Case Studies

Robert J. Glushko


We now fulfill the promise of this book, with a set of case study examples that apply the concepts and phases of the roadmap. (The first four case studies appeared in the first print edition of the book. All the others have been contributed by students or other readers of the book and edited for consistency.——Ed.)

Case Study Template

For the sake of consistency, we employ the questions posed in Design Decisions in Organizing Systems as a template for the case studies. We remind you of six groups of design decisions, itemizing the most important dimensions in each group:

  • What is being organized? What is the scope and scale of the domain? What is the mixture of physical things, digital things, and information about things in the organizing system? Is the organizing system being designed to create a new resource collection, catalog an existing and closed resource collection, or manage a collection in which resources are continually added or deleted? Are the resources unique, or are they interchangeable members of a category? Do they follow a predictable “life cycle” with a “useful life”? Does the organizing system use the interaction resources created through its use, or are these interaction resources extracted and aggregated for use by another organizing system? (“What Is Being Organized?”)

  • Why is it being organized? What interactions or services will be supported, and for whom? Are the uses and users known or unknown? Are the users primarily people or computational processes? Does the organizing system need to satisfy personal, social, or institutional goals? (“Why Is It Being Organized?”)

  • How much is it being organized? What is the extent, granularity, or explicitness of description, classification, or relational structure being imposed? What organizing principles guide the organization? Are all resources organized to the same degree, or is the organization sparse and non-uniform? (“How Much Is It Being Organized?”)

  • When is it being organized? Is the organization imposed on resources when they are created, when they become part of the collection, when interactions occur with them, just in case, just in time, all the time? Is any of this organizing mandated by law or shaped by industry practices or cultural tradition? (“When Is It Being Organized?”)

  • How or by whom, or by what computational processes, is it being organized? Is the organization being performed by individuals, by informal groups, by formal groups, by professionals, by automated methods? Are the organizers also the users? Are there rules or roles that govern the organizing activities of different individuals or groups? (“How (or by Whom) Is It Organized?”)

  • Where is it being organized? Is the resource location constrained by design or by regulation? Are the resources positioned in a static location? Are the resources in transit or in motion? Does their location depend on other parameters, such as time? (“Where is it being Organized?”)

As we discussed in “Where is it being Organized?”, when location is a constraint, it will typically be identified as such in the other questions. As result, we will only examine “Where?” as distinct design dimension in cases where it is warranted.


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