Ambient Findability

By Deane Barker on June 25, 2008

I’m pretty saddened to say that I just didn’t get this book. I’ve known about it for a couple years, and finally read during downtime in Chicago, but I just didn’t get it.

Peter Morville, of course, wrote the Polar Bear Book (I’ve read all three editions) and is a legend in the information architecture world. This book was supposed to be a natural segue from his first book. But it couldn’t have been more different.

There was just nothing actionable in this book. It’s short — just eight chapters or so — and Morville goes on and on about one subject: there’s a lot of information in the world, and finding something is getting tougher and tougher. He has all sorts of examples, many of them fascinating.

But, when it was over, I was left saying, “Yeah, and…?” Besides many anecdotes, stories, and little vignettes about interesting findability issues, Morville didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. Yeah, there’s a lot of stuff out there. Yeah, finding stuff is tricky. And yes, there are some really interesting technologies around based on this problem. And…?

Additionally, the writing style was annoying at times. It’s very informal, sometimes to the point of stream-of-consciousness. There were times when it seemed like a rhetorical flourish was more important than actually making a point.

I loved the Polar Bear Book. And I idolized Morville when he was running Argus. But “Ambient Findability” left me completely deflated.

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