25 April 2017

design disruption

There was a screening of Design Disruptors this afternoon up on campus. It is a documentary by invision about "the transformative power of design." The emphasis is on the user experience and mostly about how to make it seamless, effortless, intuitive. Some of the things I scribbled in the dark as the film rolled: design sprint; saving time is sexy now; obvious is not easy, great is still hard; iterate iterate; design thrives on constraints. Facebook HQ has 2G Tuesdays where designers and other staff use FB with a 2G connection to get a taste of how some of the bells and whistles work with a slow connection. Lots of good stuff to think about including packaging your ideas.

I was thinking about library cataloging software as I listened and watched. In the past decade or so, I have used several brands of cataloging software: Geac Advance; ALEPH from Ex Libris; III Millennium; Voyager from Ex Libris; OCLC Connexion. Each of them has quirks. I wonder how this software can be so clunky as I'm adding a new field or subfield, or editing the fixed fields, or putting in delimiters. Why do we put up with it? Most of the groovy library catalog developments have been on the user experience end of things, with discovery interfaces and one-box searching, usually with follow-up faceting. Maybe the back-end of some of the applications in the film are as clunky as the library programs. We only saw what Etsy looked like from the user side, not how the data on available objects is created. Still, I cannot imagine that inputting your objects on your Etsy site could be as clunky as the current library systems.

I also have used LibraryThing over the past decade. It is a website where you can catalog your personal books (or "wanna-reads" or "would-love-to-owns") and tag them and put them in collections. It's quite a lot more straightforward than the library systems, at least on the cataloging side of things. The library systems also try to control circulation and acquisition information. Our libraries also have mountains of legacy data.