Monthly Archives: March 2006

Ugly and disorderly as a strategy

I’ve been noticing a lot of buzz around the success of a few “ugly” web sites, like MySpace and specially how that has been ‘surprising‘ a lot of people.

In parallel, I’ve been experiencing – specially during the IA Summit – a change of perspective in terms of how our skills may be applied in the context of a new economy, supported by new technologies (AKA, Web 2.0).

During the Summit, it became obvious to me that a feeling I had been struggling with, is only natural, that we trully need to let it go and allow people to take charge of their experiences with products. Though I had been agreeing with that notion and reinforcing it, I had been reluctant to admit the real implications on my every-day work because of my traditional formalist attraction to creating structures.

The same way ‘ugly’ can be a visual strategy to achieve success with a particular design, disorderly structures (like, tag clouds, for example), can be just as successful in achieving success. I think it’s hard for information architects to embrace this as an approach, though there seems to be a general agreement on the principle.

Donna Maurer’s presentation during the IA summit on what Lakoff teaches us about basic level categories, as well as Rashmi Sinha’s continous thread about the social implications of categorization systems were the most striking take aways from the summit, because they made me feel more confortable about these “truths” on what organizing information means, outside of ‘categorization’ per se.

IA Summit 2006

I look forward to the IA Summit all year with great anticipation and once it is over I start to feel sad because it goes by too quickly. I am always surprised by how it exceeds my every expectation, and this year it did more than that: when it was over, I was already looking forward to and working on what is going to happen next year. That’s what the IA Summit is, my big annual burst of energy.

There were great sessions and excellent conversations, all trully meaningful exchanges. It’s a little odd to talk about the Summit because I feel like I use too many superlatives and neither of them are good enough to express how much I learned, enjoyed and cherished the time I spent with the people who were there.

I tried to record a few sessions and I will post them to Boxes & Arrows next week after I get my computer repaired and convert them to mp3. Also check B&A for sessions summaries soon.

I also took some notes (that don’t really make much sense out of context), but which I will publish when I get the presentation slides that they go with. For now, you can check out the links on using the keywords iasummit2006 and presentations to get a taste of them as they become available.

When I gather all my notes, I’ll also publish a list of books that were mentioned during presentations and recommended by people during the summit.

Best. Post-purchase. Message. Ever.

If you read Best. Shipping. Message. Ever. you already know how much I like CD Baby. But they didn’t stop there, check this out:

——– Original Message ——–
Subject: did you get your CD OK?
Date: Sun, 5 Mar 2006 14:09:18 -0800 (PST)
From: CD Baby

Livia –

Did you get your CD OK?
Was everything perfect?

If you liked a CD you bought, please write a little review on the musician’s CD Baby page? Just click the link below, and scroll to the bottom of the page. You’ll see where it says, “WRITE A REVIEW”. It only takes a minute and would mean a lot to the artists.

The CD we sent you was:


Also… if you like that CD, I think you’ll like some of our editor’s picks, here:

ROCK: Goth

ROCK: Grunge

Of course if anything was wrong, please let me know! Tell me it was ORDER # 1192544. I’d be glad to help.


Derek Sivers, CD Baby < -- new CDs added every day! email:

The Paradox of Choice: Why less is more

I read the book and I saw Schwartz speak at GEL last year, but it was much nicer to have him delve into his research to an audience of 50 people. The notes aren’t so great, most of the context is not there. But since I took them I figured I might as well post them here. (At some point I’ll transfer my old blog’s posts here and link to my previous thoughts on his work).

Notes from Berry Schwartz’s talk at the Free Library of Philadelphia
Thursday, March 02, 2006

The official syllogism

  • freedom = welfare
  • choice = freedom
  • more choice = more welfare

People are attracted to capability not usability. There is a trade off between perceived capability and usability. People ask for simpler things, but make a decision about offers based on what’s most complex (more = better).

“Patient autonomy”, forces the patient to make choices it’s not equipped to make. {Same as users in an online environment: user autonomy means pushing a of lot features and maximizing the potential of choices, resulting in dissatisfaction because of the frustration of not being able to handle them}

In Information occupations: Because work is easily accessible (online, phone, etc), people make the decision to work or not to work at any time and can’t take for granted the fact that there is work and non-work time.

In appearance: people are only ugly if they want, there are millions of ways (choices) to fix it.

In identity: family tradition is not required, you can be whoever, but you also don’t have any guidance on how to decide who to be.

Americans (research findings):

  • Richer than ever before
  • Freer than ever before
  • Sadder than ever before

Consequences of too much choice

1. Paralysis: possibilities result in not making a decision
Research: Speed dating: more choice, less decision

2. Decision and Performance Quality: Impacts people’s ability to make a good decision
People simplify the task of making a decision by basing it on face-value, but result doesn’t align with original goals (getting the best).

3. Satisfaction: Even when good decisions are made, there will be less satisfaction if the options were too many

Research: Choices made make people miserable.


• Regret and anticipated regret (another dish would have been better, other hotel would have been nicer) – Regret detract satisfaction out of the resulting choice, regardless of its quality
• Opportunity Cost (all decisions involve trade-offs) – The prospect of what could have been is overwhelming. People are tortured by the possibilities.
• The escalation of expectations (More offers increase expectations of a better result) – Evaluation of a result is not about objective qualities, but how it measures against expectations

Research: Do better, feel worse
Fact: Once people cross subsistence needs, GDP doesn’t affect well being

Take away: Making any decision is better than making no decision

Modifier: Maximizing and Satisficing

{Introducing a behavior modifier: the book’s proposal}

Two ways to approach a decision:

• Maximizing: You want the best > How do you know what’s best? > Examine all possibilities available

• Satisficing: You want good enough > How do you know you have it? > Examine one possibility at a time until you find good enough.

Research fact: Satisficers are happier than maximizers.
Schwartzman’s proposition: “There is no decision in any area in life where looking for the best is a good idea”
Research: What makes people happy? > close relations {community trumps features}

Libertarian Paternalism (See: Richard Taylor, Kess Sunsteen)

Take-away: Attention to what the default option is when offering multiple options. It drives adoption of the default choice. Always. {Address ethical implications of making decisions about what default to offer}