the interaction designer. Yes, apps and
devices should "better allow more natural and personalized ways of
managing information " but when you leave the limited constraints of a
small or home office, or the decentralized types of offices you have in
academia, then you absolutely have to train users in what was know as
file management (in the 1930s-1950s), then records management
(1950s-1980s)and is now known as information mangement.

It used to be that women known as "secretaries" did all of this in an
office so most men never realized what was really going on. In fact,
they still don't for the most part. The name of these jobs was changed
to "administrative assistant" but there was also a gradual shift of the
handling of "mundane" discrete documents (known as heterogeneous
documents as opposed to serial homogeneous documents like forms, which
were very gradually shifted to databases), back to the people who
generate them as men (and women, who eventually did the same
professions as men in equal numbers) at all technical and professional
levels started to do their work directly on computer keyboards, and
file these documents themselves. Or mis-filed them, I should say.

The moment you have several groups sharing the same documents or not
sharing but just needing to see "a bit" then you need the kind of
consistent control over the months and years that comes from knowing
and applying information management tools like retention schedules and
classification systems. XML schemas are just the very general
infrastructure to support thus. You need trained humans to apply these
tools which lie between the and you need professionals in information
architecture (which usually does not mean professionals in interaction
design) to develop things like controled vocabularies and extremely
simple taxonomies.

Alain Vaillancourt

__________________________________________________________
Lèche-vitrine ou lèche-écran ?
magasinage.yahoo.ca

9 Feb 2005 - 2:51pm
Dan Saffer
2003

On Feb 8, 2005, at 11:23 AM, Alain D. M. G. Vaillancourt wrote:

> The moment you have several groups sharing the same documents or not
> sharing but just needing to see "a bit" then you need the kind of
> consistent control over the months and years that comes from knowing
> and applying information management tools like retention schedules and
> classification systems. XML schemas are just the very general
> infrastructure to support thus. You need trained humans to apply these
> tools which lie between the and you need professionals in information
> architecture (which usually does not mean professionals in interaction
> design) to develop things like controled vocabularies and extremely
> simple taxonomies.
>

I guess I still don't see why tools designed by interaction designers
and information architects cannot take the training burden off the end
user. The systems we can make can be adaptable, customizable, and have
a memory: all things that older information management systems could
not do.

I'll grant you that things like content management systems often
require a bit of training to use. But certainly not the type of
training that has been required in decades past.

Dan

10 Feb 2005 - 10:57am
Petteri Hiisilä
2004

> I would like to discuss an article I have just read on the Beeb
> website: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4167633.stm titled:
> 'E-mail is the new database'. An interesting concept where increasing
> amounts of information is being stored in searchable online email
> systems such as Gmail.

I know many people who tend to archive files in email, since that way
the files move with them. Plus, you have the context of conversation
with you. Modern email software often implement quite powerful search
functionality.

I'm designing an intranet for our company. The information management
problem is one thing that I try to solve for the end users. They should
just search and find everything: docs, email, files from hard drive,
files from network disks, attachments, files from project directories,
phone book, email addresses etc. This seems to be possible nowadays.
Apple's next OS X and Google Desktop work a lot like this.

So yes, email already is a database, kind of. But there are and will be
several others. With powerful (incremental) search feature we can
greatly reduce the information management problem. Of course the
information still can (often must) be structured in hard drives, network
drives, intranet CMS etc.etc., but the users should be able to find it
without losing the "flow" state of mind.

Best,
Petteri

--
Petteri Hiisilä
Palveluarkkitehti / Interaction Designer /
Alma Media Interactive Oy / NWS /
+358505050123 / petteri.hiisila at almamedia.fi

"I was told there's a miracle for each day that I try"
- John Petrucci

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