It’s crucial to understand that everything that happens in a dataesthetically designed space is potentially content. Every user’s click, every author’s decision may have value at some future point in time. Therefore, care must be taken to collect and categorize data as it’s generated, to facilitate that future use. This doesn’t mean this data must be used, or even available online. Just that it’s collection cannot be ignored simply because it’s not understood. Site logs are therefore potentially valuable tools, that must be saved offline for future use and retroactive study.
In daily life, there are many opportunities to collect and organize information on an ad hoc basis. Site notes of authors are an under-used, but potentially rich means of storing data, and building a cultural memory into sites that can save artists and designers countless hours of circular work. The notes sections of Powerpoint and Keynote documents provide similar opportunity. Web-driven calendaring provides a means of communicating and scheduling human and local resources from any physical location. Calendar’s with unlimited text fields are searchable databases, and with controlled access, can be good journaling tools, from which more developed content can be extracted, automatically or editorially. Fully utilizing these simple, powerful tools in a functional way (doing business from one’s website) is a way to generate content, and build interest as well as community around an activity or site.
There is no conflict or competition between Yahoo Groups, MSN Communities, professional Ebay’ers, and Amazon reviewers. In fact, these self-referential groups are no different from conventional regional or localized markets. Successful designers consider each culture individually, and create sites in each community that appeals directly to the locals, drawing from a common database of content. There is no superior community, only superior focus of content. Designing to the audience is important. The best solutions identify users through their actions relative to the forum or point of entry, and actively present appealing content. Using multiple channels only helps if the content is desirable or interesting, so it’s critical to pay attention, and take every opportunity to learn about users, starting with the culture and slant of the point of entry. Their path through information, reactions to content, not to mention direct feedback help categorize users and improve our content.
Conclusion: User’s actions themselves are important data, and potentially the basis for future content. Given the value of information, it cannot be ignored, and the best designs consider it’s application.