Tag Archives: Sandra

Sperm Banks


Sperm banks are complex organizing systems spanning both physical and digital realms, supporting unique and sensitive interactions for a niche user group. Sperm banks are really two different organizing systems: one to manage the physical collection of specimen (typically in the form of vials), and another to organize description or surrogate resources of each specimen. The primary objective of a sperm bank is to allow collection and storage of sperm specimen from donors, and search and retrieval by sperm recipients or health clinics acting on their behalf.

What resources are being used?

The scope and scale of a sperm bank can be large, to include donors and donations numbering in the hundreds or even thousands. Typically a sperm bank serves people and clinics within a geographical area. The nature of the resources collected is such that a high level of granularity is required in resource description assigned to each donor and each specimen collected. Organizing principles for both the physical system and digital system rely heavily (almost exclusively) upon the resource descriptions applied. Each instance of the resource must be uniquely identifiable, but can be classified into equivalence classes of donor attributes, such as ethnic heritage, genetic profile, and blood type.

The systems must allow for continual addition to the collection as new donors are added and contribute to the bank. Realistically, collected sperm specimen is not stored in the system indefinitely; however, the systems must be designed to accommodate storage over an open-ended amount of time, since the bank does not know in advance how quickly a specimen will be used or how long a person will serve as a donor. In a similar vein, records and specimens need to be properly expunged as donors withdraw from the bank or otherwise leave the system.

A sperm bank’s overall objectives of allowing storage and retrieval of sperm specimens naturally impose requirements about intentional arrangement of both physical specimens and digital records of resource descriptions. This leads to the creation of resource categories based on number and types of resource descriptions being exploited by the chosen organizing principles. Once the systems achieves enough standardization and richness in resource descriptions, the systems can employ computational processes to automatically create resource descriptions, such as from lab test data, which also facilitates search and retrieval at a later stage.

Why are the resources organized?

At minimum, sperm banks must be organized to support specimen acquisition or purchase by sperm recipients, either individual women trying to conceive through artificial insemination or fertility clinics serving such women. Sperm banks may choose to create a web-based description resource organizing system to enable online searching or “auctions.” To me, the most intriguing interaction is the online “bidding war,” where potential sperm recipients bid on donors who market their genes with self-descriptions such as “Good at math and science!” or “Tall and athletic.” I have been told that the competition is fierce, and users have to act quickly if she sees a suitable donor, else the inventory might deplete and the donor might exit the auction.

Lastly, fertility treatment is an emotionally charged procedure requiring its information systems to support sensitive and context-appropriate interactions; for example, some women may want to choose donors who physically resemble their husbands or partners, but the women may not actually want to see photos of the donors. Hence, the overarching goal of the digital organizing system should be to enable retrieval of donor information while respecting delicate and highly individualized preferences on access and privacy.

How much are the resources organized?

All donors undergo rigorous review and testing before they are selected to contribute to a sperm bank. Information collected about every donor includes: medical history, ethnic lineage, genetic history, family history, professional/educational background, inventory of physical characteristics, even personality evaluations. The classification scheme of the organizing system is explicitly prescribed and predetermined at the design stage of the system. When making choices about the underlying technology supporting the digital organizing system, the system designer must make trade-offs between using a strict schema to ensure standardization in information collected, and possible future or incremental changes in description vocabularies and classification schemes, resulting in possible database schema changes.

When are the resources organized?

Sperm banks are continuously organized as new resources become part of the collection. The organization is never “just in time” since it does not make sense to defer organization until retrieval. The information collected on donor attributes determines the categories a particular specimen would belong to, or collocation requirements of a physical specimen unit. It is possible to devise a faceted classification scheme to enable search by facets. Organization also includes ongoing evaluation of resource descriptions to ensure consistency and adherence to the established schema.

Who does the organizing?

Organization is performed by staff members of the sperm bank, under rigorous protocols for classification and storage. Staff members are trained to handle this sensitive data and to ensure that the systems comply with both privacy laws and design objectives to support sensitive and context-appropriate interactions. To meet this goal, the systems can remove or reduce individual authority in the human beings doing the organizing by employing a strict controlled vocabulary, predefined forms, and tag suggestions for resource descriptions.

Retrieval of information in the description or surrogate organizing system can also be a computational process that filters results by a user’s requirements. Staff members will need to periodically refine and maintain the search algorithms and computational processes as the system collects data over time on users’ query patterns and search terms.

Other considerations

System designers also need to be mindful of potential growth in collection size, which may impose a requirement on current technological or implementation decisions. At minimum, there should be a continuity plan in place in the event of natural disasters or other obstructions to business functions.


Ishita Ghosh


1. Overview

This is a case study of Netflix, an on-demand Internet streaming media service. It is certainly interesting to see how Netflix organizes their media so as to make their content more “discoverable” for their users. Therefore, this case study will focus on Netflix’s organizing of their media from the customer’s perspective, such that they are better able to discover, sort, and interact with the media resources, which in turns renders this process as seamless at the user end. Netflix separated its digital content from its physical DVDs service a year ago, although it must be noted that titles that are available on DVD will still show up on the search bar in Netflix’s online portal.

2. What resources are being used?

The resources in question are the different types of media that broadly includes movies and television content. These resources may already be organized to some basic extent based on simple, explicit tags such as language, basic genre (such as comedy, drama, romance, but not more complicated categories that Netflix eventually generates such as cerebral dramas) etc. The current scope and scale of Netflix’s organizational system seems dependent on their individual agreements with various production houses, which in turn determines what resources become digital content that can be streamed on-demand, online, versus what resources are stored onto physical DVDs (these services are now separated).


3. Why are the resources organized?

The resources are being organized to ensure easier and smoother “discoverability” by Netflix users, that not only reflects the popular tastes of Netflix users at large, but more specifically and perhaps more persuasively, reflects the user’s own personal tastes that are determined through a combination of review and rating mechanisms. Eventually, Netflix’s goal is to provide a seamless media viewing experience for its users, without too much exertion on the part of their users. Therefore, organizing the media resources in an optimal manner (irrespective of Netflix’s actual database size, as long as it remains relevant to the users), that lets users find media that is suited to their preferences, will ensure that they keep coming back to the platform to continue viewing Neflix’s media. To this end, Netflix supports different types of interactions. These interactions include searching, viewing, and reviewing on the part of the users. More specifically, the user can find media explicitly using the search bar on the top right (this is when they already know the title(s) of the media they want to  view) or they can discover media using Netflix’s pre-sorted genres (such as classics, comedies, cult movies etc) or through a more personalized feature that takes the user’s preferences into consideration (the account user will be greeted with captions such as because you watched 30 Rock and then a host of content similar to this will be presented; or be shown certain categories exclusively, such as cerebral dramas, based on a user’s tastes, trajectories, as well as the completion of ongoing surveys).

4. How much are the resources organized?

Evidently, Netflix has the capacity as well as the infrastructure to implement really complex organizing. The same resource may be organized across different categories. Broadly speaking, Netflix sorts these resources into basic, familiar genres, and may further add a level of granularity to these (such as certain resources under dramas may be further categorized into cerebral dramas). The same resource might then find itself into a “You may also like” categorization based on the user’s personal preferences. Eventually, Netflix’s goal remains to provide a seamless searching and viewing experience for its users. Broadly speaking, Netflix achieves this by a general sorting based on the resources’ descriptive properties (what basic genre does it belong to? what language?), but adds further granularity to this based on esoteric tagging, user reviews and ratings, as well as their viewing histories. Certainly, the extent of resource organization for a given user will also depend on how much that user views, as well as rates and reviews, the digital content on Netflix.

5. When are the resources organized?

The resources are being organized on two levels for users to better discover and access them. At one level, Netflix is continually employing the services of its in-house team as well as a small, esoteric, external team of “taggers” (such as documentary filmmakers for instance) to continually organize Netflix’s media content into pre-determined or emerging genres. However, Netflix also organizes at another level for the user, which is based on their personal preferences. This organization happens as and when the user reviews, rates, and views existing media. This seems the most feasible solution in order to accommodate both highly active users (they will have more tailor-made recommendations) as well as more inactive users (their personalized preferences might be lacking, but at least Netflix can offer them some basic recommendations).

6. Who does the organizing?

As mentioned previously, Netflix has an in-house team of “organizers” as well as an external team of “taggers” (who are typically movie experts in their own right) who essentially tag Netflix’s digital content and sort into pre-determined as well as emerging categories. Furthermore, ongoing ratings and reviews by the general corpus of Netflix users determines what is popular, leading to yet another categorization that is displayed prominently on the top of the homepage, “Popular on Netflix”. Netflix also uses automated processes that are able to determine, sort, and articulate this crowdsourced information. Therefore, through a combination of people as well as computation processes make the decisions about the organizing system; this makes the scale of Netflix’s vast digital content as well as user-generated information manageable, especially as it is organized by elected people, automated algorithms, and by the bottom-up labors of its audience. This is certainly preferable to just restricting the organizational activities to people (too slow) or to computational processes (devoid of crowdsourced/user preferences).

7. Other considerations

Currently, Netflix hasn’t attempted to integrate social media into their existing model. This may offer a new peer-review organizational capability to their existing organizational structure that may be immensely valuable for users. If computational processes can determine peers with similar tastes, even inactive users can be privy to more salient and better tailored recommendations, undoubtedly an attractive proposition.

Luxury Brand Store

Ankita Bhosle


Clothing is one of the rare commodities that people usually prefer to visit a physical store for, rather than purchasing online. This is because online shopping cannot replace the experience of shopping in-store, especially since trial of clothes is such an important part of buying them. Since the primary purpose of these resources is to clothe and adorn the body, the fit, color, suitability for particular body types are important factors influencing the decision of buying (or not buying) them. Hence, the design of physical stores/boutiques for showcasing apparel is important, especially so for luxury brands who have small and highly specialized collections. I am really fascinated by the thought that goes behind organizing apparel for display (and sale) in such stores. I find this interesting because I am a shopaholic, and I think the design decisions behind the organization of resources in luxury stores has a lot to do with higher and/or impulsive buying tendencies of consumers, and subsequent increase in sales. Organization strategy is at the heart of manipulating, shaping and possibly even controlling consumer behavior in luxury retail stores.


What resources are being organized?

The (physical) things being organized in a luxury store would be apparel, accessories (scarves, footwear, bags, jewelry, watches, belts, etc.), cosmetics and lifestyle products. The racks, tables, mannequins and pedestals that are used to display the resources are also part of the organizing system. Catalogs or lookbooks, labels on racks and on the products – all descriptions of the resources – are also organized. The sparse furniture (a sofa or two, billing counter, security sensors at entrance, seats to try on shoes) along with separate areas like trial rooms, restroom, back room for inventory need to be organized too. A luxury stores also usually has some props, lighting, art that are strategically placed to lend an ambience that aligns well with the design aesthetic of the store and showcases the resources ‘in the right light’. All these resources form the organizing ecosystem of a luxury store. For the sake of convenience, I would like to take into account only non-human resources (no store personnel). Also, the digital and online inventories of the resources in the store are out of the scope of this case study.


Why are the resources being organized?

The primary purpose would be merchandizing – to showcase/display/present the products, afford interactions like trial and buying, and induce and promote sales. On a higher level, it facilitates accessing the objects in this ecosystem and performing operations/interactions (browsing, selecting, trying and buying) on them. There are also other purposes like attracting or enticing customers and marketing strategy to increase sales of the resources. Maintaining orderliness, monitoring and tracking activity inside the store are other purposes.


How much are the resources being organized?

The extent of organization is not very uniform across the store, with some parts being more granular than others. The newest collections are generally very well organized, with a well defined structure and considering possible relations between objects (ex. matching garments, pairing items with one another). The clearance section is usually disorganized and haphazard, with items on sale usually thrown in a box or strewn across a few tables/racks. The organization principles followed are motivated by different purposes: they can be utility/convenience based (e.g. all pants together, all coats together, etc.) or more innovative and specialized (e.g. if a new collection is composed of mainly two-three colors, all items of the same color (garments, shoes, bags, etc.) are clustered together for aesthetic effect and to create an impact). Thus, the properties of the resources play an important part in their organization. A faceted classification is followed, as there is always more than one way to organize the resources, based on different properties. E.g. Apart from one of the above design choices for organizing the resources, organization by size cannot be completely disregarded.


When are the resources being organized?

When a new collection arrives, it gets the highest priority. This new collection is now organized in a more granular manner, whereas the older one, which was the highly organized one earlier, gets demoted, and is now organized in a less granular, more general manner. This reorganization strategy is implemented to highlight and draw attention onto the newest collections, and capitalize on the buzz and novelty. Even the props and lighting in the store are adjusted and re-organized accordingly. Apart from this, there would also be some routine re-organization at the start/end of a day, as a maintenance activity, though this would probably be more of a ‘putting things back into place’ activity than an actual unique activity. There are also some periodic changes in the organization strategies, as may be dictated by changes in brand policies or marketing and merchandizing strategies, causing potential reshuffling of the items in the system.


Who does the organizing?

The organization activities would most likely be performed by the store personnel as per the merchandising strategy of the brand and in adherence to the store policies. However, the actual ‘design’ of the organization is done by merchandizing experts, whereas the ‘implementation’ is done by the store personnel.


Other considerations:

It would be interesting to see how the organization system changes if the physical location of the store changes. The original theme, with its interplay of different organization principles, has to be retained and implemented in the new premises, while at the same time, maintaining uniformity across all outlets of the same brand. Standardization is the answer to this problem and can be used to impose uniformity in the luxury brand store as well as across all outlets of the same brand.


The CODIS DNA Database

OVERVIEW Operating on a local, state, and federal level, the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) is the FBI DNA database.  As of October 2013, the National DNA Index (NDIS) or the federal level of the CODIS contained over 10,647,800 offender profiles, 1,677,100 arrestee profiles, and 522,200 forensic profiles (FBI).  Designed to help solve crimes, this database has generated over 255,400 hits and has aided over 216,200 investigations.  While this organizing system has played a crucial role in reducing crime by enabling more interactions in the law enforcement agency than ever before, it provokes numerous ethical questions worth exploring.

WHAT RESOURCES ARE BEING ORGANIZED?  The CODIS database maintains digital records or “DNA profiles” for a wide range of people involved in criminal justice cases, including convicted offenders, arrestees, missing persons, and more.  Specifically, these profiles are measurements of one or two alleles of 13 predetermined unique genetic sequence loci.  These precise measurements provide enough granularity for the profiles to uniquely identify a single individual.

These resource descriptions are generated, often with PCR technology, from the original DNA specimen resources by accredited laboratories nationwide.  Upon creation, the resources themselves – the specimens – are kept at the laboratories while the resource descriptions – the digital profiles – are added to the CODIS database.  No offender personal identifiers are assigned to the profiles; however, information on the submitting agency, specimen, and personnel is stored with the profile

Rather than focusing on collecting resource descriptions, the FBI could have chosen to collect the original resources themselves.  Presumably, though, this level of coordination of physical resources (eg shipping, storage, maintenance, etc) would have placed an additional cost on the federal government and required legislative approval.  Thus, it’s understandable that the FBI would choose to minimize cost and effort by focusing on the resource descriptions alone.

WHY ARE THE RESOURCES ORGANIZED? In the past, law enforcement agencies were limited to solving crimes within their geographic region.  A detective working on a murder in California, for example, may never have heard of a related murder in New York.  The CODIS database organizing system encourages that coordination between law enforcement agencies in an effort to solve crimes.

With 10,647,800 offender profiles in the NDIS alone, though, the massive CODIS database required an organizing system in order to prove useful to the law enforcement agencies involved.  The successful creation and maintenance of this organizing system has offered newfound interactions to a wide variety of government officials.  In addition to law enforcement agencies, judicial courts, criminal defense agencies, and population statistics agencies can access the CODIS organizing system, enabling them to perform a wide variety of functions, including identifying potential suspects in criminal investigations, identifying missing persons, collecting population statistics, and exonerating convicted criminals.

HOW MUCH ARE THE RESOURCES ORGANIZED?  As mentioned previously, the high degree of resource description granularity in measuring 13 specific genetic sequence loci enables DNA profiles to uniquely identify each individual in the database.  That being said, the DNA profiles are not simply heaped into one massive database.

Instead, the databases are maintained on both a state and federal.  A new profile might be checked against a smaller state database as well as the larger national one.  In addition, the databases are divided into different indices dependent on the DNA source, including an Offender Index, Arrestee Index, Forensic Index, and Missing Persons Index.

This division of the database into separate indices poses a tradeoff dilemma though.  If CODIS did not subdivide the database into federal/state and source indices, it is possible the algorithm would be able to find more obscure hits since the search parameters would be broadened.  This increase in hit frequency might result in more investigations aided.

The tradeoff, however, is that the broadened search parameters would also necessitate a more complex search algorithm and a longer search process.  This delay would most likely lead to fewer hits overall. Thus, in government institutions where time and resources are limited, it is more important for the CODIS organizing system users to generate a larger number of hits with subdivided databases than more accurate hits in one collective database.  Categories, in the CODIS organizing system, help simplify the interaction processes.

WHO DOES THE ORGANIZING? DNA profiles enter the CODIS organizing system when participating accredited local, state, and federal laboratories submit them.  Thus, the laboratory technicians handling the resource and resource description decide on a case-by-case basis how a given profile should be categorized and which indices it should be added to and checked against.

That being said, the lab technicians are given strict standards on how a given DNA profile should be categorized.  These standards vary state-by-state depending on state law.

Beyond laboratory and state involvement in CODIS, the FBI ultimately maintains and oversees the CODIS database.  It maintains the software and search algorithms, performs searches throughout the system, and maintains strict Quality Assurance Standards for all participating laboratories.

To avoid the risk of bias or error amongst lab technicians, the FBI could potentially choose to instead perform the laboratory processing and categorization themselves.  This alteration, however, would present new challenges such as new federal costs of maintaining and processing the resources mentioned previously.  In addition, pulling together all resources into a FBI processing center would necessitate a meticulous record of the resource’s originating state to ensure resource descriptions are categorized in accordance with state laws.  The FBI’s strict maintenance of standards and laws is the best option for addressing the risk of error and bias.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS The CODIS organizing system presents a wide range of intriguing ethical questions surrounding race, gender, criminal justice, and privacy.  Perhaps the most hotly debated issue surrounding DNA databases arose this year when the private DNA testing company 23andMe announced that it would discontinue the sale of its genetic tests in response to FDA demands, prompting more media questions than ever before on the maintenance and use of DNA databases.

Likewise, many have questioned the legitimacy of the CODIS maintenance of DNA profiles.  The ACLU, for example, has questioned the possibility of an “function creep” in the maintenance of a government DNA database which could lead our country down a slippery slope towards a ‘brave new world’ where private genetic information could be collected and used in abusive, discriminating manners.

With the commercial surveillance of 23andMe and the government surveillance of the NSA at the forefront of today’s media attention, it is possible we will see more attention turned to the legitimacy of the maintenance of the CODIS organizing system in the coming years.

Ikea Case study – Sandra


Ikea is much more than a furniture store. It is a highly-organized system that successfully draws customers in, makes them linger there, and induces them to purchase something, while also delivering an unbeatable customer experience. The experience is so enjoyable that customers often come back just for fun, whether it is to casually browse, hang out with a friend, bring the kids to play, or even go on a date. What are some of the underlying design decisions that create this Ikea experience?

What resources are being used?

Ikea organizes many different types of resources including furniture, household goods and appliances, and food. Resources are not unique because there are many duplicate copies of the same resource, which can take different forms in each instance. The furniture that the customer sees and interacts with in the “showroom” is only the display copy of that furniture; what they actually purchase is another instance that is disassembled and stored in the warehouse. Similarly, customers can buy and consume warm and prepared foods in the cafeteria (Swedish meatballs with gravy), or they can purchase the same type of food in a packaged form to bring home (frozen Swedish meatballs). Apart from organizing the resources for sale, Ikea also organizes information about those resources in the form of physical reference ID tags on the furniture and digital descriptions of each resource that is displayed on the website.

Why are the resources organized?

All of the resources are strategically organized in the building to enhance customer experience and incentivize customers to purchase their products. The store is laid out in a way that leads all customers through a path that passes through every showroom that is made to look like an actual bedroom, living room, kitchen, etc. This implicitly forces customers pass through and look at almost everything in the store. Usually along the way, certain products will appeal customers and cause them to stop and linger even if they had not planned to purchase anything in that section. After customers are tired and hungry from walking through all the showrooms, there is a strategically placed cafeteria in the middle that offers food and refreshments. At the end, when customers are done purchasing their items, there is a food stand right by the check-out selling hot dogs and ice cream cones. The store layout is intentionally designed to make customers linger, offer refreshments when they get hungry, purchase more items, and still go home happy with the experience.

Resources are also organized to enable certain sets of interactions. The display furniture are arranged to look like an actual bedroom or kitchen, etc, which allows customers critically observe a piece of furniture in its proper context, touch it, sit on it, and determine whether they want to purchase it or not. In this way, the showroom acts as a tangible interface that allows users to interact and access information about the furniture. Information about the resource is displayed on tags on each display furniture, and customers write down the exact reference ID of the item they are purchasing. This allows customers to find the same exact type of furniture later in the warehouse. Furniture in the warehouse is disassembled, packaged into flat boxes, and stacked on top of each other, because the overall goal here is to optimize storage space and facilitate transportation. Besides reference IDs on all the boxes, resource descriptions on the boxes include a helpful sketch of the furniture and the color, to help customer verify that they are purchasing a duplicate instance of the resource type they saw on display.

How much are the resources organized?

A lot of detail and effort is put into organizing and arranging the display furniture in the showroom, because that is the main interface for customers. First they are arranged in an aesthetically pleasing manner to draw the customer’s attention. Every single resource needs to have very specific placement in order to reflect a real setting of a room. For example, coffee tables must go next to the couches and vases on top of tables or shelves. All display furniture also has reference tags that allow customers to search for the same furniture type later on in the warehouse. On the other hand, household items in the Market Hall, are not organized with such great detail. Like most other stores, similar resource types are grouped together based on its intended uses (kitchenware vs bathroom items) and duplicates of the same resources are just placed together on a shelf or container. In the warehouse, each unique instance of packaged furniture is assigned a unique ID so Ikea can keep track of its inventory and sales. This important information is then channeled through the Ikea website, so customers can check online whether or not an item is in stock in a particular store.

When are the resources organized?

The packaged Ikea furniture is organized in the warehouse as soon as new shipments come in. The display furniture is arranged seasonally to reflect the newest designs that are coming in. Product information is updated nightly or every couple days to collect the current stock levels at each Ikea store and to update the website.

Who does the organizing?

Ikea store manager or designers oversee the design and arrangement of the showroom. Other employees organize the packaged furniture when they receive and unload shipments. Some organization is automatic. Every time a customer purchases furniture, the barcode on the package is scanned, and the inventory is automatically updated in the database.

Other considerations

There are always some tradeoffs in every design decision. While Ikea is a great place to spend a lot of time browsing, it is not well suited for those customers who want to quickly search for specific item and leave. It first takes a long time for customers to navigate through the store to get to the right section. And within that section, it is often difficult to find the exact location of the item. Smaller items such as towels may appear multiple times throughout the store in the Market Hall and the warehouse. This further adds further confusion in the search process. But In the end, the designer chose a system that prioritized browsing rather than doing a precise search for a single item.

Barack Obama for America Campaign Office Volunteers


This case concerns an Obama for America satellite campaign office volunteer base in Iowa in the months leading up to the 2008 Presidential election.

During the 2008 election cycle, then-Senator Obama’s campaign operated a headquarters office in downtown Des Moines and over 50 satellite offices spread across Iowa. Each office was designated as a local hub for all election activities in specific areas, also called ‘turfs’. These offices were managed by one to several ‘field organizers’, each responsible for organizing and mobilizing the voters in a specific turf they had been assigned to. While the organizing system that is a political campaign office can be looked at through a variety of different scopes, involving a large combination of types of resources, this case study will specifically examine the organizing activities undertaken by a field organizer related to recruitment and management of their office’s volunteer base.

What resources are being organized?

This case study will consider the volunteers within a field organizer’s turf as the resources being organized.

Technically in this organizing system, it is true that a field organizer is managing many classes of resource types, from volunteer snacks to paper clips. However, the volunteers themselves represent an invaluable and more cardinal set of resources to their field organizer.

Because volunteers have agency, they each have a nearly infinite assortment of affordances that could be associated with them and are essentially immune to the concept of effectivity. This means the supported interactions are potentially infinite though in practice limited to a specific set of desired interactions with voters and other volunteers.

In every case, the selection step is self-executing: once an individual expresses that they would like to be a volunteer, they automatically become a volunteer resource for a field organizer. Once an individual has become a volunteer, they may undergo additional training in order to take on new responsibilities to better assist their field organizer. This could mean everything from becoming ‘Intern Supervisor’ to ‘Neighborhood Team Leader’, meaning that some resources in this system may come to utilize their agency to help organize sub-sets of the system itself.

Why are the resources organized?

After advertising, having active volunteers is the next most effective way for a Presidential campaign team to drive more supporters to the voting booth on election day. Volunteers can make personal connections with voters and supporters over the phone and face-to-face, and have a much more measurable impact on an election than ordering up robo-calls.

However, modern American elections are often decided by the voting decisions of as little as 1% of the voting electorate. Effectively organizing volunteers at the campaign office level according to the imposed policies and organizing principles of the managing authority that is the campaign headquarters, is therefore an extremely important consideration for all Presidential Campaigns.

How much are the resources organized?

The structure of the organizing system for the 2008 election established volunteers as active resources that were to be managed as closely as was possible without reducing overall effectiveness.

This emphasis on high efficiency was specifically designed to enable a field organizer to activate volunteer resources on the fly depending on an office’s daily needs. However, such efficiencies often led to a field organizer creating ad hoc and implicit classification schemes, with highly precise faceted terms used to organize their volunteer resource descriptions. This could create problems if an organizer shifted to a different town mid-cycle, or if their organizing schema was to be shared with a different organizer (if both had highly ad-hoc methods of arranging their resource descriptions, this created problems for any kind of cross-walk evaluation).

Volunteers themselves were assigned to within various levels of a faceted ‘team’ classification scheme, based mostly around collocation. Volunteers could be assigned as part of one or many of a neighborhood team, a university student group or some other grouping along a distinguishing characteristic (this could be say, a shared interest or cultural self-identification like a ‘Moms for Obama’ team). Once in a team, members of a team might be reached out to at once to accomplish shared tasks, instead of having to recall them each individually.

In addition to being assigned a ‘team’, volunteers’ resource descriptions will often come to be tagged using a property-based categorization. ‘Phone-banking’, ‘Door-to-door canvassing’ are each examples of tags a volunteer might receive depending on the properties they display.

  • When are the resources organized?

The field organizer is continually reorganizing the volunteers from his or her turf according to any changes to a near infinite set of variables. 100 new volunteers being identified in a turf might cause the total reevaluation of an existing team structure, with ripple effects throughout the rest of the system. Or a set of volunteers’ class might start up again. Or a volunteer might drop out. Because of the need to continually reevaluate the current organization, a field organizer must ensure that their system is highly flexible and able to accession new volunteers seamlessly.

  • Who does the organizing?

The field organizer is responsible for developing and maintaining his or her system of volunteers. The organizer is also responsible for continually shaping and reshaping the classification of volunteers within their system to maximize the number of volunteer interactions. This can mean completely reassigning volunteers to new teams, promoting or demoting volunteers out of certain roles, as well as offering training seminars in order to enable volunteers to support new property-based interactions.

  • Other considerations

In order to maximize the value derived from a volunteer base, a field organizer must pay special care to maintaining these resources. This could mean anything from paying them visits when they’re ill, to providing them with coffee when they show up to make calls at 9am on a Monday, to providing remedial phone call training. While the prior questions might not elucidate this sufficiently, it is important to underline that in this organizing system, maintenance is the most important activity that can be undertaken by the organizer to sustain the number of resources in the system, as well as ensure its health and longevity. A poorly maintained volunteer base is an obsolescent volunteer base.

Personal Movie Collection


As a film aficionado, I am particular that my collection of movies stays organized. The organizing system for the film collection is influenced by the storage, file size, file type and source of the movie. It involves several kinds of interactions-Keeping up-to-date with the latest releases, maintaining a list of the movies that need to be added and deleted, finding the sources to acquire the movies, categorizing the folders, naming the files and updating the database whenever required. In order to facilitate this workflow, it is imperative to establish a robust set of designing principles for the organizing system.

What resources are being used?
On a computer the movies are represented by their corresponding digital file. Thus, the resources in this particular organizing system are the digital film files. These resources could have varied formats like AVI, MPEG or the WMV. Thus, it is important to realize the compatibility of each of these files in order to avoid operation issues. Furthermore, the movies are stored on different storage devices. For example, the classics from the ‘70s and ‘80s that are stored on VHS tapes or the ‘90s movies stored on CDs require a convertor to convert to a digital file. This process is important to obtain uniform resource format so that the organizing principles can be applied to all resources, seamlessly.
Naming Conventions: The inclusion of metadata like date for the resources could aid in differentiating between similar resource names. For example, Die Hard(1988) and Die Hard(2013).

Why are the resources organized?
I have an always-increasing collection of more than 400 movies on the computer. Having an organized system of classifying these resources based upon certain criteria could be helpful in several ways. I could effectively retrieve the resources whenever I want to view these movies. The system can be viewed as a central database for several other users such as my family and friends to access the movies whenever they would want to. Furthermore, organizing the resources can also make the sharing of these resources simpler and quicker. For example, a subfolder within the movie folder named ‘Horror’ (Based of the movie Genre) can allow a friend who wishes to borrow a horror movie easily. The overall goal of organizing the resources is to allow such simple and easy interactions with the system. The intended users can be my friends, family also, so it is important that the system is designed for simplicity.

How much are the resources being organized?
At the least granular level the main folder called ‘Movies’ is branched into subfolders called ‘Genre’, ‘Decade’, ‘Cast’, ‘Director’, ‘Language’ and ‘Favorites’. Each of the subfolders is further classified. For example the Genre folder is classified as Sci-Fi, Comedy, Thriller,, Action, Period, Western, Drama, Romance, etc. Thus, organizing the folders represents the hierarchical classification in the organization system. In this way, by assigning an extrinsic static property creates a distinct method of classification of the resources.

The classification of movies should be a faceted classification. Each resource can be categorized from a different designing principle. An overlapping-genre movie like an action-drama can be classified into the ‘Action’ genre folder as well as in the ‘Drama’ genre folder. A movie like Die Hard is an 80s, 90s action-movie starring Bruce Willis and thus would be a member of all these folders.

When are the resources organized?
Once the categories of folders have been created, the organizing activity can commence once a new movie file is added to the computer. Once a movie is acquired, it is saved on to a temporary folder. The details of the movie are obtained from the web sources such as IMDB and Metacrtitic. Having obtained the metadata, the resource can be added to the respective folders. However, the ‘Favorites’ folder would get populated only when I watch the movie frequently. Thus, the resources in this organizing system are not organized when added to the system but also when are frequently accessed by the user.

Who does the organizing?
As mentioned above, I am the primary user of the system and would do the bulk of the organizing activity. However, the system is capable of catering to the other intended users such as my family or friends who wish to access the system.

Other Considerations
One important consideration while designing the system is storage. Every month, several movies release that are worthy of being added to the system. Thus, as a system designer, I need to ensure that every resource has sufficient space upon inclusion. Another consideration is maintenance. Once a movie has been viewed and doesn’t seem to be one that could be a favorite, it could be deleted. Also when a movie gets corrupted, or for some technical reasons, it doesn’t work, it needs to be deleted. Thus, operations and maintenance are two key considerations once the system is set up.

Technical Call Center Organization


Most customer support is handled via call centers staffed by a large number of front-line customer service representatives. These front-line representatives are tasked with either resolving the customer’s technical issues or referring the customer’s request to other more experienced Tier1/Tier2 personnel who have more specific domain expertise to resolve the inquiry. Most call centers are large operations that have the majority of front-line representatives. This analysis will focus on IT technical support call centers supporting the internal employees of Fortune 500 companies with an average employee count over 100,000.

What resources are being used?

The key resources supported by the IT call center are 1) Personnel tasked with responding to customer issues 2) Knowledge Base Articles which contain written instructions about how to resolve technical problems and 3) Service Tickets which document a specific instance of a customer calling in with a technical issue. The combination of these resource determines the key task of the call center which is to satisfactorily address a pre-defined number of technical support calls within a period amount of time. The capacity of a call center is firstly determined by the aggregate number of personnel that are able to respond to phone calls. Secondly, the ability of any given call center person’s ability to resolve a customer inquiry is determined by the quality and accuracy of the Knowledge Base Articles that are created to help resolve the issue. A Knowledge Base Article documents the recommended steps to resolve a specific type of technical issue. Lastly, the service tickets are the key resource that enables the call center to determine the volume of technical service calls and calculate the amount that are resolved versus the amount that are open.

Why are the resources organized?

Service Tickets are organized because they categorize and classify what are the nature of the technical support issues faced by customers calling the call the center. This allows the call center to spot trends and staff appropriately. For example, if a Fortune 500 company is rolling out a new operating system upgrade, the amount of service tickets opened pertaining to the operating system can alert call center management to increase the amount of front-line staff to answer the call volume. Also, one of the key categorizations of the service tickets is between the states of “opened” versus the state of “closed”. This is especially crucial because call centers often have pre-defined service level agreements pertaining the maximum amount of time that “open” tickets can remain open without appropriate resolution.

Knowledge base resources are organized because the speed and accuracy of front-line technician’s ability to find the pertinent resolution to a customer technical issue determines the capacity of a call center to meet pre-defined service level agreements. Therefore the call center needs to provide comprehensive descriptions of each knowledge base article such that the front line technician can easily locate that specific knowledge base article when needed in a short amount of time.

People are organized into specific technical domains to answer customer issues because the call center can increase the accuracy of problem resolution by maximizing the individual technician’s expertise by training staff thoroughly in pre-defined technical domains. People also need to have clear delineations of what types of technical issues are scoped appropriate for the specific role and what technical issues should be delegated to other staffers with increased technical knowledge. Again, this strict triaging of capability is to maximize the ability of the call center to “close” service tickets.

How much are the resources organized?

All three key resources of the call center are highly organized to increase maximum efficiency supporting the key goal of resolving customer service tickets as fast as possible.

Service Tickets are highly structured records that require the front-line personnel to accurately and consistently provide descriptions of technical service issues. Each service ticket is assigned a unique identifier with descriptive information such as demographics concerning the employee calling, descriptions of the IT resources generating the technical issue and lastly information concerning the technical problem encountered. All of these sets of descriptions often conform to a specific vocabulary or taxonomy defined by the call center. This is to ensure consistency for the call center management to eventually spot trends in the customer support issues. Also, consistency is required to accurately determine what are the most common new “open” issues that are not resolvable with guidance from the current Knowledge Base articles. This information can help direct personnel resource to which technical support topics merit the generation of instructions to resolve the issue. The service tickets are also highly descriptive because service tickets are often delegated to different personnel who much be able to get the full context of the customer support issue without having the ability ask the customer to provide more information. A key example is escalating a technical support issue from front-line technicians to more trained Tier1/Tier2 experts.

Knowledge Base articles are also highly organized because the call center intends to provide search and discovery mechanisms with both high recall and high precision for frontline technicians. To ensure high recall, Knowledge Base articles often have a hierarchal categorization according to the common customer service complaints. To improve precision, each knowledge base article must provide sufficient description of the symptoms of the technical service in which the knowledge base article is intended to address allowing front-line technicians to expend time reading further into the actual resolution steps.


When are the resources organized?

Service Tickets are organized at the time a customer calls the call center providing descriptions of their technical issue. Sometimes part of the organization can be pre-determined through unaided categorization through telephone prompts. Customer often must navigate through a variety of telephone prompts such as “Press 1 for X issue” or “Press 2 for Y issue”. The rest of the organization is determined based on the front-line technician’s description of technical service issues. Knowledge Base Articles are organized by Tier 1/Tier 2 domain experts. These people are able to take multiple instances of technical problems and create an abstraction containing a generic solution that can apply to a general situation that satisfy common criteria. Knowledge Base Articles are often created when there are multiple open service tickets that have been escalated to tier1/tier2. Therefore, to speed time to resolution by frontline technicians, Tier1/Tier2 creates the Knowledge Base article that can be searched and retrieved by frontline technician bypassing the need to escalate. Management organizes people into the different service tiers based on their initial expertise capabilities or trained capabilities when they are hired to work in the call center.

Who does the organizing?

Front-line technicians must be trained to accurately organize service tickets because they provided the initial description information that governs all future action such as issue escalation or generation of aggregation of call volume statistics. Every person in the call center must provide sufficient descriptions of resources for inputting information into Service Tickets. This is because to resolve an “open” service ticket multiple call center people might have to interact with an instance of a service ticket to input information. For example, if a front-line technician is unable to resolve a customer issue, that front-line technician needs to escalate the service ticket to other staffers. When another person is assigned the task to resolve a service ticket issue, that person often times must enter information into the service ticket describing what actions have been taken.

Other considerations

Call centers often have high turnover of personnel especially on the front-line tier. Knowledge transfer is especially important because the call center is often training a large number of rookie employees who often have no significant prior experience in the technical field.  The ability for the call center to record knowledge into searchable information systems allows the call center to more easily use that knowledge to onboard new employees. Imagine if all of the knowledge management was governed purely through word of mouth references. The call centers would have inconsistent problem resolution statistics because many people will be “re-building the wheel” to create resolutions to problems that have already been faced before by other employees.

The Ohio voter file


Ohio is a classic battleground state in U.S. electoral politics, and its voters are the subject of intense media scrutiny and campaign efforts in the months prior to presidential elections. Information about the state’s registered voters is kept for official purposes in a database known as a voter file. This database helps state, county, and local officials administer elections in accordance with Ohio and federal election laws.

What resources are being organized?

Voter files are subject to heavy regulation, so their scope tends to be narrow. The Ohio voter file contains records that describe each voter, including identifying and contact information, information about the voter’s political jurisdictions (often called “districts”), and indications of the past elections in which the voter participated (called “vote history”). In addition to individual voter information, the system also contains geographical descriptions of each political jurisdiction so new voters can be assigned to districts and existing voters can be redistricted when they move or jurisdiction boundaries change.

Despite the limited scope, Ohio’s voter file is one of the nation’s largest: in early December 2013 the Ohio file contained nearly 6.5 million voter records.

Why are the resources organized?

Voter file maintenance is primarily motivated by officials’ need to administer elections in compliance with laws and regulations. Ohio state law requires that all voters register to vote at least 30 days prior to an election, and the voter file is a definitive list of who may vote. The file is also used to determine precinct locations that are convenient to and fairly distributed among the voting population. This precinct formation can be subject to political interference since precinct size and location can have nontrivial effects on who is willing and able to vote on election day.

The main federal law governing voter files is the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), which set national standards for voter files, among other election-related procedures, in the wake of the disputed 2000 U.S. presidential election. HAVA requires that states create a centralized, computerized statewide voter registration list, so Ohio’s voter file is maintained in part to comply with this law.

Furthermore, Ohio’s maintenance of a voter file enables compliance with state laws regarding voter eligibility. State law forbids voting by incarcerated felons, individuals declared incompetent for voting purposes by a court, and individuals who have been permanently disenfranchised for violating election laws, so election officials must collect and maintain sufficient information from registrants to verify eligibility with respect to these criteria.

How much are the resources organized?

A key decision when building a voter file is the extent to which voters are associated with political jurisdictions. A state could choose to organize voters only into state and federal jurisdictions—congressional district and state legislative districts—expecting county or municipal election administrators to associate voters with minor political jurisdictions, or the state could maintain a wide variety of federal, state, and local districts. Ohio is in the latter category, associating voters with a number of lower level districts such as library board, municipal court, and educational service center board.

This raises potential vocabulary issues, as some counties may refer to their governing body as a “county council” and others may call it a “county board”. State officials must either create and enforce naming standards, or map each minor jurisdiction to the canonical set of district fields that exists on the voter file.

Another organizing decision that state officials face is how to maintain and report each voter’s vote history. While general elections always fall on the Tuesday after the first Monday of November, primary and special elections in Ohio can occur on virtually any Tuesday of the year; moreover, counties often determine their own primary election date. As such, there may be multiple primary dates in Ohio in a given year, and Ohio officials record votes in each primary—i.e., separate indicators for participation in the March 4, 2008 primary and the October 14, 2008 primary, not a generic indicator of participation in any 2008 primary election.

In contrast, the voter file only reports a yes/no indicator of whether an individual voted in a particular election, even though Ohio offers absentee and early voting options to cast a ballot prior to election day. By ignoring the actual date a vote was cast, state officials restrict users’ ability to analyze the frequency or effect of absentee and early voting in the state.

When are the resources organized?

When an individual submits a registration form, election officials process it within days and, if the person is eligible, they add a record to the voter file, assigning the voter to districts in the process. Voter records may later be updated to reflect name or address changes, the latter generally triggering a reassociation with political jurisdictions.

A common but controversial maintenance activity is a voter file “purge”, where duplicate records are identified and merged, and records for deceased or inactive voters are removed. Although such reorganization is periodically necessary, the procedures used to identify inactive and duplicate voters, as well as the timing of the purge, can be subject to political influence.

Who does the organizing?

State election officials, under the direction of Ohio’s Secretary of State, are responsible for maintaining the voter file. These officials sit atop a hierarchy of state, county, and local officials who are responsible for using the voter file while administering elections.

Other considerations

Although voter files are typically public information, Ohio is unusual in that its voter file is freely available on a state website. Since many outside groups are now interested in voter files, officials must balance access requirements with protecting voters’ privacy. This is the subject of an ongoing conversation that may ultimately affect how Ohio organizes and maintains its voter file.


Lolita Store: Harajuku Hearts/Angelic Pretty

OVERVIEW: A store in San Francisco specializes in selling lolita-style clothing, a fashion subculture that started in Japan but now has a worldwide following. The basis of the fashion is modeled after Victorian-era styles of clothing, and is meant to give its wearers a look of youthful innocence. Today the fashion has evolved into several sub-styles, each with its own standards of how one should look.

Due to the scarcity of space and high rent, the physical area occupied by the store actually contains two separate “shops”: Harajuku Hearts, which carriers a variety of different Japanese brands that cater to many lolita sub-styles, and Angelic Pretty, a brand that specializes only in sweet lolita. Each shop occupies half of the store, and their own areas are further organized according to their resources. While it may have been simpler to just mix both shops’ resources and have one overarching organizing model, this would likely confuse customers as to what the store actually offers and make it difficult to find specific items.


WHAT RESOURCES ARE BEING ORGANIZED? Most of the store resources are the clothing pieces, along with accessories. Since the model of a lolita outfit is most often composed of several separate clothing pieces, lolitas are often encouraged to mix and match pieces from different brands. Aside from the clothing items themselves, the stores also sell accessories and even novelty items that appeal to lolitas. In order to make the shopping experience easier, mannequins that display a suggested outfit is put in the window view, and sale racks are arranged near the front.

Harajuku Hearts’ half of the store requires more granularity in the organization of its resources, because they carry more than one brand. Ultimately, because many brands in general establish themselves as catering to one or two specific sub-styles, it’s easier for the customers to interact with the resources starting at the brand level before going into the clothing type level. While the staff tries to keep each area separated by brands, because of the small space, sometimes more than one brand is forced to share one area—e.g. accessories are all displayed on one shelf, regardless of brand, because there are so few resources to begin with, it doesn’t make sense to waste space.


WHY ARE THE RESOURCES ORGANIZED? Most customers who come into the store are already knowledgable about the domain, but a few come out of curiosity. As such store’s organization is more suited for customers who already have knowledge of the fashion; to cater to the rare casual customer would be a waste of effort and resources. Many lolitas often come in looking for a specific piece—say, the latest dress, or a short-sleeved blouse to match their existing skirt. It is much easier for them to browse in the blouse section or go to the new arrivals section to find what they are looking for, instead of having to comb through everything. The goal is to make sure that the widest variety of resources get displayed in order to entice customers with different tastes to shop here; with limited space, sometimes a choice has to made to display more or less of a certain brand in order to appeal to a wider audience.


HOW MUCH ARE THE RESOURCES ORGANIZED? Since details are important in lolita fashion, the granularity level of organization is high. Even for Angelic Pretty, the top level is organizing by clothing type, and then the items themselves are arranged by color, light to dark. Special consideration is taken for the sales rack and the display case, which are considered separate from the rest of the store because they are defined by a boolean facet classification scheme, sale/not on sale or display/not displayed. Harajuku Hearts has a similar organizing model, only its top level is brand, before diving into classification schemes for its clothing.

Alternatively, each half of the store could just display all times using a chronological scheme, but this would only help customers looking for the latest release, and not help in finding one particular item.


WHEN ARE THE RESOURCES ORGANIZED? The shop staff sets up the store each day before they open, but they are also constantly re-organizing and performing maintenance throughout the day—often customers will try on clothes but not buy them, and so the item must be returned to its proper place. Otherwise, not only would we get a messy store with lots of expensive clothes lying around, but you’d never want to find a punk shirt next to a jumper skirt. At the end of the day, the stock is inventoried to make sure that amount sold is correct, and if they need to re-order more items. When new pieces arrive, these resources must be quickly and successfully integrated with the existing items.


WHO DOES THE ORGANIZING? Resources are strictly maintained by shop staff only; although some customers might be just as knowledgable about the sub-styles, they may not be aware of any specific rules and may end up making more work for the staff. The manager oversees and decides the general layout and categories, and the staff helps to actually arrange the resources in the correct manner. Also, a strictly controlled interaction limits risks like taking pictures (forbidden since designers are afraid their designs will get bootlegged) or shoplifting.


OTHER CONSIDERATIONS: There are no overarching standards or official guidelines that dictate exactly what is considered lolita fashion or how to conform to a certain sub-style; this fashion is constantly evolving and much of what is accepted is based on the community. As such, the store needs to be able to keep up with community trends if it’s to be successful, and pay close attention to the needs of its customers. If the sweet lolita sub-style is getting more popular, perhaps it would do better by dedicating more floor space to showcase those items. Poor observation and maintenance of its resources could quickly drive the store out of business.