Working with Parameters

Like most organizational geniuses, I am a perfectionist.  This is great for building taxonomies, but a challenge for blogging.  All changes are announced to subscribers, so public editing is a parameter of the blog medium.  When I discovered a strengthening detail for the “Snoopy in Subphylum Vertebrata” table, my edit changed the date of the “Species” post from 12/21/05 to 1/1/06, generating feed messages to subscribers and causing other mayhem.  That post is a lot of fun and I had promoted it by date in my Holiday cards.

Taxonomy construction often has exterior parameters.  The selection of Bloglines for my blog service is one.  Bloglines is plain vanilla but it has a crucial feature that surpasses all others.  It is the only service I know that publishes spreadsheets. My spreadsheets display my taxonomies.  So the selection of Bloglines was an easy decision.

As I indicated in my “Strategy” posting (1/1/06), the “Snoopy in Subphylum Vertebrata” table is the product of many such exterior parameters, primary being the width of the blog.  The spreadsheet has to fit within a defined space.  It also has to be a fairly basic structure to transfer over to Bloglines.

These two parameters resulted in an early strategic decision.  I wanted to include the Latin and the English names for Snoopy’s imagined animals.  Both names on the same line would make the columns too wide for the Bloglines space.  So I put the Latin and English on two separate lines within the same cell.  This made the table longer, but still allowed the five columns.  The two-line cells, however, added a need to differentiate between rows.  Bloglines will not display a table’s borders, so I placed a blank row between species, adding more length, but definitely improving readability.

These parameters greatly impact the appearance and therefore the usability of the structure.  At many points in developing “Snoopy in Subphylum Vertebrata,” I needed to resolve an exterior parameter.  When the change was made, I evaluated the resulting structure from the viewpoint of the reader.  Is this easy to understand and if not, what can I do, given this parameter, to improve user experience?  If it is easy to understand, is there another detail that will make the improvement even greater?  Working with parameters is essentially problem solving.  It’s recognizing the rules and then adjusting the variables for the best fit.

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Jan 2006

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