DonnaM » Blogging

Information architecture, interaction design and much more


Goodnight DonnaM

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

I haven’t posted here for a long time, and can’t see myself doing it in the future, so I think I’ll put this blog to sleep (I’ll leave it up, just won’t pretend that I’m ever going to post again). If you liked it, you might like these places where I write:

  • Practical information architecture (my book site)
  • Card sorting (the other book site)
  • Blather (my personal development site)

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I love blogging

Monday, September 8th, 2008

I was just reading through some old posts (I have a 101-day old to-do list item to ‘update list of best articles’) and re-remembered how much I like blogging. Much more than the ephemeral twittering or plurking, and much easier than articles & books.This is a note-to-self to do it more.  And given I resigned from a fairly big client gig recently, I should be able to!

Posted in Blogging, Personal | No Comments »

Ramsay/cluetrain mashup

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

I don’t know if this is such a good idea, but I’ve been watching Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen nightmares, re-reading the Cluetrain Manifesto and helping a client write a set of guidelines for social media .

And I just realised what each has in common…


Ramsay, when you remove the f*** word, talks always about authenticity and simple, true food.

A big chunk of the cluetrain, and the part that I connected with when I first read it, is about communicating with a true, authentic voice.

And the core of social media is about being real, being yourself and communicating with people as a person not as a corporation.

In every case, the authenticity, realness and honesty is most important, and will always be so.

Posted in Blogging, Random thoughts, Writing | 8 Comments »

A big change: From MT to WP

Saturday, February 2nd, 2008

I was given a wonderful, if slightly geeky, christmas gift this year – a year’s hosting with a new provider. Of course, a new host meant work – I had to move my website and weblog to the new host.

I was happy to rebuild my website from scratch as it needed it anyway, and chose to use wordpress as I knew it could do what I wanted to do. But when thinking about moving my blog, the decision was much harder.

I’ve been blogging since 2002, and have used movable type for the whole time, upgrading regularly and remaining up to date with how it works. I’ve also used it for other projects – the biggest one being the IA Summit website. So I had a level of commitment that meant that it was my natural choice.

In rebuilding my blog, I had only two requirements:

  • I didn’t want to break all my inward links
  • I didn’t really want to start my templates from scratch, because my time and brain-power are a bit short at the moment

That’s not too big an ask is it? With those two simple requirements, I decided to stick with movabletype, thinking the second criteria was a done deal and the first should be OK given I had upgraded many times without breaking links.

In a funny co-incidence, the morning of the grand rebuild I had an email from the MT folks saying there was a new version. Cool – I wouldn’t have to upgrade within a few days.

So I downloaded the install files and uploaded them to my host. Time-consuming, but relatively easy.

Then things started to go pear-shaped…

I’ve installed wordpress a few times in the last few years and think the ’5-minute install’ is a pretty grand thing. I knew MT had a few more steps and wasn’t worried about it taking a bit longer. I followed the install wizard, which I thought odd given I’d always just updated the config file. Wizards should be less geeky than their direct-edit counterparts but this one so wasn’t:

  • I spent 20 minutes trying to figure out two different types of file paths. I wish I had a screen shot of the interface or error messages, but believe me that this was one of the worst interfaces I’ve ever come across and the silly process of trial and error pushed me to the edge of my tolerance. And there was no help text.
  • For email notifications I had to choose between SMTP or formmail (with no explanation beyond that) and fill in a bunch of fields. What-the!

But I took a deep breath, calmed down (something very hard for me) and continued. I finally got it installed (after an hour of working through the ‘wizard’).

Given my number one criteria was not to break links, and given I had been using MT since 2002 (with urls like 000123.html) my first job was to change the URL path to numeric (I know these don’t make great URLs, but really didn’t want to redirect). I dug around the interface for ages looking for the piece that let me customise the URL. I couldn’t find it. So I went to the official help and the support site. I couldn’t find it. After another hour of digging around, the camel’s back broke. I’d completely had enough.

From a simple, useful, usable blogging tool in 2002 MT had become a bloated, useless, unusable tool in 2008. I could no longer use it.

I deleted the MT files from my server (another hour) and changed to WordPress. In 15 minutes I had installed, configured and imported my content. I resigned myself to the fact that I’d have to build a redirect file, which ended up taking much less time than the stuffing around with MT.

I won’t be going back to MT any time soon. Perhaps never. The ridiculous amount of complexity and lack of flexibility just proved too hard. They’ve completely lost me. I’m now a wordpress girl through and through. And happy being so.

Posted in Blogging | 10 Comments »

Spam & comment deletion

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2007

I’ve spent the evening house-cleaning – I’ve had so much blog-spam through that I killed my host’s server a couple of times.

Of course, in deleting spam, I’ve deleted some legit comments as well. I’m so sorry if I deleted one of yours! If you remember it, please re-comment and I promise I won’t delete it again.

I’ve been trying to get around to posting a ‘year in review/new years resolutions’ post, but spam is sucking all my spare time.

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A minor redesign

Monday, April 17th, 2006

I just finished doing some minor redesign work on my weblog. My sidebar now pulls in content from a bunch of services such as upcoming,, blogrolling (don’t know how long I’ll stick with this) & pandora. Still could do with some tweaking, but it is OK for now.

Next job is to install a tagging plug-in and re-tag all my posts. Only a job an IA would do…

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Chick bloggers not hiding

Saturday, April 8th, 2006

There’s been a bit of a discussion over on Leisa Reichelt’s new blog about where the women are hiding. I commented that I read stacks of women who are not hiding and Leisa asked for a list. So here it is, from top to bottom from my RSS reader (I am a bit picky with what I read):

  • Creating passionate users – Kathy Sierra
  • – Molly Holzschlag
  • Pixelcharmer – Tanya Rabourn
  • – Angie McKaig
  • Chiara Fox
  • Clevergirl – Janice Fraser
  • disambiguity – Leisa Reichelt
  • IA? EH. – Christina Wodtke
  • I think, therefore IA – Livia Labate
  • Rashmi’s Blog – Rashmi Sinha
  • Australia Days – Perry Hewitt
  • Burningbird
  • zombiecoder kay

So I do still have more boys than girls in my RSS reader, but this is a pretty good list…

Posted in Blogging | 4 Comments »

The importance of voice in an RSS world

Friday, July 15th, 2005

I have been reading many posts about blogging and RSS lately. Some bloggers still want to ‘get people to the site’ for various reasons (and offer summary posts only) but many acknowledge that people do, and will continue to, read via a feed reader. I know I do, and I’m not going to be visiting most sites any time soon.

In reading tonight, I realised that I have a few favourite writers who I can recognise via voice alone. I don’t need a visual reminder or to see what their latest redesign looks like. Even in the visual wasteland of RSS readers, I know who I am reading. Their voice shines through and engages me.

So if you are a blogger, wondering how to get people through to your site, switch your perspective, and start focusing on how to engage your readers through a consistent and true voice rather than a visual brand.

Posted in Blogging | 2 Comments »

apologetic spam

Thursday, April 14th, 2005

I just found an unapproved spam comment that started ‘sorry about my links’ and listed a whole bunch of sites that I really don’t care to repeat.

How’s that – a spammer with a conscience.

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Fun reading on April 4

Monday, April 4th, 2005

I didn’t read through my RSS feeds on Friday and am now doing catchup on Monday. Problem is, I can’t figure out what I’m meant to believe – in quickly reading the posts I’m having some difficulty figuring out which are April Fools jokes and which are true!

For example, Clay Shirky reports that WordPress has been pimping out it�s highly home page to an SEO and Digital Web wrote about a new service called Jobster (there is a lot of work in this for a joke, but it does look odd).

My absolute favourite (that I have been able to detect) was OK-Cancel’s redesign.

Posted in Blogging | 1 Comment »

Yahoo! 360

Wednesday, March 30th, 2005

I’ve been playing around with the new Yahoo!360. And you know what – I like it. I think I might use this as a personal blogspace, and keep donnam as a more work related one.

The thing that I like best is the feel. It feels approachable – the language on the screen and in the help seems to be carefully chosen to ensure it is not geeky. It looks professional, and it was easy for me to get set up.

I think there will still be a challenge in communicating to non-bloggers what it is about, but I suspect that more people and content will start to illustrate that.

If you would like to have a look, go look at my space (I don’t know what to call it yet).

Posted in Blogging | 2 Comments »

Distributed discourse

Thursday, February 3rd, 2005

I’ve been following the folksonomy discussion as well as is possible.

What struck me as interesting is completely unrelated to the topic of folksonomies or tags or classification or anything like that. What’s interesting is the way the discussion is being held.

‘Discussion’ is the relevant word here. Recent folksonomy posts seem to be a type of discussion – after all, many authors link to something that someone else has said, and oftentimes the post is in reaction to something that someone has said. Sort of looks like a discussion. Idea, counter, new idea, follow up…

However, when I really thought about it, what it actually looks like is quite different. It isn’t a discussion at all. Most of it (at least recently – the earlier discussions were not like this) seems to be a land grab. Most of the posts look like people standing on their little islands saying “hey, here’s this cool thing, let’s see if I can say the most profound thing about it. Over here. Pick me!”.

It is the islands that is the issue – there is no central discussion, no flow, no regular consolidation. It is all happening out there on isolated islands of blogs. A highly distributed discourse.

Now, I don’t mean to belittle the clever people who are thinking and writing about it, although some of this is going to be read this way. I’m more interested in the way the discussion is being held. That’s what’s interesting. It is sort of an extension to a post I wrote a few months back: Do we blog instead of discussing.

Whatever is happening, it is damn hard to follow.

Posted in Blogging | 1 Comment »

Writing for blog distribution

Tuesday, December 7th, 2004

I was thinking, as I frequently do when I write an article, about how blogging has affected the way that I write.

I noticed a few years ago, when the content of many of the blogs I read was pointers to other information, that bloggers like to create posts as quickly and easily as possible (no news there). One of the most common blog entry patterns is:

  • find an interesting article
  • find an interesting sentence or short paragraph in the article
  • drop the paragraph into the post, with a short lead-in and a ‘thank you’ or ‘from’

This means that, in order to have your article linked to and read, it is essential to have a good sentence or paragraph that represents the point you want to make. While this is a general principle of good writing, it is particularly important when writing for distribution via blogs.

It is something that I do after finishing writing an article – go back and make sure that there is something that is easy to pick up.

So in that vein, here are the magic paragraphs from an article that I recently co-wrote with Tina Calabria � 10 ways to continuously improve your intranet:

The amount of work involved in designing a new intranet or redesigning an existing intranet is minor compared to the time needed to maintain an effective intranet over the longer term. In fact, it is common for the initial excitement of a new intranet to fade away as the reality of day-to-day maintenance and the challenges of improving the intranet become apparent.

For this reason, intranets tend to go one of two ways after launch – they either stagnate with few new features added over time or become masses of unstructured content and functionality created in a random fashion.

Posted in Blogging | 3 Comments »

Damn Spam!

Monday, December 6th, 2004

I haven’t written anything substantial here for ages – not because I haven’t had good thoughts, but I’ve been terrorised by spam.

My various anti-spam measures have been fighting with one another. I was running MT-blacklist on this weblog and Knowspam on my email. I couldn’t get email notifications when people left comments (unless they were on my good addressees list on knowspam) so had to rely on finding comments with MT. But MT (2.64) only showed 5 comments at a time, so despamming was pretty tiresome. Anyway, the upshot was that managing spam was starting to take up a lot of time.

So I decided to upgrade MT on the vague marketing promise of ‘better comment management’. That went reasonably well, but then I found out that I needed a new version of MT-blacklist. Tired, I set comments to ‘moderate’ and decided to finish up later.

So I got home today and found 16,000 comments waiting for approval. Yes, I thought that it was a bug in the interface as well, but it was real (taking away MT-blacklist left me open to the spambots). Hours later and I have removed all of the comments (400 at a time), installed a new version of MT-blacklist, configured, re-configured, stuffed around, deleted files and finally got everything working.

I hope…

Now I’m too tired to write. Maybe on a spam-free day I’ll have something to say.

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The ultimate spam irony

Monday, November 15th, 2004

I’ve been spammed by a site that lists all of the anti-spam software. Far out!

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