This is my new favorite race. Great course along the bluffs of the Mississippi. The usual fantastic group of Rangar runners, volunteers and organizers. Being on a Surly Brewing sponsored team doesn’t hurt either. I ran three fantastic legs and nailed my pace on each plus I had a blast doing it. I’m in love with Minnesota now. Can’t wait to get back there in X-C season. Hopefully we have some snow this year.

I started a post about the Adobe CQ5 Context/Clickstream Cloud last week, but before I get that out I feel inclined to mention the total ease with which we are able to collaborate with our client and our hosting & integration partner. After my team went to training last fall, we got a bit swamped with end of the year client “omigod I’ve got budget left that I need to spend in the next two weeks or I lose it forever” madness. That was followed by a super busy January and February, which I found was leading to some serious rustification of the skills we picked up in training. We managed to schedule some time with our CQ5 vendor partners who walked us through setting up access to their development repositories. They WebExed the process for us and I screen recorded. Today, one of my Lead Developers and I followed along with the video to document the process and to screencap the steps along the way. At the end of it, I was amazed at how simple it is to get up and running.

The beauty of this whole set up for us is that we can now own the look and feel of the UI from here in Chicago, our client manages all the content and product assets from Denver and our friends in Boston handle all the heavy lifting on infrastructure, form processing, Salesforce routing, etc. For the three parties involved, CQ5 is a platform that is going to enable us to collaboratively pursue our individual workstreams simultaneously. At any given time, we have landing pages, microsites, enterprise site updates going on. Over the years, this has been a mix of small static sites, landing pages and a huge CMS-driven product site all working through a cumbersome translation process to support upwards of 60 localized sites.

After working for decades in a world of code freezes and deployment windows, the fact that we’re now set up to maintain all these things inside a single platform with pretty much zero bottlenecks is pretty damn cool.

The other day, I caught a tweet linking to a blog post titled “WE’RE ALL TECHNOLOGISTS NOW: 6 STEPS TO RETRAINING AND REINVENTING YOUR CREATIVE TALENT” from Allison Kent-Smith (@swervshop). This post came on the heels of her appearance as a panelist at SXSW at a session titled, “The New Black? How Digital Ed Is Everything.”

The post delighted me largely because I’m a narcissist at heart and I love it when I find an expert articulation that totally agrees with a thought that I’ve been having myself. It was all I could do to not punch the air and yell, “YES” on the bus. Allison is one of the founders of Boulder Digital Works and currently Director of Digital Development at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. That’s Digital Development as in growing people and through them business. Her current job description reads:

Head of agency L&D, focused on digital and technical programming, curriculum, and content. Hired to launch custom “school within the agency” focused on both employees and clients. Lead design, development, and implementation. ED program includes instruction in Interaction Design, UX, Business Development, Programming, Strategy, Social Media, Mobile and other technical areas. Develop programming, design curriculum, manage (and build) ED department, recruit faculty, concept content, liaison with agency leaders, develop annual programs for clients, and direct digital experiences. Manage classes, workshops, programs, field trips, pop-ups, and other experimental forms of in-house and external education. Design organizational process, structure, approach, and support for L&D agency-wide. Recruit industry leaders “teachers” in respective fields, 70% external and 30% internal.

I recommend reading the post. Here’s the definition of the issue in her words:

Today, agency reinvention continues to be a priority. We adjust agency processes, capabilities, and partnerships, trade talent at record speeds, support a small group of technology leaders, change seating arrangements, and force interdepartmental collaboration. Yet rarely do we invest in large-scale talent reinvention; rarely do we commit to what is arguably our most valuable asset in today’s agency landscape: the digital knowledge of employees.

The world around us is rapidly growing ever more digital at an accelerating pace while the marketing and communications establishment seems to be largely content to plod along and pretend like everything is going to work out differently for us than it did for the music and publishing industries. I’m continually amazed that, upon hearing my title, people will speak out loud the words, “oh, digital, I’m technologically illiterate, I just don’t understand any of that stuff.” I’m also concerned when my traditional leaning colleagues will just assume that their own responsibilities will automagically fall to someone else if there is even the slightest whiff of technology.

At VSA, my team tries to do as much as we can squeeze in. We bring in third parties to present demos. We host the occasional brown bag to cover a new case study or a new technology. That’s really the least we can do and unfortunately our focus on getting work done often means it’s the most we can do. We’re just one team in one small agency, but if everyone else in Chicago is having the same trouble we’re having in finding the time and the will to really have a go at changing the general level of digital knowledge in our industry, what does that mean for our future? Someone is going to be eating our lunch, right?

I think those of us in digital leadership roles in Chicago need to figure out a way to foster more education and community. It has to be more than the LinkedIn or Facebook groups that just become hunting grounds for recruiters. And most importantly, it has to be more than digital people talking to digital people. We need to get our traditional counterparts over their fear or indifference or whatever it is and really start a dialogue around what we can do to move our industry forward.

I’ve said some of this before and admittedly it’s just been talking, but seeing that it’s not just an issue for Chicago and that other folks are working to figure it out makes me feel like I’m ready for some action. So, where to begin?

Last Fall I had the great pleasure of attending Adobe CQ5 developer training in McClean, VA. After years spent, unfunking hulking, bloated, years old web sites poorly built on portal platforms by backoffice software engineers, it was really eye opening to see where the CMS has got to and the product strategy that is unfolding at Adobe. There are some CMS staples in the DNA of CQ5, but it’s completely apparent that the platform has been written from the ground up to be a content-centric delivery mechanism.

As for the new label, Client Engagement Platform might sound like pure marketing bs, but given that Adobe has paired their acquisitions Omniture and Day in a single product group, it’s actually not far from the reality.

CQ5 has the ability to deliver targeted and personalized content on the fly in a way that we dreamed about years ago, but was never technically feasible with the legacy technologies available to us. Now we’ve got volumes of user data coming along with a visitor. Data that we can continue to refine as a user clicks, scrolls and hovers. With that we can target content specifically to that user with no login and no stored personalization while they are looking at the page! And unlike portal systems of the past it doesn’t take the page 10 minutes to render.

There are some key technologies that enable this that can be described as “Enterprise Open-Source” including standards-based JCR, Sling and OSGi.

CQ5 Architecture

Gotta run for the train. More to come.

Gonna catch up on things a bit. I don’t think I’ve had a real post since late last summer and a lot has happened. In the last days leading up to the 2011 Chicago Marathon, I had a great run at the Trails of Naperville Half Marathon. It was hot as could be and I was starting to see spots by the last couple miles, but still managed to shave a few minutes off of my previous record. The mid-day heat training over the summer had really helped and I was looking forward to putting in a good showing at in October. I was feeling really confident that I could at last get a marathon in under 4h45m which was my goal for both or my previous races. In the 2010 Chicago Marathon, that goal was smooshed by the insanely hot weather. In the Chicagoland Spring Marathon it was the freezing rain and 25 mph headwind that did me in. Still, I was happy just to finish both of those races, and despite my time on the day, I had a really solid year+ of training under my belt for my first two marathons.

After running the Ragnar Relay in June and a super consistent summer of training, I was feeling great. No ITB, no PF, no niggling injuries from footie. (yep, playing soccer and marathon training at the same time was probably not such a good idea in 2010).

Unfortunately, just a few weeks before the 2011 Chicago Marathon, I lost control of my scooter while coming to a stop at a traffic light, thanks to a road slicked with leaking garbage from a city sanitation truck. Not fun. I landed hard enough on my knee to bone bruise my patella and I tweaked my soleus, deeply bruised my gastrocnemius, and strained my patellar tendon. I went right into rehab and worked really hard to recover enough to run/walk the marathon, but it didn’t work out. I made it to the expo to pick up my t-shirt and race packet, but I already knew I wasn’t going to be starting.

That sucked a lot, but the silver lining is that this whole experience really opened my eyes to strength and stabilization training. One of the exercises I started in physical therapy was leg lifts with 2 pound weights. Piece of cake right? Being able to run for five hours without stopping means your legs should have the strength to lift a 2 pound weight into the air 10 times right? Wrong. What an eye opener. It turns out that if all you do is run, you are really neglecting a lot of muscle that is super helpful toward increasing performance and preventing injury.

So, joined a second gym, started personal training in December and have since been limiting my run mileage and frequency while still posting some pretty sizable gains in my pace and stamina. In January, I smashed my half marathon PR well enough that I’m going to train to qualify for the 4 hour corral in the 2012 Chicago Marathon. To qualify I’ll need to drop from my current record pace of 9m16s/mi down to 8m28s/mi or 1h50m59s. Totally doable. Yee-haw!

I’m starting my Spring training with targeting a <45m 8K run at the Shamrock Shuffle on March 25 and then training for my three legs in this years Chicago Ragnar Relay which are 8.2mi, 4.7mi and 4.2. I'm hoping to rock my target 8m28s/mi for that first leg and then closer to 8m flat pace for the two shorter legs. The best part though of the Ragnar is that I get to captain not one, but two teams this year. We've got 24 parents on board to raise funds for The Irving Schoolyard Project (http://bit.ly/irvingragnardonate). It's going to be a great time and I'm really looking forward to it. After that, I'll take a week or two of recovery and then will start laying on distance with the hope of hitting my qualifying half marathon some time early in August. Gonna have to find a nice cool Northern race for that one.

The Irving Schoolyard Project team is hosting a public meeting about the plan for the Irving blacktop on January 18th at the school. I’m most excited about the U10 turf “athletic field.”

Greetings, and Happy New Year!

I hope you can join us at Irving School on Wednesday, January 18, from 7:00-8:00 pm to learn about our most ambitious PTO initiative to date, the Irving Schoolyard Project. As you may know, Irving has almost no outdoor green space and we have a vision for something better.

This public meeting will explain our Master Plan for a new schoolyard, which is more than only a playground. It includes outdoor classrooms, a playing field, and opportunities to incorporate environmental initiatives into the curriculum. We hope it will be a place that all Oak Parkers seek out to play, learn and enjoy.

The meeting is open to the public and will be held in the Irving School Auditorium (1125 S. Cuyler). Parking is available in the Ridgeland Ave. parking lot. A flyer is attached. Please feel free to share this information with any friends and neighbors who may be interested.

Hope to see you soon!

Going to add the Google Web Font “Spinnaker” to the site. As I write this post, the YSlow score is 98 and the grade for my home page is an overall A for almost every category with only the lack of CDN dropping to a C. After adding the font to my head with the embed link link href='http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Spinnaker' rel='stylesheet' type='text/css', that overall score drops to 96. The CDN grade drops to D, with expires headers and cookie free domains dropping to B grades. No big overall. Now to play with some of the CSS styling to see if I can give this template a little face lift while I wait for my brain to decide I can go to sleep. 🙂

Cleaning up some old files and found this old Monster.com interview. There was a time as recently as a few years ago, when this article had been copied and pasted and linked all over the web enough that it regularly showed up as one of the top 5 results in any Google search for IA related topics. Sadly, it has aged and fallen into obscurity leaving my SEO juju slightly lower. However, reading it today, I have to say that Mike and I did a pretty good job of articulating the nascent career of Information Architect way back in 1999. The kicker in the whole thing though is the salary range I posited at the end. Remember, this was pre-bubble when anyone with a decent IQ and a computer with Web access could get a job for ridiculous money.

Become an Information Architect
Work as a Web Site Strategist
by Sacha Cohen
Monster Contributing Writer
The birth, development and launch of an engaging, well-designed Web site starts with an idea and a vision. Beyond that, detailed planning and organization, open communication among team members and a common goal bring the idea to fruition. And information architects play a key role in that process.

To find out exactly what it takes to succeed in this intriguing job, I spoke to Mattie Langenberg, principal of the Chicago-based Schema Studios, and Creative Director Michael Brooks.

Monster: First, what exactly is information architecture?

Mattie Langenberg: Information architecture, as the name implies, is basically about taking content and creating a structure to present that content to an audience. Whether the content is intended for a private audience on an intranet or for the public, it is the information architect’s job to ensure that information is well-organized and presented in an easily accessible interface.

Monster: What skills and knowledge do you need to do this type of job?

Michael Brooks: Design and communication skills are essential. The ability to create the structure of a Web site and the ability to explain and illustrate that structure are key. The IA must be able to ensure ease of navigation, simplicity of design and communicate the site design to the client as well as to the development team.

ML: In an organizational chart of a given Web project, the IA is generally found somewhere between the administrative team (producers, project managers and editorial staff) and the development team (designers and programmers). The IA is the major communications vehicle between the two teams. [He or she] participates in the thinking and strategy before a project and the creation of the finished product. Information architects generally wear more than one hat on a given project, so versatility is important. You may be required to be a project manager, a designer or both. If you’re just getting started in the industry, it’s probably a good idea to take on one of those positions, and then work your way into information architecture.

Monster: Where can you learn or develop those skills?

ML: Any book by Edward Tufte will give you insight into the visual presentation of information. For the most part, getting into IA is a matter of experience. Learning on the job and being able to handle multiple aspects of a Web project go a long way toward being able to work as an IA.

MB: The best way to start learning the needed skills is to map out a Web site and see the different ways there are to express how the site ties together. Then illustrate those different paths in a clear and concise format.

Monster: Is a degree or certification necessary? If so, what type(s)?

ML: I don’t think a specific degree or certification is necessary; I don’t even know if there is such a thing yet. However, any education that emphasizes the organization and presentation of information is going to be helpful. For example, a design, journalism or computer science degree with an emphasis on user interface would be a good starting point.

MB: The Web development community is becoming more and more specialized every day. Four years ago, even though the position existed, the title of “information architect” didn’t. Information architects come from many different areas of Web development. Former designers, engineers, producers and HTML coders are now information architects.

Monster: Why is information architecture important to Web design?

ML: Well-thought-out Web design targets a specific user group. Whether you are building a business tool for your users, an e-commerce site or an entertainment venue, you want the finished product to be easy to use and understand. Your product will be something the user has never seen before. It’s important to be able to get into your audience’s head and produce something that they’re going to be comfortable with. That’s where the information architect comes in.

MB: For the client, an IA ensures that the site being developed can be easily updated and expanded — that it is scalable. On the developer side, the IA ensures that the development team has a solid foundation on which to build and can concentrate their efforts on graphic design, strategy and content development. For the end user, the IA designs a navigation system that users can easily move through without confusion.

Monster: What is the general salary range for an information architect?

ML: I’d say about $50K to 100K, depending on experience. If you’re a webmaster or an HTML production person, you’ll probably be on the low end. But if you have a design or project management background, you can expect to start on the high end.

Last week I ramped up big time with a bunch of mid-day runs in July heat. My long run this week was an 8-miler at the super hilly Morton Arboretum. It was a great setting. Tranquil. Serene. Beautiful. I love the Morton and the nearby Danada Woods for training. This was my first go at the Arboretum. Despite the hills, I loved it. The alternating shade of the trees with sweaty sun baked prairie was perfect for some 96 degree heat training. I took it slow and to be honest blew off 2 miles from my original 10 mile goal, but I think I did what I needed to.

Tomorrow begins pre-work morning strength training and short runs. Last year I made the big mistake of doing my mid-week runs on the treadmill and not doing much more than 3 or 4 miles. This week I start with 4 and ramp up to 7 during the week with a Saturday long run on 12 miles. Anyone up for a 7am trip to the Arboretum?