Two seemingly unrelated bits of news/opinion in this post, but both have to do with decision-making on some level. To start, one of the first articles I read this morning was Ann Patchett’s op-ed in the New York Times about the Pulitzer Prize Board’s failure to select a fiction winner from the three finalists. As Patchett points out, this is not only disappointing for the authors (“It’s fine to lose to someone, and galling to lose to no one”), it’s also a letdown for readers and for booksellers. Here are the past winners.
Another article I read today is from ASIS&T: Thom Haller wrote on the topic “What happens when architectural questions are not asked?” (architecture, here, is information architecture, or IA). He used Facebook as an example, and it’s a good one: who hasn’t been confused by Facebook’s changing structure, or its hierarchy and organizing principles (or lack thereof), not to mention its always-in-flux privacy policies? The problem Haller discussed was that of labels (or lack of labels) for “content clusters,” and it’s something that would probably come up in a basic usability test; right now, it’s not really clear what the difference between “public” and “all” is, unless there is a label for each group of options (there isn’t).
For such a huge site, there are some surprising difficulties in terms of navigation and settings. I almost have to assume that these difficulties are planned, or at least unresolved, on purpose; it seems like Facebook wants certain actions (privacy settings, unfriending) to be difficult.
So as not to end on a negative note, please enjoy this list of fake Massachusetts town names from McSweeney’s. And may I also recommend Jenny Lawson’s (a.k.a. The Bloggess) just-published memoir, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened? Read a snippet here. (Unless you’re at work, because most people’s work doesn’t usually provoke hysterical laughter, and this might. You’ve been warned.)