Review of Ambient Findability by Peter Morville

Peter Morville is a well known information architect, who co-wrote Information Architecture for the World Wide Web. He recently wrote Ambient Findability, which is an O'Reilly book related to search, so I had to read it.

I was a bit uncertain exactly what the book would be about when I bought it. Ambient Findability is primarily about how people interact with the web & information, and I was well pleased to find that the book looked at search from a some perspectives I have not read before.

Most the time I look at search I am thinking rank rank rank. I find how people interact with information to be a fairly interesting topic, and Peter went in great detail about a number of things I don't usually think about.

Peter talks about:

  • tying the web & real world together

  • the history of wayfinding
  • how we interact with information
  • the limits of language
  • push vs pull
  • sharing & tagging information & the semantic web
  • some of the reasons for bad information consumption habbits
  • and one of my favorite subjects: how our views on authority change as we are able to solve more of our own problems

In the push vs pull chapter he talked about striking the balance with marketing, and I think this quote is useful to marketers:

Markets are conversations. People exchange goods, services, ideas, and values in an intricate dance of push and pull. And as technology disrupts and transforms the marketplace, only those who listen carefully will profit from this persistent disequilibrium between supply and demand. - p. 117

In SEO it is common for people to want to rank #1 at any cost and then have a site that wastes the traffic it gets. Peter does not talk about marketing as a stand alone product, but mentions how it should be integrated holistically into the site.

This User Experience Design article on his website has a picture of what he calls The User Experience Honeycomb, which shows how he believes value is strung together through the combination of assets.

Ambient Findability is a cool read.

Published: October 11, 2005 by Aaron Wall in book reviews


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