a jaundiced eye: intra dig
for friday, march 14, 1997.

A Paradox at the Heart

Much of the power in information lies in its organization, or so we would be led to believe by the proponents of a field known as information architecture.

Top-down design of information systems results in streamlined, more easily maintained code, as well as more appropriately structured information and workflow.

Distributed computing as opposed to the mainframe/terminal model allows for greater flexibility and more power in the hands of the desktop user. By breaking the hold on computing power held by the mainframe "priesthood", the desktop PC gave ordinary people immense freedom.

The question is, are these three statements compatible? Or, more importantly, will they be? When? And who will be the drivers behind the convergence - if it happens at all?

Java holds promise, as does the network computer, or NC. Approaches like that proposed by the Marimba team, with its centralized management and synchronization of information with desktop computers may succeed, but now Microsoft and several partners have announced their own standard.

The Web inside the company has become a liberating force for many - tapping into the best source of information there is - the employee.

Who owns corporate information? The users? Obviously it needs to reside as closely as possible to its users and producers, else it loses its value - either by going out of date or by being inaccessible. But what about the users who are not also the producers? Who manages their experience of these stores of information? Who organizes the points of access in this complex hypertext world?

We are faced with the problem of trying to combine the top-down, centralized design and presentation of information with its distributed, individual sources and maintainers. Microsoft's strategy as of a year ago was to place a web server on every desktop - and it hasn't changed, if the FrontPage Personal Web Server now shipping with FrontPage97 is any clue. Silicon Graphics, a celebrated example of a successful intranet implementation, allows anyone and everyone who wants to put up a web server to do so. They also provide Silicon Junction, a collection of these servers listed in a central location for ease of access.

Yahoo is making millions by offering a similar categorization and structured display of WWW sites. But before Lycos, WebCrawler, Yahoo, and others, there was no alternative - the sites already existed, but had no central registry. We who work on the intranet side of things are faced with a choice - follow the same path as the Internet and WWW, or try to do something better.

Let's hope we figure it out.

Steven Champeon

r e c i p r o c a t e

Permanently achived at: http://www.jaundicedeye.com/browse/intra_dig/031497/

© 1997-2001 Steven Champeon. All rights reserved.
All slights reversed.