This post tries to shed some light on the often bewildering exchange between your users and the information they use (or uses them as the case may be).
Our discussion adheres to a simple, familiar concept that governs these interactions. Think of the marketplace. Think economic cycles. Think fundamental rules. Now apply the laws of supply and demand to your internal databases and networks:
Supply – The content we’ve already got posted and indexed.
Demand – Why our users are spending time in the systems we build them.
Again it’s that demand side where all the mystery unfolds. What attracts demand to supply on intranets? In retail this is a question answered with every new trip to the checkout counter. But we knowledge intermediaries don’t have the benefit of measuring demand by dollars spent. The only expenditure on our information assets is the attentions paid by our users – a payment rarely shared with us!
Still, for information architects the response might bear some resemblance to the common shopping experience in the form of...
* Freshness – continuous updates of volatile, time-sensitive information – especially where responses to pending changes are required
* Uniqueness – documents with exceptional properties and lacking the redundancy of more generic materials
* Transferability – The ease of getting document text, graphics, and formatting from one project to another
But are these qualities best measured in the algorithms of code or the minds our users? We all know who won that battle in the race to define relevancy on the web and it was Page Rank by a mile. But what about inside the firewall? What could be more organic than a formula based on most popular downloads? What could be more democratic than tracing click-throughs to the ultimate purchase -- not a catalog page, or a banner ad but the buying of an argument, the best-selling item in the shopping cart of any analyst.
Not so fast. What about voting qualifications? Are some elections to the hall of top docs more democratic than others? We all know the only impediment to gaming the world's most popular ranking formula. And it has far more to do with Google's hush-hush policies than the brilliance of its programmers.