Annual Report, 2005 - 2006
This, our fourth year of operation, marks our emergence as a truly international organization. As of December 31, 2006, the Institute boasted members in almost 70 countries. During the past 16 months, we have sponsored events on four continents. And our Board and Advisory Board conference calls are now coordinated across seven time zones on five continents.
Not surprisingly, many of our activities this past year have been operational in character, preparing the Institute to meet the varied needs of a far-flung membership. These include the creation of a more robust infrastructure, clearer back-office procedures, and well-defined administrative policies.
Scope of this report
Formerly, the Annual Report covered the period from September 1 until August 31, which coincided with the Board terms. However, our fiscal year is the same as the calendar year. In March, 2006, it was decided to extend the 2006 Annual Report (this document) to include a discussion of the last four months of 2005. Future annual reports will mirror the fiscal/calendar year and the bylaws have been changed accordingly. Our financial statement for this Report represents the fiscal year 2006.
In September 2005, Board elections were held. Victor Lombardi, Samantha Bailey, and Livia Labate left the Board of Directors to become members of the Advisory Board. We are incredibly grateful for their dedication these past years and look forward to a fruitful cooperation in the years to come. Samantha Starmer, Stacy Surla, and Peter Merholz joined incumbent Board members, Jess McMullin and Eric Reiss to form the new Board.
The new Board elected Peter Merholz as president, Samantha Starmer as secretary, and Stacy Surla as treasurer.
In June 2006, the Board decided to expand to seven members with the coming election in August/September 2006. Because the Institute has a "working" Board, more people were needed to ensure that our work was carried out in the most efficient manner. During the first and second weeks of September 2006, Board elections were again held. Jess McMullin stepped down after his two-year term, including one year as secretary. Eric Reiss was re-elected to a second two-year term. And three new talents joined our ranks: Donna Maurer, Sarah A. Rice, and Christian Crumlish. The new Board elected Eric Reiss as president, Samantha Starmer as secretary, and Stacy Surla as treasurer.
Four other areas of responsibility were also delegated:
Christian Crumlish, IT/Web Operations
Donna Maurer, Marketing/Communications
Peter Merholz, Director-At-Large
Sarah A. Rice, Events
These areas of responsibility are not new initiatives. Rather, they are simply a way for us to channel information and thus provide faster action on key operational issues. By establishing these specialized areas, we can reduce the number of basic housekeeping tasks on the Board’s agenda and thereby maintain our focus on the strategic issues that will shape our organization—and our industry—in the years to come. After just a few months in practice, the model is already proving its worth.
Noreen Whysel became our Operations Manager in September 2005—the Institute's first paid staffer. In March 2006, the Board decided to hire additional paid staff in the form of a Volunteer/Membership Coordinator, responsible for membership communications and revitalizing languishing initiatives. Stacy Surla spearheaded this activity and in early July, Melissa Weaver joined the IAI as our second staffer.
From September 2005, the Institute reduced the number of Advisory Board members from 25 to 10. This was done primarily to ensure that the advisors can contribute effectively, something that is more difficult with 25 people. We also wanted greater commitment from the individual members—which we have achieved.
Although our bylaws clearly state that the term of office for an Advisor is one year, this was never effectively communicated to those who served. As such, many loyal advisors who were not asked to serve another term felt snubbed. We have learned from this experience and our current advisors are probably the best informed to date.
Under all circumstances, we would like to emphasize how exceptionally grateful we are for the commitment and enthusiasm demonstrated by all of our Advisors—past and present. A huge thank you for your ongoing support and wise counsel!
The Institute has virtually doubled in size over the past few years. Today, we have 1316 members in 68 countries. We are receiving approximately 100 subscriptions per month, of whom approximately 75% are new members and 25% are returning members.
Although our attrition rate is better than it was during 2004-05, there are far too many members who leave us after their first year. To this end, we distributed two satisfaction surveys, one in April 2006 and a second in December 2006.
From the earlier survey, we have learned that our membership—particularly those who read our newsletter—understand the benefits of belonging to our organization and are generally satisfied with our work. Therefore, we suspect that our poor attrition rate is due (to some extent) to other factors.
Among several identified factors, we know, for example, that we have a large number of free student memberships in third-world countries—we suspect that many of these registrations do not represent actual students. Our current membership database makes it difficult to track patterns that might otherwise give us a clue as to how we might change/improve our services and weed out phantom memberships and with the advent of a new system, scheduled to go live in March 2007, we will ask that all student memberships be verified by a school official.
Although there is no "magic bullet" that will solve our problems, we believe the majority of the problems identified thus far can be rectified through:
- a better website
- an upgraded membership database
- clearer communication of our value proposition
We are aggressively working on solutions in all of these areas. And we are grateful to our staffers Noreen Whysel and Melissa Weaver, as well as Advisor Lou Rosenfeld for creating, refining, and distributing these important surveys.
As our organization gains momentum, it's only natural that we seek to formalize partnerships with allied institutions, professional groups—and even individuals. Moreover, the first corporate sponsors have approached us, which served to highlight a lack of policy and procedure on our part.
Throughout Q4 of 2006, Board member Sarah A. Rice set out to map our current relationships and propose a structure for dealing with other types of partnerships.
Basically, our partners fall into three distinct categories:
- Professional organizations
- Event organizers
- Corporate sponsors
Our "professional" partners include organizations that help the Institute advance its mission. Partnerships may include agreements to exchange resources, interoperate technically, and act together to form a community of people and ideas. Current partners include:
- American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T)
- Boxes and Arrows
- IA Wiki
- Interaction Design Association (IxDA)
- University of Baltimore
- Web Indexing Special Interest Group of the American Society of Indexers
"Event organizers" include groups who arrange conferences and similar events who give our members a significant reduction on the admission price and possibly other benefits. These partnership agreements are made on an ad hoc basis.
"Corporate sponsors" represent commercial entities that are interested in providing economic or technical support to the Institute in exchange for promotion on our website and in our newsletter.
We are still in the process of defining these partnerships—a typical example of the more formalized administrative policies we are seeking to establish.
Until recently, one of the greatest problems facing the Institute was that there was no clear overview as to where information resided. As late as March 2006, we still had active e-mail accounts that were "lost in cyberspace." Moreover, many historical documents resided on wikis that had long since been abandoned.
In late 2005, Jess McMullin's company, nForm, sponsored a Basecamp site, which was used primarily for the website redesign project. By mid-2006, it was clear that Basecamp, despite its many drawbacks, provided a simple yet effective backbone with which to coordinate our initiatives, improve internal communication, and store historical documents, such as the minutes of Board meetings. Therefore, in the summer of 2006, we purchased our own Basecamp account.
Today, there are over 40 advisors, initiative leaders, and volunteers who actively use this facility, plus the Board and Staff.
Throughout the last few months of 2006, Christian Crumlish, along with staffers Noreen Whysel and Melissa Weaver, has worked to clean up and coordinate the many and varied systems that have been constructed over the years to support our projects. In conjunction with the website redesign, the Institute's IT team is examining ways to create a stronger, more flexible membership database and job board. Since the Institute’s financial situation is much more secure than it has been in previous years, funds are being made available to purchase commercial software that can address our most critical issues—our membership database in particular.
Other important activities included moving our various mail lists from ibiblio to our own servers. Moreover, by consolidating responsibilities under the auspices of our two staffers, we have been able to reduce the number of individual mail accounts and more effectively combat spam.
Our international character, combined with our professional position, demand a website that addresses a multitude of needs. In fact, there is much to suggest that our website will become the focal point of many of our future activities.
Back in October 2005, Wolf Nöding put together a team of IAs in Germany to flesh out a new concept that encompassed both a top-down and bottom-up approach—top-down in terms of providing information for our members and the world at large, and bottom-up in terms of giving our members an opportunity to actively contribute to our growing community. We are particularly proud that the IAI website concept will be featured in an upcoming book on Web Navigation by James Kalbach (O'Reilly, 2007).
As Operations Manager, Noreen Whysel serves as the Project Manager for the design team, coordinating activities and communications via Basecamp. She is overseeing the technical team in translating the visual design to our current MovableType system and is coordinating a staff of PHP/CSS programmers, search and tagging specialists and content editors.
Additionally, we are looking into CMS systems which can support greater functionality that the current MovableType system can provide. Since joining the Board in September 2006, Christian Crumlish has been responsible for reviewing the website strategy.
Use-case scenarios were completed in May 2006 and in June 2006, Anthony Colfelt signed on to do the visual designs. Throughout late 2006, a team of 14 volunteers joined the original German team to bring the project from paper to the screen. To ensure full and proper integration with a range of other projects and initiatives, the website launch has been pushed back from its originally scheduled launch in Q4 2006, until Q1 2007. Some planned improvements, including improved search and tagging, will be developed post-launch.
In July 2006, the Institute established a sponsorship policy covering two types of
- Sponsorship for online promotion in which the Institute lends its logo to the event organizers and promotes the event on the IAI website. In return, IAI members receive a registration discount.
- Budget request to sponsor an event, either by paying for a specific activity (e.g. a speaker's fee) or a general economic donation. Again, IAI members are entitled to a registration discount.
In late September 2005, the Institute sponsored the first EuroIA Summit in Brussels, Belgium. Here, 120 information architects from over a dozen countries met for two days of presentations and networking.
In early October 2005, the Institute sponsored an East Coast IA Retreat, organized by Anders Ramsey and modeled on the successful West Coast retreat organized by Christina Wodtke the previous year. Held at the Edith Macy Conference Center, Briarcliff Manor, NY and was attended by IAs from both North and South America, as well as Europe.
In December 2005, the Institute co-hosted a one-day event at the offices of MAYA Design, with field trips to the Carnegie Library Branches, in Pittsburgh, PA, USA.
Spearheaded by IAI President Peter Merholz, the theme was information architecture that bridges the gap between the physical and the virtual.
Building on the success of the first EuroIA Summit, the IAI sponsored the closing plenary speaker, Steven Pemberton, at the well-attended 2006 EuroIA Summit the following year in Berlin, Germany.
On the first day of the Berlin Summit, European IAs were briefly linked via mobile phone to the Oz-IA Conference & Retreat, taking place simultaneously in Sydney, Australia, also sponsored by the Information Architecture Institute.
In November 2006, the Institute sponsored the first Latin American IA Summit in
Santiago de Chile. This was preceded by a two-day "New Horizons" retreat. In addition to our economic support, two past presidents of the Institute, Peter Morville and Peter Merholz, spoke at this exceptionally successful event.
Later that same month, the Institute participated at Online Information in London, UK, where we were represented by IAI founder Margaret Hanley.
As of September 2006, Board member Sarah A. Rice became responsible for
coordinating sponsorship agreements.
The IA Summit
Naturally, the Institute was closely involved in the IA Summit in Vancouver, BC in March, 2006, the premier gathering place for information architects. For the first time, the Institute had a permanent table set up in the foyer, manned by Board members and volunteers, where newcomers could learn first-hand about the Institute.
Stealing an idea from Charles Schultz's "Peanuts" comic strip, Eric Reiss suggested an "IA Mentoring Booth" along the lines of Lucy's psychiatric help stand. Stacy Surla and her sister Romany Surla (who is also the IAI's bookkeeper) built it, and it was kept remarkably busy throughout the conference.
Once again, we conducted a Summit pre-conference workshop. With 24 participants, this was somewhat better attended than the previous year’s event in Montreal. Organized by Stacy Surla, this year’s theme was Advanced IA Topics - Next Horizons for Information Architecture, featuring presentations by Dan Brown, Harry Max, Aradhana Goel, and Paul Gould.
The IDEA Conference
Shortly after Peter Merholz became president in late 2005, he lobbied for the creation of a wholly owned IAI event. Over the next few months, the concept was defined, and by February, the event had both a name and date: IDEA – Information, Design, Experience, Access. Held at the Seattle Public Library on October 23-24 2006, the conference sought to explore how everyday people can take true advantage of the overwhelming mass of information that floods their lives. The conference attracted over 150 people, which was particularly impressive in light of the fact that the University of Washington Information School had an event running the very same weekend. We would like to thank Peter for driving this incredibly important project, and to Sarah A. Rice for keeping everything on track.
Based on the success of this first conference initiative, the Institute is already exploring dates and venues for a similar event in late 2007 on the East Coast of the United States.
Mentoring is one of our key services—and one of the main ways in which the Institute can differentiate itself in the UX arena. However, the program has led a rocky existence this past year. Some potential protégés have complained of lack of interest on the part of mentors—and even rude behavior. This is completely unacceptable and we are therefore addressing several issues. Clearly, the program needs stronger Board-level guidance and a new influx of mentors. We also need to weed out existing mentors who no longer have the time or inclination to participate. And we need a mechanism by which we can monitor individual relationships without intruding. In December 2006, Donna Maurer, one of the original program leaders, became the Board’s executive sponsor.
Wolf Nöding, who headed the German web-concept team, is also head of our Translations initiative, which aims to translate key IA documents to several major languages. Currently, we have active translations in five languages: German, Italian, Danish, Norwegian, and Czech. We have three passive languages: Polish, Dutch, and Spanish. And we have two languages that need local leadership: French and Japanese. Much of the infrastructure for this work is provided by the website. But since the website is currently undergoing a major upgrade—including a Google Maps overview of our translation network—there has been little visible activity on this front over the past year.
That said, there has been an important "behind-the-scenes" reorganization, including the creation of a "Translation Facilitator" role, which will help us optimize workflow, ease communication, and increase motivation of the translation teams.
This is vitally important work—particularly in light of our growing international presence —and the initiative is expected to gain significant momentum in 2007.
Actual face-to-face encounters are incredibly valuable in a growing community such as ours. We are currently working to complement the ongoing success of the main IA Summit in North America, and geographically focused summits in Europe, South America, and Australia, with local groups based in a city or township. Board member Stacy Surla is executive sponsor of this initiative and is already in conversation with other leaders in the UX community in order to explore any synergies that may be present.
In the summer of 2006, it became clear that Second Life offered opportunities for networking that, to some extent, bridged the gap between e-mail lists and face-to-face encounters. As a natural outgrowth of the Local Groups initiative, Stacy Surla contacted a leading Second Life proponent, Andrew Hinton, who played host to several Board members and our Operations Manager at his virtual "house." Since then, Andrew has agreed to become our Second Life initiative director and several more meetings have taken place. Stacy is the Board’s executive sponsor.
Second Life clearly offers both an interesting venue from which we can promote our activities, as well as an environment that can certainly benefit from our talents as IAs. Having explored various options, such as a storefront on a special "non-profit island," it was decided that the Institute should invest in its own property. This purchase and initial development of the area are scheduled for the first quarter of 2007.
Annual Salary Survey
In August 2006, the Institute completed its third annual salary survey. Not surprisingly, our community is thriving thanks to the improved economic environment. Salaries are on the rise and senior IAs are now joining executive ranks with appropriate vice-presidential titles. You can review summary data and download the full results, including open-ended responses here.
IA Tools and Library
Because of the all-out effort being made to get the new website up and running, there has not been any significant effort to generate content for the old site. This is one of several initiatives that will be revitalized during 2007.
The Job Board continues to be an important service of the Institute; during calendar year 2006, 731 jobs were posted. We are currently investigating ways in which we can better integrate this information with our website and increase the Job Board's visibility.
Since its inception, the Institute has worked on creating an "IA Bootcamp" during which students could be totally immersed in IA theory and practice for a short but intense period. To this end, the Institute sponsored an Information Architecture "Summer Institute" at the University of Washington. This intensive class was held September 11-15, 2006 and targeted both Master's level students at the iSchool and working professionals.
The need for this type of education in the field of Information Architecture was illustrated when the class reached its maximum of 35 students several weeks before the session began. This need was also reflected in the positive feedback received during and after the class. In addition to the financial support provided by the Institute, the class benefited from ideas provided by curricula and workshops developed and/or suggested by IAI Board members. Moreover, it was taught by three Institute members, Mike Crandall, Dave Ballantine, and Board secretary Samantha Starmer. The class was so successful that another session will be held in June, 2007 and the event may well become a regular endeavor.
During 2005, no progress grants were awarded. This is because the projects supported by the earlier round of grants in December 2004 took longer to complete than had been expected.
In June 2006, a special Progress Grants Committee was formed consisting of Samantha Starmer and Eric Reiss (chair) as Board representatives, Don Turnbull as our Advisory Board representative, and Matthew Milan representing previous grant recipients. Lori Baker and Karl Fast rounded out the committee.
On October 1, two USD 1000 grants were awarded. The first grant went to Celeste Lyn Paul in Gaithersburg, MD, who investigated a Delphi approach to card-sorting. Our second USD 1000 grant went to Jason Hobbs in Johannesburg, South Africa, who investigated the role of Internet cafés in developing countries and communities. Both projects will be presented at the IA Summit in Las Vegas in March 2007.
Members Discussion List
The Members Discussion List continues to be a key medium for communication within the Institute, as well as a chance for members to ask questions and engage in sober dialog with fellow IAs. Although it is not as trafficked as other lists, we are pleased with the quality of the content and will be doing more to encourage member participation in the coming year.
The Institute has also established several meta-lists focused on individual initiatives and interests. These supplement the more administrative communications taking place on Basecamp.
Our monthly newsletter premiered in January 2006, edited by Noreen Whysel. In midyear, Melissa Weaver assumed editorial duties.
The newsletter has become a vital communications organ for the Institute. In March 2006, some members suggested that the Institute had grown stagnant. This made it clear how important the newsletter was going to become in our ongoing efforts to promote our activites and create greater transparency. In November 2006, the Board introduced an important new newsletter feature. Each month, a member of the Board would write a short introduction, highlighting some of the recent activities. The aim was not to editorialize, but to give members a first-hand view of what the Institute was up to.
By year's end, the newsletter enjoyed exceptionally wide distribution, reaching over 2400 organizations and individuals. It is freely available from our website and open to anyone who wishes to receive it. The list currently grows by 20-50 subscribers per month.
The Institute continues to maintain a strong financial position. As of 31 December 2006, the Institute had cash assets of USD 85,960. During the past fiscal year our financial position continued to improve, with income of USD 94,388 and expenses of USD 66,299, for a total net income in 2006 of USD 28,089.
Income derived mainly from new and renewed memberships totalling USD 37,731, the 2006 IA Summit pre-conference workshop, which grossed USD 8,460, and the IDEA conference, which grossed USD 48,067.
The Institute’s primary expenses were USD 21,066 for professional fees (including legal, accounting, and bookkeeping services, and operations manager and membership coordinator contract labor). Moreover, the Institute spent USD 27,111 for pre-conference workshop and IDEA expenses, USD 4,824 for annual meeting expenses, USD 2,814 for telephony, USD 2,000 on the Grants Program, and USD 3,179 for events sponsorships. The Balance Sheet for 2006 and Profit & Loss statements for 2006 and 2005 are attached in Appendix 1 of this report.
Many individuals have helped the Institute this year, and this Report cannot adequately recognize all those who contributed to our success. We are incredibly grateful to the many volunteers who built the Institute and are working hard to bring it to its next evolutionary level. We wish to thank everyone who has contributed to our ongoing success.
The IAI 2005-06 Board of Directors
1 March 2007
Eric Reiss, President
Samantha Starmer, Secretary
Stacy Surla, Treasurer
Sarah A. Rice
This page was last modified on August 29, 2007 05:09 PM.