[Design] Determining that collections behave like categories
mimi at osafoundation.org
Thu Jan 26 11:32:12 PST 2006
Thanks for the links to the articles Philippe:
"The team at University College London found that the master
memorisers have neither higher IQs nor special brain structures to
explain their talent. Instead, when debriefed after the memory tests,
many admitted they always use an ancient Greek mnemonic technique
known as "method of loci".
This involves visualising yourself walking along a well-known route,
depositing images of to-be-remembered items at specific points, then
retracing your steps during recall."
So clearly, by having collections in the sidebar that can accommodate
a single item appearing in multiple collections, we're undermining
the brain's "location-based" mechanisms for 1) remembering where
things are and 2) general orientation.
WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT THIS IN THE SHORT-TERM:
I'm wondering if one way to understand why users get disoriented by
having 1-item appear in 2-places is the cognitive dissonance that
arises from trying to jam virtual concepts into physical metaphors.
(ie. search folders, where folders connotes
Because OTOH, people can be incredibly flexible and agile when
navigating concepts and ideas. I think very few people would be
confused by the idea that:
Joan would show up in both of the following lists:
+ Gender: Female
+ Hair color: Brown
Instead, the model that is put forth with search folders is Joan can
be found in both:
+ Folder: Female AND
+ Folder: Brown
"Folder" is not a very helpful description of the semantics
underlying "Female" and "Brown". But the ability to define "Female"
and "Brown" as more than just generic Folders, the ability to define
them in terms of an attribute (Gender: and Hair color:) helps the
user to understand that they are simply different characteristics or
facets of items.
Another reason why the ability to "attri'bute at'tributes" to
collections helps to orient users is simply the "chunking" benefits
it affords. Instead of a long list of "Folders" you can now segment
the list into "categories of categories: categories based on Gender,
categories based on Hair color."
In Chandler, we're proposing to take this "chunking down" of the
sidebar one step further, which is to group the "attributes" into
attribute types: Who v. When v. Where v. What, etc.
The final step (in the short-term) is to provide graphical-visual
indicators (aka icons) that expose these various "characteristics" of
collections (ie. This is a Who-based collection).
WHAT'S THE REAL SOLUTION?
These are short-term "compensatory" measures for helping people
navigate a virtual landscape organized in terms of conceptual
grouping as opposed to physical-location-based groupings. I say short-
term because I am assuming that we aren't going to reinvent basic UI
structures (ie. the triumvirate of sidebar-summary pane and detail
In the long-term however, it may make much more sense to allow people
to navigate this conceptual landscape in a way that doesn't
"duplicate or triplicate" items into multiple "locations" simply
because the "locations" are defined along conceptual axes.
+ items are arrayed on a canvas that itself has semantic meaning (ie.
like a map or a calendar)
+ items are displayed with visual cues exposing key metadata (ie. an
avatar for "who" an email is from, color for "hair color", size for
"file size" or "task size")
In this model, items would never "appear in" multiple locations,
thereby violating the "method of loci" described in Philippe's
articles. Instead, items remain singular and various ways to "slice
and dice" or "group" items emerge from visual groupings.
+ All green stuff
+ All big stuff
+ All stuff in the upper-right-hand quadrant
We already have this kind of view for calendar. It would be
interesting to explore a similar UI framework for more generic and
heterogeneous displays of data.
For more detailed descriptions of what I'm proposing, see: http://
On Jan 25, 2006, at 8:56 PM, Philippe Bossut wrote:
> Grant Baillie wrote:
>> A "+" button next to the "Appears In..." item in the detail view
>> as a clue?
> Or making the whole "Appears In..." field editable.
> Anyway, I remember that we played with a similar idea in Entourage
> and implemented "search folders" so that, indeed, emails appeared
> in different places (instead of being filtered and moved). This
> feature tested terribly. It's somewhat disorienting for people to
> have one thing appearing in 2 places at the same time...
> - Philippe
> PS: on the subject of locations (places) and items, it seems that
> some of it is so hard wired in our brains that using it is the best
> memory strategy known. See:
> _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
> Open Source Applications Foundation "Design" mailing list
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