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No External Measure.

Our metrics for success with this project won't be the same as with a typical informational or commercial website. Many of you have hit on the idea, informed by the readings, that we will achieve success by including various content and usability functions in the site. Hit count is always a way to assess a website's popularity and thus is attractive as a proxy measure of success. Feedback is another possible measure, and establishment of a recurring user community would be an unmistakable sign that we've done a good job. All of these are useful, even unquantified, and we could choose any combination of them to define our success by the end of the semester. But that won't work for us.

We are working toward a fixed deadline with the end of this class, and that's where our point of measuring success has to fall. Whether some or all of us continue on as site administrators, contributors, etc. won't be relevant for the direct purpose of this class - determining whether we are successful in this context is fixed. For this reason, we will not be able to rely on hit counts, feedback, or the potential development of a user community to gauge our results. These metrics will simply take too long to develop.

So it's back to the first idea - the content and function of the site itself. Here we have total control over what happens, and can define our success exactly as fits our objectives and timeline. We've already done most of the groundwork for this, in the Forums this week and last, on Thinkature, and with Krista's audio/slide presentation. We have a functional outline of our site and how we want it to work. We can now define our success as following through with that outline, creating and posting our wiki to the web. Giving ourselves a little more specificity will help too. One way to do that would be to set content targets for each of our subsections (or for each contributor): 5 text articles, 10 photos, 20 external links (arbitrary numbers), and I'm betting some of you will have other creative ideas on this.

It might sound like none of this gets directly back to our very important question of audience. We can't account for the audience directly in our measurement of results, but we are doing so by design, and measuring the implementation of that design. In this way, we are still placing due attention and importance on the question of the audience.

Comments

Jim - You've made a great point about how we will measure success. Before reading your post I wasn't thinking about the course end and the actual creation of the website as the measure of our success, but rather was thinking of external measurement and how the user sees/uses it.

As for what happens after the course is over, I also was wondering who would update it...there won't be repeat users if the content doesn't change.

Hello Jim. First of all, I want to thank you for your comment on my blog. To answer your question about standing out from the rest, this may be a long shot, but I think that would be very honorable if we got some buzz/media attention or maybe even an award for our website. Perhaps I'm thinking with my head in the clouds, but I think that would be such an honor. I think we could achieve this by killer graphics, people-friendly colors, organized and easy-to-understand text, and of course, if a lot of people spread the word about it.

Regarding your post, when reading: "Our metrics for success with this project won't be the same as with a typical informational or commercial website."--great opening! When you wrote: "Hit count is always a way to assess a website's popularity and thus is attractive as a proxy measure of success."--I agree! It tells us how many people have visited.
If we have 1 person visit :(
If we have 1,000,000 visit :)
Your statement of "we have total control over what happens" is what has held on to me the most. It reminds me of the popular saying, "We choose our own destiny." We have control . . . let's make it great!

You bring up a great point here. The fact that we won't be able to assess feedback or hit counts as a form of whether or not we are succeeding, is a great realization.

I agree with you, that our best shot at success is then in the design. But my question is, how do we assess what type of information is being demanded, regarding the bridge, if we don't ask the potential audience?

If we are concerned about just putting out as much content as possible, i am not concerned. However, if we are truly looking to standout from the rest, I think that we need to look at what other sites are missing, figure out who is looking at what, find out what they are looking for, and find out who they can ask if we don't have the answers.

This can be done through research of our own, by reviewing the current sites, and asking some potential audience members. We should also maybe think about including a list of contacts of the people/groups working with the bridge. Just a thought.