On Dan Hill’s “Adaptive Design” Piece…

12/10/2002

I still haven’t completely formed my opinions on the recent IA seminar on “Adaptive Design” I attended (Dan Hill from cityofsound speaking). He’s put up the presentation along with some notes which should make the whole process rather easier. The one thing that I know stuck in my head throughout the whole thing was that there was a regular appeal towards building adaptive sites with an architecture that allowed experiementation and adaptability. There were a few more people talking about component-level systems like Lego as well. They too kept talking about the simple rules of the system that governed the use of these blocks. Everyone seemed to think that the job of the designer was the development of rules and components within self-contained sites. I kept thinking of Operating Systems and the Internet – universal computing machines lying behind the scenes forming an architecture. And then I started thinking of Applications and Sites as the components within these machines. In a sense we’re already designing components within a larger open system – allowing individuals to assemble their own ‘machines’ (which amount to their interactions with computers). Maybe we’re getting this all wrong – maybe we shouldn’t be looking at the products we make and trying to componentise them still further. Maybe we should just look to simplify what each function does and have them hang off one another by using standard formats and useful proceedures for interoperability…

I’ll give you a quick example. Blogger is a way of storing content in a particular format. It can feed that information out as e-mail, html and rss. The e-mails can be sent to me to be viewed on my e-mail client, or they can be sent to Yahoogroups where they can be displayed out of context or repurposed to be sent out to large groups of people or in a digest format. The HTML can be viewed by a web browser (of which there are several different types including speech browsers, braile browsers etc) or pulled into databases (a al Blogdex and can also be printed out to be carried around with me, or put into a palm pilot, or screen-capped and adjusted. RSS feeds can be read by applications like NetNewsWire or by IM programs like Trillian or they can be aggregated (as on Haddock Blogs) or they can be put into databases and reused. Each one of these is a component. Each one of which is something that a user decides (or decides not to) use in assembling the magic “machine that makes things happen” (ie. their person computing space). So maybe that’s what we should be concentrating on – single use (or simple use) applications or sites that do something very well, can be removed or replaced from the processing chain of information. Maybe that’s adaptive design. Maybe it’s got nothing to do with us making the architecture at all. It’s already there.