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Information Architecture & The Power of Curation

Resource: Guide on the Side – Richard Saul Wurman: Information Architect Pioneer
Description: Wurman’s insights on framing information and delivering good instruction


Instruction is a form of information architecture. It’s aim is the framing and delivering of content in a way that is optimally discoverable and digestible.

Good instruction requires familiarity with the user’s mindset.

Information is infinite, but the number of ways we can organize it is finite.

Conversation leads to creativity. Through the playful exchange of ideas with other minds, we stimulate new connections and spark latent insights.


On what Information Architecture is:

“Exactly what is an information architect? In RSW’s words “Someone who enables data to be transformed into understandable information.” Examples are his Tables of Contents which are annotated, and sometimes illustrated, to provide windows to his ideas.”

On interest as the key to learning:

“RSW considers interest to be the key to assimilating information, to learning and to reducing anxiety.”

On the 5 ways to organize information:

“We can take comfort in the knowledge that while information is infinite, the ways of organizing it are finite. According to RSW “It can only be organized by location, alphabet, time, category or hierarchy …This is the framework upon which annual reports, books conversations, exhibitions, directories, conventions and even warehouses are arranged.”

On the origin of TED talks and how conversation leads to creativity:

“Another key RSW idea is the conversation. In the 1980’s, he began to notice that his best ideas came out of random conversations and that these ideas seemed to merge and converge in the areas of technology, entertainment and design. Why not apply this conversation interaction to a larger group? So he organized the TED (technology, entertainment and design) conferences starting in 1984 in Monterey, CA. They became incubators for many new ideas and were RSW’s idea of a party…The faculty members were diverse and multi-disciplinary, everything from jugglers to nanobot scientists. All the TED conferences were exciting idea bazaars where serious and playful exchanges took place.”

Resource: As We May Think: Vannevar Bush’s Prescient 1945 Vision for the Information Age, the Power of “Curation,” and the Need for Open-Access Science
Description: Great insights from Vannevar Bush on mnowledge management and the future well being of humanity


Our means for producing and publishing knowledge outpace our methods for classifying such knowledge. In order for us to realize our potential as a species, we have to develop systems of knowledge management that enable us to keep up.

As knowledge grows, information architecture and knowledge management will become increasingly more important areas of expertise.

Classifying information isn’t just an issue for librarians and scientific researchers. This has great relevance to our ability to navigate everyday relationship issues and creative challenges as well. For any give problem or situation we find ourselves in, there is information somewhere that can help us. Improving our methods for discovering and digesting that information is therefore a pivotal component of problem solving.


On the misfortune of having inadequate methods and means for cataloguing information:

“Professionally our methods of transmitting and reviewing the results of research are generations old and by now are totally inadequate for their purpose. If the aggregate time spent in writing scholarly works and in reading them could be evaluated, the ratio between these amounts of time might well be startling. Those who conscientiously attempt to keep abreast of current thought, even in restricted fields, by close and continuous reading might well shy away from an examination calculated to show how much of the previous month’s efforts could be produced on call. Mendel’s concept of the laws of genetics was lost to the world for a generation because his publication did not reach the few who were capable of grasping and extending it; and this sort of catastrophe is undoubtedly being repeated all about us, as truly significant attainments become lost in the mass of the inconsequential.”

On the degree to which our ability to publish is evolving at a faster rate than our ability to manage knowledge:

“The difficulty seems to be, not so much that we publish unduly in view of the extent and variety of present day interests, but rather that publication has been extended far beyond our present ability to make real use of the record. The summation of human experience is being expanded at a prodigious rate, and the means we use for threading through the consequent maze to the momentarily important item is the same as was used in the days of square-rigged ships.”

Maria Popova on the pyramid of knowledge:

“To that end, I often think about the architecture of knowledge as a pyramid of sorts — at the base of it, there is all the information available to us; from it, we can generate some form of insight, which we then consolidate into knowledge; at our most optimal, at the top of the pyramid, we’re then able to glean from that knowledge some sort of wisdom about the world, and our place in it, and what matters in it and why.”

On the emerging profession and responsibilities of the information curator and knowledge manager:

“There is a new profession of trail blazers, those who find delight in the task of establishing useful trails through the enormous mass of the common record. The inheritance from the master becomes, not only his additions to the world’s record, but for his disciples the entire scaffolding by which they were erected.”

On the important of knowledge management to human evolution and progress:

“Presumably man’s spirit should be elevated if he can better review his shady past and analyze more completely and objectively his present problems. He has built a civilization so complex that he needs to mechanize his records more fully if he is to push his experiment to its logical conclusion and not merely become bogged down part way there by overtaxing his limited memory. ”

Resource: Getting Things Done by David Allen
Description: Knowing how to determine priorities


The key to productivity is being able to stay confident/relaxed about the things you do NOT do and knowing how to handle interruptions.

Thtree kinds of work: 1) predefined work 2) work that comes up in the moment 3) the work of defining your work.

When you’re not sufficiently organized, yoy get stuck on the second kind of work.

The reason many people get sucked into a lifestyle of putting out fires is because they don’t have a system that allows them to capture their inputs. So they stop what they’re doing and handle tasks in the moment because that’s their best way to ensure things get done.

You can learn how to handle urgencies and emrgencies like a boss if you take the time to review and update your system.


On the value of thinking about your work before the heat of the moment:

“At the end of the day, in order to feel good about what you didn’t get done, you must have made some conscious decisions about your accountabilities, goals, and values. ”

On the seductiveness of being in urgency-mode

“It is often easier to get wrapped up in the urgent demands of the moment than to deal with your in-tray, e-mail, and the rest of your open loops. I’ve noticed that people are actually more comfortable dealing with surprises and crises than they are taking control of processing, organizing, reviewing, and assessing that part of their work that is not as self-evident. It’s easy to get seduced into “busy” and “urgent” mode, especially when you have a lot of unprocessed and relatively out-of-control work on your desk, in your e-mail, and on your mind. ”

On how being prepared equips you for the urgent:

“The constant sacrifices of not doing the work you have defined on your lists can be tolerated only if you know what you’re not doing. That requires regular processing of your in-tray (defining your work) and consistent review of complete lists of all your predetermined work. ”

“There are no interruptions—there are only mismanaged inputs. ”

On building interruptions into your system:

“If choosing to do work that just showed up instead of doing work you predefined is a conscious choice based on your best call, that’s playing the game the most effective way you can. Most people, however, have major improvements to make in how they clarify, manage, and renegotiate their total inventory of projects and actions. If you let yourself get caught up in the urgency of the moment, without feeling comfortable about what you’re not dealing with, the result is frustration and anxiety. Too often the stress and reduced effectiveness are blamed on the surprises. If you know what you’re doing and what you’re not doing, surprises are just another opportunity to be flexible and creative, and to excel. ”

On the interruptions as mismanaged inputs:

“Another reason people consider unexpected demands or requests negative is because they don’t trust their own system and behaviors to be able to put a “bookmark” on any resulting action that needs to be taken, or on the work they’re doing at the moment. They know they need do something about the new work that just showed up, but they don’t trust that a simple note in their own in-tray will ensure it is handled with proper timing. So they stop their previous work and immediately go do what was just requested or required of them, complaining about the interruption that just disturbed their life. There are no interruptions, really—there are simply mismanaged occurrences. ”

On how your system frees you up:

“when you’ve developed the skill and habits of processing input rapidly into a rigorously defined system, it becomes much easier to trust your judgment calls about the dance of what to do, what to stop doing, and what to do instead. ”

On becoming a GTD jedi:

“People often complain about the interruptions that prevent them from doing their work. But interruptions are unavoidable in life. When you become elegant at dispatching what’s coming in and are organized enough to take advantage of “weird time” windows that show up, you can switch between one task and the other rapidly. You can be processing e-mails while you’re on hold on a conference call. Research has now proven that you can’t actually multitask, i.e. put conscious focused attention on more than one thing at a time; and if you are trying to, it denigrates your performance considerably. If your head is your only system for placeholding, you will experience an attempted multitasking internally, which is psychologically impossible and the source of much stress for many people. If you have established practices for parking still-incomplete items midstream, however, your focus can shift cleanly from one to the next and back again, with the precision of a martial artist who appears to fight four people at once, but who in reality is simply rapidly shifting attention. ”

“Your ability to deal with surprise is your competitive edge, and a key to sanity and sustainability in your lifestyle. But at a certain point, if you’re not catching up and getting things under control, staying busy with only the work at hand will undermine your effectiveness. And ultimately, in order to know whether you should stop what you’re doing and do something else, you’ll need to have a good sense of all your roles and how they fit together in a larger context. The only way you can have that is to evaluate your life and work appropriately at multiple horizons. “

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