There have been a number of questions tagged "physical" in recent weeks. As interesting as the questions are about physical objects and how people use/abuse them, I couldn't help but wish for an answer from someone with an industrial design (or related engineering) background that could cite relevant standards/research/best-practices.
Perhaps it is just my perception of the answers, but these questions tend to attract more than usual speculation about "why" something was designed the way it was, or how to fix it. There are some really good answers, don't get me wrong, but I don't have an industrial design background, so what looks like a "really good answer" to me, may be an obviously unsuitable answer to an industrial designer because of some manufacturing constraint, or historical reason.
I would please like some advice on how to get more exposure to industrial design research, so that I can contribute better to answering that class of questions. I already own Don Norman's "Design of Everyday Things", and I know he has a follow-up book as well. How would one build knowledge in this domain if it doesn't overlap your full-time job?
The flip-side of this brings me to the second part of my original question, where I would appreciate some advice on answering what I term "rabbit-hole questions". The recent question about tag-use by non-technical and non-web-savvy people is a case in point. This is a really hard question. Due to my background and training I am very comfortable in surveying academic research, and I have spent a couple of days collecting and working my way through a multitude of research papers, and two book chapters, covering fields such as psychology, cognitive linguistics, computer science, library science, information architecture etc.
I am still busy trying to reduce all the available research to an acceptable answer, but the short answer is pointing towards "well, it's difficult, first you have to understand how people learn to categorise things, and then consider how tag systems fit into the whole design of your site, and after that it depends on a lot of things that researchers don't really like reporting". I know that I should refrain from blog-post length answers, but how would you provide enough background information to contextualise your answer in such a limited space, and without referencing all 20+ papers that helped fill in the blanks?