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Recent Readings

Book review: Darwinia
Reviewed: Friday, August 11, 2006

Summer reading: Spin
Reviewed: Saturday, August 5, 2006

Reviewed: Tuesday, July 18, 2006

the Omnivoire's Delimma
Reviewed: Wednesday, July 12, 2006

the Golem's Eye
Reviewed: Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Building Bridges: Customisation and Mutual Intelligibility in Shared Category Management
Paul Dourish and John Lamping and Tom Rodden, 1999 , (Paper URL)
Thursday, September 22, 2005

The mix of sociology and computer science provides fertile ground for making tools that make work work better instead of making work more work. It also leads to papers with longer sentences and words like "artifacts", "appropriation", and "mutual intelligibility". This paper by Dourish et. al. explores how a government agency (the Department) deals with the long term categorization problems involved in tracking projects (like building a bridge) from inception to completion and maintenance. The project documentation must be categorized for many different groups using government mandated categories (which occasionally change and which don't always fit the task at hand). To augment the paper categorization, Dourish et. al. provide the metaphor of layered sheets (akin in some ways to magic lenses) which add, remove and modify categories in the system. Each group and individual can create their own set of sheets to structure their work. The sheets don't change the underlying categorizations so user's can understand each other's work by adding and removing them. Thus the architecture supports both customization and intelligibility.

This looks like a nice piece of work but it appears that not much has happened since 1999. We finally have Spotlight, Google Desktop and Windows Vista will be here someday. But none of these come close to the sorts of things offered in research labs 10 and 20-years ago. Sigh.

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Copyright -- Gary Warren King, 2004 - 2006