Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Laws of Information Needs and Uses

There are so many formats and protocols for information these days. I think it would be a good idea to develop some guidelines for evaluating and developing new information tools.

  1. People want information to be free.
  2. People want information right this instant.
  3. People want information to be ubiquitous.
  4. People want information to be accurate.
  5. People want information to transfer easily to other devices or formats.
  6. People want information to come from one tool.

People want information to be free.

I think that this is the case in so many ways. First of all, nobody really wants to pay for anything. Secondly, we have gotten so used to free information from the library and the internet, it is especially galling for the majority of the public to pay for it.

People want information right this instant.

Technology should be shortening the distance between our information need and our information acquisition. If I'm hiking in the wilderness and I think that I hear a bear, I will want to know if I'm supposed to make a great deal of noise when I confront it, or if I'm supposed to play dead--the distinction could be a matter of life or death, and I don't have time to go to the library. Ideally, a short phrase spoken (quietly) into my wireless phone or Pocket PC would get me the information I need.

People want information to be ubiquitous.

Looking back at the bear example, it is also important to have access to information wherever possible. Having the information in my house, at the library, or in a bookstore is all very well and good if I'm ever attacked there (provided the bear gives me the opportunity to find the right book and consult the index) but I don't recall any recent cases like that.

People want information to be accurate,

This seems like a given, but there is a great deal of misinformation out there and we need to have some method of determining our source's authority. In this case, I'd hope for some information from the National Park Service.

People want information to transfer easily to other devices or formats.

Once I find my information, I may want to keep it with me for reassurance. I may want it recorded so that I can play it back for myself (or the bear). I may want to save it on my phones display screen. I may even want to print it out--not the greatest idea if you're looking for low-impact camping. I may want to email it to my lawyer for liability purposes ("I did exactly what they said--now they won't pay for my limb re-attachment.") The point is, when I find information, I hate having to type it or write it out again.

People want information to come from one tool.

I say this not because it's the best method, but because it's how people seem to look for information. If someone likes using Google, they will Google everything. If they prefer Yahoo, they will turn there for information. If they always ask their friends, they will continue to ask their friends. When one tool works well for someone, they will try that tool first, regardless of its appropriateness (wrench as hammer).

There are drawbacks and hazards associated with each of these "laws" and I know that there are more ways that people hope to obtain and use information, but I think that this is a good jumping off point for planning and discussion.

0 Comments: