Checklist of features for good conceptual models

[Cross posted at Future Tense]

Another excellent resource courtesy of James Robertson at Column Two. Good mental models are especially relevant in knowledge work arenas where so much of what we do tends to be invisible. This checklist should help you improve the models you make, whether for your own use or for broader consumption.

List of features of models

Idiagram has published an excellent list of features that all conceptual models should share. To quote:

Broadly speaking we use the term ‘model’ to refer to any structured knowledge that accurately reflects and enables us to make sense of the world. Models exist both internally as ‘mental models’ and externally as ‘cognitive artifacts’. Cognitive artifacts can take many forms: written texts, spoken stories, graphs, diagrams, pictures, videos, spreadsheets, equations, computer-simulations, etc. While these different kinds of models vary greatly in their form and function, they all share certain desirable properties.

[Thanks to Mark Schenk.][Column Two – List of Feastures of Models]

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Trust, Verify, and Triangulate – column at ESJ

Back in December I wrote a column for the Enterprise Systems Journal on the notion of triangulation as a key data collection and analysis strategy that is increasingly relevant in an economy characterized by information abundance. My central point was that:

In organizational (and other) settings where you are attempting to make sense of—or draw useful inferences from—a multitude of noisy and conflicting sources, the principles of triangulation offer a workable strategy for developing useful insights in a finite and manageable amount of time.

In navigation, the more widely and evenly dispersed your sightings, the more precisely you can fix your position. Focus your data collection on identifying and targeting multiple sources of input that represent divergent, and possibly conflicting, perspectives. Within an organization, for example, work with supporters and opponents, both active and passive, of a proposed reorganization or systems deployment to develop an implementation strategy. When evaluating and selecting a new application, seek out a wider assortment of potential references, vendors, and analysts. [Trust, Verify, and Triangulate]

Since that column, I’ve watched several of the recurring discussions (e..g Doc Searls, Eric Norlin, and Kent Newsome) about the changing relations between MSM (Main Stream Media) and new media forms such as blogs. Thinking about the contrasts between information collection and analysis strategies sheds some light on this debate. We used to live in a world with a handful of authoritative sources we learned to trust. With a bit more sophistication we added verify’to trust. Both those strategies work in a world of small numbers of sources, but breakdown in the world of multiple, conflicting, and contradictory sources. Triangulation then emerges as a viable alternative.

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Visualizing situations – sense-making displays

For years, the underlying design premise for information systems was that the important problem was to collect and manage the data. We’ve succeeded so well, in fact, that the design problem now is to invent better ways to make sense out of the data we now have on hand.

Andrew Vande Moere’s information aesthetics blog is one of several new sources helping with that sense-making. Here,  he points to an example of some research from Utah on one approach to information display that might be adapted to any number of quickly evolving situations. You might also want to check out Andrew’s home page at the University of Sydney and the Key Centre of Design Cognition and Computing.

situational awareness map

16 December 2005

situationalawarenesssmall.jpga novel visual correlation paradigm for situational awareness (perception of elements within time & space, their meaning, & the projection of their future status) for various complex emergency applications such as network alert incident reporting, emergency awareness & biological agent detection.
the concentric rings in the circle represent sequential time samples. this modified tree-ring shows how the presence of biological agents has evolved over time. the inside of the ring structure shows where sensors across the country are set up. the map in the middle enables the correlation of the presence of agents to the sensor that detected it. the correlating line has a variable width that shows the probability of the agent under analysis: the thicker the line the greater the probability of an actual attack. additional information can be shown on the ring to support more complex analysis.
(better images after the break) [ (pdf)]

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Switching from Radio to WordPress for McGee’s Musings

I finally got around to finishing the transition from Radio to WordPress for McGee’s Musings. I don’t think there will be an serious breakage, but do let me know otherwise. I’ve elected to simply cut over from Jan 1 forward and leave the old Radio blog archives in place. Someday I might get around to porting them.

With the switch to WordPress, I am re-enabling comments and trackbacks, which will be moderated. Let’s hope that the platform change will also lead to some increase in posting frequency. Not that technology has been the excuse for my recent general level of silence.

I expect I will continue to fiddle with the new design and new platform. Feedback of any kind is welcome.

Radio Archives

I started this blog in October of 2001 using Radio as my blogging tool. The blog has been hosted with its own domain from the beginning so the archives are already here. I am gradually porting them over to WordPress. In the meantime here are links to archived posts that have yet to be converted.















About this blog

I started McGee’s Musings in October of 2001 when I was on the faculty at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management as a way to share thoughts with my students. While they sometimes struggled with the notion that I often had more questions than answers, that seemed to cause less concern to those who came here. Most of what I think and write about here has to do with knowledge work, knowledge workers, learning, design, and how organizations are dealing with changes triggered in large part by technology.

No one pays me to write this blog or to say particular things on it. I pay webhosting and bandwidth costs for this blog out of my own pocket. Recently (late 2005), posts here are picked up and reposted at Corante’s Web Hub; there is some hope and expectation that this might ultimately generate some modest revenues to me, although my primary objective there is greater visibility. I also happen to like the folks at Corante and think they are doing interesthing things. I do not run ads here and do not expect to.

My day job is as a consultant helping clients on issues related to the management and use of technology. I do not identify clients by name or in any way that would make them identifiable unless I have explicit permission (and generally not even then).

I’ve been an entrepreneur and I’ve been around the technology world for a while. I believe, and I have found, that transparency is a good thing. If I encounter a situation where my previous connections or other circumstances bear on what I write here, I disclose the pertinent details or find something else to talk about instead.

As David Weinberger suggests in his blog disclosure (which I cribbed from for this disclosure), I use my judgment. Since I am not a lawyer I choose to err in the direction of assuming that anyone reading here is also capable of exercising judgment.

If you have questions or concerns, feel free to contact me.