Thanks for the reading list, III. It may shock you to know that I've read all of these, (with the exception of Shirky, whom I hadn't until you recommended him in another thread).
I attended one of Tufte's (in)famous seminars, got the signed books, was entertained by his presentation but thoroughly disappointed when he dismissed web design outright, calling the web a "low-res medium".
In my day job I am a freelance information architect and interaction designer. When I was still with an agency in 2001, I worked on a major redesign of informationweek.com. Our client hired NNG to review the wireframe designs I did with my content lead, prior to giving us the green light to build them.
Jakob himself reviewed our design and I sat in on the call where he gave his findings. He gave us a score of 84 out of a possible 100. That was, at the time, the highest score he'd ever given a designer outside his own consultancy. Most sites got around a 40.
I say this partly to toot my own horn, partly to point out that Neilsen stacks the deck against everyone he reviews, and partly to point out that even armed with this valuable collection of knowledge, designing a good product is als dependent upon a good process.
We had a lousy one. We're fixing it as much as we can. Working in a volunteer environment creates added challenges in promoting user-centered design, which is the core of most of these experts writings.
I guess I want to let you know you are not working with total amateurs here. The evangelization of UCD has been on my and Haunani's plates for 2 years, and the org is slow to come around, as it generally requires a more time and patience up front. I've done this successfully with business clients, but it works with them because I can show them how much money they save in the long run by investing in user research/interative design in the short term. The org lacks the cost/benefit analysis impetus because most of the labor is volunteered.
The Burning Man way is to do it, then fix it if it's broke. Trying to turn it around, to design it so it doesn't break in the first place, has been, and continues to be, a real challenge.
All that rather long-windedly said, I've finished the eplaya meeting update, and have sent it to Spanky to add his comments. It's a long one, and will, I hope, increase your faith in our approach going forward.