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February 26, 2009

Bottoms Up!!!

I also just got done reading Wikinomics How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Don Tapscott and Anthony D Williams. I wasn't sure what to think before I read this article. I'm still somewhat new to the world of wikis and I'm just getting my feet wet in this area of technology. I was surprisingly inspired by this article. I even thought that it was revolutionary.

I didn't know much about the Geek Squad before reading this. I now have a lot of respect for Robert Stephens. I think it's very smart of him to adapt a new way of collaborating by listening to what his agents were already doing. According to Stephens, "While I had my head down doing this in preparation to open the wiki's floodgates, the agents had self organized online in probably the most effective and efficient collaborative that's already out there." They were communicating through an online game and now that online game is encouraged as a form of communication through out Geek Squad.

My boyfriend is a bartender who plays World Of Warcraft everyday. He has a guild that mainly consists of his coworkers. He has told me that his manager sometimes just logs on to ask him to come into work early or if so and so had been on the game today because he was looking for him. It's interesting how online gaming can encourage communication about many other issues other than the game itself.

The thing that really made me happy about this article was the concept of bottom-up innovation. I think that Gil Dennis' ideas were revolutionary for a corporate environment. Dennis understood that his employees had knowledge about the customers that the market researchers could not produce. He started a forum for his employees to contribute their ideas on customer insights. I would have to imagine that this also created a new level of trust within the corporate environment and helped the employees feel valued and possibly take more pride in their job.

I worked for Hennepin County about ten years ago and the part of my job that I enjoyed the most was referring clients to different social service agencies that could help them with what they needed. I wish there were wikis like this back in those days. I had a mail box that letters would get dropped in and when clients needed help with something I had to pull out a paper file and go through them looking for something that could be of aid. It would have been so different with wiki. I could have collaborated with my coworkers and organized something that would have been more helpful for the workers and the clients.

Wikis, Geeks, and Battlefield 2

Wow guys...I don't even know where to begin with this one. I was reading for this week Wikinomics How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything (Chapter 9) and I was really inspired by the story of Robert Stephens and his Geek Squad.

Basically, Stephens created the Geek Squad (P.S. He is a Gopher alumni, hollar!) and was trying to find better ways for the employees to communicate, wiki style. After discovering that the employees all played Battlefield 2 together, and that they used this for not only entertainment, but also communication and connection, Stephens realized that he was going about his wiki project all wrong. Here is what the chapter says...

Stephen says the experience changed his thinking completely. “Instead of trying to set an agenda,” he said, “I’m now going to try and discover their agenda, and serve it.” (Tapscott, Williams p. 243)

This hit me with a big "DUH!" for our projects in class, and for my life in general. Instead of thinking of my own way of doing something, my own "agenda" as Stephens puts it, I need to understand what people around me are doing, and cater to their needs (within my own goals and boundaries, of course). This is also what I feel our sites should be about. We have an idea, a project. However, this project is not soley for us to say, "Whoopdee do, look what we did". It is a living thing for people to use!!! Thus, it needs to be focused on those people and how they are going to use it.

This anecdote not only connected well with the rest of the chapter, but it really is something I want to focus on for the rest of this class, and I think it applies to the way our world is working, especially in the online world. It is all about the services, the techniques that work best to help people do what they need/want to do in the most efficient way. Isn't that what we are all seeking in life?

So that is what I mostly got out of the wiki idea. I am not big into the technical issues (in case you hadn't already figured that one out), but I am huge into the people issues. AND! if I can understand how something works for people, I am completely willing to learn the tech stuff and make it work so that I can simply help people. Hollar!!!

I really hope others see this perspective for our sites. I want to learn how to do this stuff, yes, definitely. But learning how to do something without being able to put it to good use doesn't really do much. So...that's what I got for this week. Hooray for Wikis and making life maybe just a little bit more simplified.

I do not need caffine to be wired- Net Generation.

I always had a special interest in reading about how different generations compare to eachother, but this is the first time I heard the term “net gen”. I agree that people who grew up in this era did not so much have to learn how to use technology but rather it was almost a second “instinct”. Everyone always wanted to be the first one to have the new phone or ipod, but the want for shiny gadgets has turned into a demand from corporations to produce faster. If I was to attribute only one adjective to describe the net generation, the word must be “speed.” This can be good as well as bad, but to be able to multi-task is not something everyone can handle without having nervous breakdowns. I would be grouped with the net gen because of my age and even though I am a really good multi-tasker there is only so much one could take with three instant messengers on, checking updates on Twitter, looking at my e-mail inbox and blogging at the same time. Sometimes it sounds as if there are a million voices in my head, but the net gen has a longer tolerance at multi-tasking than any other generation, and eventually they will not even notice they’re doing five tasks at once because it is something they have always done.

The history of Wiki is so much more extensive than what I originally thought to be a simple editable on-line encyclopedia. I also never knew Wikis were having such a big impact on companies and their employees. My place has yet to actually do any team building exercises using the internet, but that is okay since we work with selling books. I think wikis are a great innovated idea for the work environment. Everyone gets to contribute without worry that they are saying too much or too little. Other people will help take your idea than mix it with their own in order to make a “super idea.” (Yes, that was lame of me.) Not only does it promote people to share their opinions but it is also cost effective in many ways. It does not cost anything to create a wikipage and it cuts back on the use of paperwork. Win-Win I say.

I can also definitely vouch that people do indeed talk about their work when playing video games and if you run in the group that loves to talk about how computers work, someone will always supply an answer to your question. Talking into a microphone while you’re pressing buttons is really easy after a couple of hours. I still think blogging in the work place seems to be more trouble than useful, but Jonathan Schwartz (Wikonomics Pg. 14) has a good point that blogging gives good insight into what people think and it has an unedited genuine feel to it.

The Net-Gereration, are you ready?

In contrast to baby-boomers, our generation is known as the Net-Generation; one that spends numerous hours during throughout the day checking our email, instant messaging and text messaging. Some corporations aren’t comfortable with our generation and feel that we spend too much time on the internet and not being productive during our time at work. However, William’s Wikinomics states that our generation is more geographically dispersed and communicating throughout the work place is becoming more important. Networking sites, such as wikis and blogs, allow companies to run cohesive yet decentralized by linking the virtual teams together. (William, 246) In fact, Ross Mayfield founder and CEO of Socialtext states that research has shown that emails themselves are reaching a breaking point. Workers are spending too much time on email and they need a second resource for communication, this is where Wiki’s come in and where I become baffled by them.

Cunningham’s chapter on starting up Wiki’s really helped my understanding of a wiki and how they are constructed. To be honest, my only exposure to wikis is through Wikipedia. Until this week I didn’t understand why people would want to construct a wiki, but it is known as “the simplest online database that could possibly work.” (Cunningham, 15)

A wiki is a lot about collaboration of space, ease of access and use, simple and uniform navigational conventions, and apparent lack of formal structure. (Cunningham, 16) So, why set up a wiki? We first need to consider the type and scope of users we expect and the context of the users. In reference to the reading, our wiki will be a collaboration of information on the Republication National Convention for information seekers, convention committees, researchers, police and many other groups of people. One of the first wikis that was developed was Wikipedia and has grown to the world’s largest Wiki. Even though we don’t expect our wiki to grow as fast as Wikipedia, we hope that our wiki will be just informative and integrative for our audience.

The Geek Squad

I find it amazing how the Geek Squad grew their business practically overnight once they signed with Best Buy (Tapscott). They went from $3 million after eight years of business to $1 billion with the publicity and association with Best Buy. You can tell that their employees are proud of what they do when they wear their jackets shopping off the clock. They aren't afraid to be labeled as geeks and people approach them in the store to ask questions. They are the experts on computer problems.

Even though they are the experts on fixing computers, doesn’t mean that they like using different tasks on them. The company had tried to get them to use the Wiki, but it didn’t go over very well.

The idea of the Wiki is good. It allows for contruibution from multiple users to be edited and organized (Leuf). Instead of e-mailing back and forth to a bunch of people, you all can compare and see how the page has changed through the entire process.

The only downfall that I can think of is the fact that visitors can edit the page. This can lead to inaccurate and unreliable information. As a result, the site must be monitored to ensure it authenticity. The Wiki does allow you to see who made the changes and when they made the changes.

I think the Wiki is the new and effective way to collaborate in groups. I had never used a Wiki before until this year, now I’m using it for two different classes!

February 25, 2009

Wikiality

So even I love wikis because of their usefulness, I have to agree with Steven Colbert in the Colbert Report regarding these little web miracles. Watch this video featuring "The Word" and you can easily see how opinions can be blown out of proportion and facts can be distorted. I love random facts and being able to learn them in wikis, but how can one even know whether something is indeed a fact or just a distortion of a fact? Sometimes, even news stories and sites with reportedly "good" sources have been known to have skewed facts. And sometimes, sites have presented opinions or non-facts in a fact-based manner. And in reality, when we are simply browsing the web, how are supposed to tell fact from fact-ish or fiction? I realize I may have drifted and brought down the morale of the blog, but I feel that today, with our use of the web for factual information, we need to be able to know whether the information we are reading is indeed fact or fiction...

http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/72347/july-31-2006/the-word---wikiality

Work and the Wonky Wiki

Thanks to my experience and the readings this week, I now understand how wikis came into being (Leuf & Cunningham, 2001(?), p 14-15), I have examples of good uses of the wiki format and examples of inappropriate projects for wikis (Barton, “Embrace the Wiki Way!”), and I have grandiose ideals for how I can implement and use wiki and web 2.0 applications in my workplace - if I could get around IT. And, I have a reference for how to organize tasks and manage conflict on collaborative teams (Brown et al, 2007, p 126-135) although this last reading seemed out of place given the other strictly wiki related readings. Still, I copied the list from page 135 to use as a cubicle decoration (a.k.a. subtle hint).

I love my job. I work for a medical device company that thrives thanks to network security. On top of that, approximately 90% of communication at this company happens via email. That statistic alone says we need to look into better ways of communicating. I wonder what percentage of emails sent contain fewer than 140 characters if you exclude the corporate signatures…

As I was reading about the origins of the Geek Squad in “Wikinomics”, I imagined what it would be like to have access to games at work, or access to Facebook for that matter (Tapscott and Williams, 2006(?), p 241-245). But if the company cannot monitor how you use something, they just block access to it in the name of corporate integrity. Interestingly enough, we do have some collaborative tools to use that are company sanctioned. We have a document management system where you can check documents out, make changes, and then resubmit them for approval. This works great for electronic approvals and revision control. What is most interesting is that this system has a feature where you can “submit” items for collaboration, which allows a selected group of coworkers to go into the system, view, check out, and modify a single document. This is a great feature and it is actually very wiki-like in design if not a bit one-dimensional for a web application.

There are a few issues with the system that would be solved by using a wiki. First, documents are often checked out from the system and collaborators forget to check them back in, so the project can be delayed as the document sits buried in someone’s temporary files. Second, a fair number of people don’t know how this option works so they don’t use it. Third, you are limited to the editing and commenting capabilities of the software you use to author the file. For example, MS Word’s track changes will show who added or deleted what, but if you author an entire document that way it gets really messy. The system has a change history that can be completed each time the document is checked in, but it is optional and it relies on the author to detail every change made in that revision.

That said, I can see so many areas where wikis could be used to foster collaboration on documents and projects, particularly in the medical device industry. I think the stigma that Kaitlin S. cited from Leuf and Cunningham regarding how wikis are unstructured and too open and makes implementation in a highly regulated industry difficult, but not impossible (p 33). I think eventually the right people will see how beneficial this technology can be to the industry and the rest will be history. I just hope I am still around to say, “I told you so”.

Working with wikis

In the wikinomics reading this week, wikis are discussed in depth in regards to how they work with businesses and companies. Page 247 explains that younger generations of web workers are using new web based tools that promise advantages for companies. Tools such as wikis allows for peer-to-peer collaboration where workers can broadcast collective information in one place. Wikis allow people to engage and cocreate with more people in a more versatile system.

It seems that all these new powerful web tools are becoming more and more popular among businesses and can be used efficiently among different companies. However, I have to be somewhat uneasy about the accuracy of information on wikis. A lot of my professors specifically instruct students not to get information from sites like Wikipedia, because anyone has the power to go in there and change information and record inaccuracies. So, while wikis allow for this great collaboration that normally wouldn't be possible with other mediums, this advantage also introduces some disadvantages. With so many people adding information to a wiki, there is a lot more room for error. Additionally, it is hard to monitor and edit such an expansive site that has so many web workers constantly updating information.

Finally, wikis can contain so much information that it can appear unstructured and unorganized making it difficult to make effective use of the site. Similar to writing a group paper – where everyone has their own writing styles – a wiki is bringing together so many different web workers that it can be hard to maintain uniform and stay consistent among entries. So while wikis are a very powerful online tool and can be great resources to receive information, users must be conscious of the downsides and maintain some skepticism about the accuracy of the information.

How are we going to be successful

Success is defined in many different ways by different people. It is individualized based on the person as well as the task at hand. That’s what makes defining success so difficult for us. We have a large group of people that are all going to have different ideas about what to consider ‘successful’ for our site. On the other hand, we do have one common task: creating an RNC site. It was a good idea to outline all of our goals in the discussion forums because these will give us a more tangible idea of our success by judging how well we’ve accomplished what we’ve outlined.

Specifically for us, I think success will be measured based on how well we accomplish the tasks we’ve set for ourselves. Making the site interactive and educational/informative are two big themes being thrown around at the moment. These are tangible ideas that we can easily judge whether or not we’ve accomplished them. Success is a long process, however, and we will
not be able to determine if we’ve been successful until we have a finished project. We can make sure we stay on the right path and are constantly working towards our site goals, but ultimately there is always more improvement and more work that can be done. For now, being successful will mean that we are developing our ideas thoroughly and working collaboratively to reach our goals that we are currently setting.

Wiki, Wiki, What!

I hope everyone go the scratching reference in the title. These wikis are amazing to me and provide a common place for users to share information and gain knowledge of a topic without being in the same room. The value that it gives researchers or companies far out weighs conference calls or expensive meetings to work on new products or to generate new ideas and provides a comon place to work. The other feature that I really found great is that users can edit or add information to a website that is basically a text site with no frills. We are not weeding through a bunch of complacated formats and the general information is easily accessable. A great example of that is what Robert Stephens was able to do with the Geek Squad.

Now for the down side. A user has to be careful on what information they trust and or use in their research. Since it is an open forum, anybody can edit or add to different topic sections. For example, I could go on to Wikipedia and edit or add to a subject that I have no idea about or want to mess up. User creditablility and integerity have to be at the for front to assure this type of technolgy is not abused.

Tim Kaplan

Qualifying Success

Success: a: degree or measure of succeeding b: favorable or desired outcome ; also : the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

Last week, we identified our short and long term goals for the site. It seemed to me that these goals fell nicely into two categories: team goals and site goals. Some of the popular team goals were team formation, examining motivations of those involved, site planning, and continued growth. For the site itself, we identified extreme organization, usability, unbiased information, and comprehensive coverage.

The simple answer is this: If we meet these criteria, we will achieve success. After all, according to the definition above, success is a "favorable or desired outcome." But there's more. What about the "attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence" part? Obviously we won't be making any money; that's not the point of wikis (or school for that matter). I think we should shoot for gaining favor. How, then, do we gain this favor and qualify our success? The following is a list of success-achievement indicators:

1. After the class is over, our team will occasionally update the site and keep in touch (this equals success on the team formation goal)

2. Lots of people will look at the site (and, hopefully, cite it)

3. We will meet all of our deadlines

4. Our site will climb to #1 on Google Results

5. Someone somewhere will comment on the site's clean user interface and great organization (maybe I'll bribe someone in the department to email Krista about it)

6. Most importantly, we will feel good about our site once it's finished. We will leave this class having learned something new and exciting about Emerging Technologies in STC

Importance of Wiki Disadvantages

To be completely honest, I am a little skeptical of wikis. Well, I suppose just Wikipedia. I don’t really trust that site because it can be changed by anyone and who knows if the information someone puts up is correct. How can credibility be established with a site like this? I don’t really have the answer to that question but I can see how wikis are an effective tool in the workplace. This is evidenced by the Geek Squad at Best Buy where they used a wiki to bring members together to develop product ideas and designs (Tapscott & Williams, * 243-244). It is an excellent place for collaboration and the sharing of ideas. The fact that wikis can be easily altered to add or remove things makes them quite simple to use. One thing that I like about using a wiki in the workplace is the connections that can be made between employees even though they might be separated by thousands of miles.

The two readings for this week talk about the numerous benefits of wikis and how they can be used in today’s workplace. Leuf & Cunningham* also talk about two disadvantages of wikis which I think are important to keep in mind when we are creating our site. They are that a wiki,

1 “can be too open, providing too little visible and enforced linking between contributions and who made them.
2. It can be too unstructured, with unacceptable freedom in how material is contributed and organized.” (33)

I can see where these two pitfalls might happen in the workplace. It goes back to the readings from last week about organizational schemes and structures. If everyone follows their own concept of organizing what they add to a workplace wiki, the information can easily be arranged in a while that is confusing. However, I feel that if a workplace wiki had specific restrictions about what could or could not be added or how, employees might not be as interested in contributing or might not be as creative as they could be without the restrictions. Therefore, I think the importance of these disadvantages is to be aware of them and perhaps foresee how they could affect your wiki (in whatever the context).

I think these two disadvantages might not affect us as much because we have a plan for how our information is going to be organized on our site, and we know who is doing and contributing what. Even if this plan changes in the future, we have an outline of what the site will be. But I think it is important to keep these disadvantages in mind as we construct the wiki. It can become easily unstructured if we don’t stick to our plan for how to organize the information on our site.

* Note the dates weren’t listed on the PDFs for the citations.

February 24, 2009

Why Wikis Are Awesome

I think the reason that Wikis are so heavily used and effective in the workplace and in society in general today is because of the variety of information sources and the ability for them to be easily updated on a daily basis. When I was reading the article about the Geek Squad, I felt that it offered a good explanation of the ideas that you can get out a group of like minded, intelligent individuals with common interests. Instead of hiring engineers to come up with ideas for Geek Squad branded products Robert Stephens enlisted his own “geeks” to come up with ideas and they produced many of their most successful products.

I think this relates to Wikis because instead of just one person composing and managing the information like on a typical website, a Wiki allows for tens to thousands of common people with all levels of knowledge and different forms of information to collaborate what they know or understand about an issue or idea. This helps develop a more complete information source with all sorts of view points and ideas embedded in the page, not just the viewpoints and ideas of a single author.

Also due to the ease of editing a Wiki, it is easy to update information on a daily basis. On Wikipedia for example, the same day that information is released or becomes available to the public it is almost immediately put on Wikipedia. For instance, at the Grammys on February 8, 2009, Blink 182 announced that they were getting back together, making a new album, and going on tour. That information was put on Wikipedia that same night and there is extensive information on the happenings since then including information from as Associated Press interview that happened as recently as February 19th. And like I mentioned earlier Wikis are a collaborative resource. Instead of having to see the Grammys that night and read the Associated Press to find this information, you can find it all in one spot on a Wiki.

February 22, 2009

Planning for Success

According to Webster’s online dictionary, in the business world suc•cess (sək-sěs') n. can be defined as: the achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted: attributed their success in business to hard work. Now that it is defined, how do we measure success? How to we know when we have achieved it?


As stated in the definition to achieve success a project needs to be desired - this class desires to make a wiki about the RNC (at least to achieve a good grade). Next, we must plan the project. As we are a virtual team, it will be important to properly communicate a detailed plan for the website. Who is doing what? When does it need to be done by, what are our guide lines for each process are example issues that need to be planned.


According to the Brown, Chapter 5 (page 94) reading there are 5 main items to cover in a project plan they include:
1. Project scope – what are the purpose, goals and great milestones to achieve
2. Requirements for success – what do we need to do achieve a thriving final product
3. The tasks included in the plan – what each student is going to do
4. Schedule for completion
5. Cost estimate


Once our class develops a through project plan it will be important to also monitor and keep track of the schedule that is developed. If deadlines are not met than the project will not be successfully completed on time.


Brown also says that for our virtual team to succeed it will also be important that we know all of the software, hardware and programs that we are using. It is also impossible to successfully complete a project if the whole team is not familiar with the program we are using.


I have only dipped in to the basics of planning for success and how to work towards achieving it. Through my past experiences success also only comes with great communication and regular meetings –whether it is through chats, the phone or physically meeting.


Good luck on our website development – GO TEAM!

February 20, 2009

Bounce Rate as a Web Metric

I came across this video earlier in the week. I think it's a nifty metric for websites, so I thought I would share

Success does not mean Done

Success. It almost sounds like done. Tell an elementary teacher you are “done” and you will most likely be corrected for the use of "done". Apparently the word “done” is so final that teachers don’t like hearing it. The same feeling goes through my head when I hear “success”. I’d like to interpret success to be an answer to this question: Did we achieve our main goal, and what is our next one?

In our case, I believe the question of our success should be divided into two simple questions. The first: During the making of the RNC website, were we successful in our online interactions and cooperation? Second, is our site working the way we intended it to?

Project planning is essential in our success. We are building a website together, and there are so many of us. It is easy for one or two people to get left behind, thinking there is nothing for them to do. It is also easy to fall behind on contributing to the workload, but if we make a basic plan everyone will know where to go. Due to the different schedules of every individual, the tasks will take longer to complete. (Brown, 2007, p97) But in order to make our website, everyone needs a job, needs to know how to approach it, and when to finish it. Of course, some of the basics in the reading are unnecessary for us. We all have access to computers and the basics. We don’t need to outline a budget, and we don’t need other tools to be provided to us.

Towards the end of the project deadline (end of the semester?) we will take a step back and go through the website as though we were a new user. Then and there we will each measure the success of the website based on the outlined purposes and goals we have. But the website will live on, and success will still never mean done.

February 19, 2009

How do you spell success??

Based on the goals we have setup for our site this semester, the main way I feel we should measure our success is by the work we put into the site and the use of the site by others.

This site is like a little online garden. We are planting several specific seeds that all fit within our exact type of garden. We are tending to the seeds and cultivating the land to construct a beautiful, functional, working thing. Just by doing this we are successful. We are making something that was not there before, on our own. P.S. We are not all exactly your typical online 1's and 0's people that know everything about all of this stuff. We are intelligent students working together to create something unique and usable. This is pretty freaking awesome to me...and by being awesome, it is a success!

Obviously, if other students, workers, teachers, people in general, etc. use this site and find it intelligable, helpful, and understandable...that is another big success! I would be happy with one hit off of google, although I am sure we will receive more attention than that. But, in my mind, just to be noticed for doing something like this is really cool.

Any article that deals with the internet, states that a group of people must use and understand something of the internet for it to be successful....it is not in a vacuum. So if we can get others to appreciate and use what we have worked hard to put together, I will be a happy camper. I wan't people to say, "Yes! Finally someone gets what I need and has put it out there for me to use." That is what I say when I come across a very helpful resource, and that is my goal of success for our site. HOLLAR!!!!! :)

Our success story

Our goal is to create an easily accessible web site that provides an extensive database of information. While we do already have a good start on gathering information, this would all mean nothing if we were unable to organize the information in a way that proves to be user-friendly. This is why it is so important to make sure to keep descriptive tabs on our links. If we are able to gather a huge amount of information from many sources while maintaining effective site navigation I would say that we have been successful in the course. To be a successful web site, however, it needs to be easily found by the people who are seeking information on the RNC. This success can be measured by watching the hits our site receives. I don't know exactly how this works, but I would imagine it is fairly easy to keep track of. Overall, if we create a site with an extensive amount of information that is easy to navigate, then more people will use it and our success can be measured by the amount of hits our site receives.

Project Goals and Plans

In order to keep the pieces of the puzzle coming together we need a task list and a schedule to keep us on track (Brown, Huettner, Tanny, 2007). There shouldn't be any financial cost to us, but there will be a time commitment. Since we are working together to complete this project we need to make sure that we are all speaking the same "language." If you file things a certain way due to associations that pop into your mind about that object, doesn't mean that those same thing will pop into everyone elses minds. Basically, you can't assume that everyone thinks the same way. You need to have a reason for placing certain things in a specific location and follow some kind of guideline so that it is easily accessible and everyone agrees on its placement (Morville, Rosenfeld, 2007).

I think the site should be organized chronologically so that it is easier for those not familiar with the subject to follow along and understand that this happened as a result of this, etc. Multiple keywords linking to the same subject like the entity relationship diagram would be good since everyone might not come up with the same exact words to search, but can get to the same end result. If they can't find what they are looking for, they will leave the site and we won't be successful.

Users need to be successful in order for us to be successful.

Some kind of an archive would be nice to be able to follow our progress.

February 18, 2009

Goal Post (success-o-metrics)

What does success look like? Based on what we've said so far about our project goals and plans, how will we know if we've succeeded or not?

Ideally at this stage, we should be asking the user now what they want to see on our site and why and design to those specifications. We should know whether they want to search for a technological term or browse the site to understand the big issues of the RNC protests. I don’t see that we will have access to a large pool of users that we can survey for this type of information. Also, our audience is basically anyone, so we cannot tailor the information to a specific group or population. Although we know there are a few populations that may be more likely to visit than others, we still have to design a site that will appeal to anyone with a number of possible motives for visiting the site, which is a considerable challenge.

A good usability test is probably the best way to know if we have succeeded in our design goals. We could find out how well our population of users makes their way through the site and with how much frustration, which could indicate whether or not a user would revisit the site. We could also find out, for example, how well the users can answer a list of questions using the information on the site and how long it takes them to find that information. We can find out how well a search function works, whether or not Google search can find the site, or whether external links take users away from the site and don’t provide an easy return. We have listed some of these ideas as goals, so a usability test can help us show which goals we met or didn't meet.

A heuristic evaluation will show that we have addressed the basics of web-design and give us a place to start. It can help us figure out if we met some standard guidelines; kind of like having pre-set objectives. Did we correctly address items like breadcrumbs and consistent navigation and design (Nielsen, http://www.useit.com/papers/heuristic/heuristic_list.html). Are we using the appropriate organizational structure given the site content? For example are we using topic based organization since we are looking at protests, preparations, and impact on community (O’Reilly, 65). Have we avoided using jargon or are technical terms well defined (are we providing a glossary)? I think we need to keep a list of deliverables in mind as we design. Which leads to part two of the question for this week’s post:

What specific indicators should we look for?
Here’s a sample of some indicators that could be included in a test plan for our site:
1) The website should meet Nielsen’s ten usability heuristics (http://www.useit.com/papers/heuristic/heuristic_list.html)
2) A user should be able to find a specified piece of information on the site within 3-5 clicks or approximately 1 minute.
3) A user should be able to answer a specific question using the information on the site within 3 minutes (for example, what technology did theuptake use to stream protest video directly to the web?).
4) All internal and external links should be active and users should know immediately if they have left the site.
5) The user should be able to locate a definition for “Twitter” within 3-5 clicks or in less than 1 minute without navigating away from the site.

This is just a start, but I am a huge believer in SMART objectives (Specific, measureable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound, we use these every year at work to set objectives) and I think these items provide an example of some of the specific metrics we should define and then strive to meet.

Baby Steps

The way that any person or team defines sucess is by taking the sum of what is being provided and matching that against the expectations of the party judging the product. It is very clear that our team will be working toward producing a website that is unbias and provides research material on the RNC of 2008. As a group we will need to take baby steps and follow the guidlines set by the course without cutting corners. The first thing that will make this project a sucess is if we can get it up and running so that the public can take advantage of the work we have done. The next goal or judgement of sucess should be if this website is informative, interactive and will provide accurate information provided by a number of media outlets. If we can produce such a product, we will be sucessful in this venture and a number of people will be clicking on our website. As our website is up, word of mouth to others should increase traffic and we will possibly even receive feedback on how we can improve this site. Interaction and visits will be how we can judge our sucess levels and are what we should be using as a benchmark to set further goals in the future.

The Elevator of Success- It has Levels.

It is good to see that we have a final definite list of all our goals. I do not really know how to describe success because everyone has their own definitions and it depends on the situation. If I was to describe success I would classify them into different levels. The first and most basic will just simply be able to put the site together. A workable site is my main focus. By just completing that objective is not enough though and so the second level comes into play; for me success is evident when I have created something I can be proud of. This requires us to work as a team and for everyone to pull their own weight. Our website will focus on the Republican Convention and we should scour the web as well as offline materials and be the foremost expert. I want people to come to our site first when they want information on that topic because not only do we have the most information it is also the most diverse. A third level to indicate our success is a large number of visitors. The Internet is a massive collection of information and we know we did well when people come back and not just glance through never to be seen again.

When all three of these levels have been attained than I can sit back and feel success. It will be a brief moment though because there will always be another level to achieve. The reason why I described success as levels because there is no one point of stopping and there is always room for improvement. I have a crazy over-achiever side and she took over for a minute. For now if we can just focus on those three levels we have a good grip on success.

Success is in the eye of the beholder

In analyzing whether we will be successful with our site and specifically what indicators will let us know that, I started thinking about what success really is. Generally, it is achieving something that you have planned. But what I think is successful might not be what somebody else thinks is successful. I think that spending an hour to finally win a game of spider solitaire is successful while someone else would think that was a waste of time (which its not). As individuals, we are all going to have our own opinions about what will make our project successful. But I think one thing that we might all be able to agree on is that our success can be measured by looking at if we achieved our short-term and long-term goals. Specifically, this can be done in a number of ways. One such way that would indicate whether or not we were successful is to conduct usability tests. For example, one of our long-term goals is extreme organization. An organization scheme and an organization structure are two main ways to organize the information on our site according to Morville and Rosenfeld (2007, 58). There are also sub-strategies within these two overarching types; each with their own pros and cons. So when evaluating whether the organization of our site was successful, we can use usability testing to see if people can easily access information and understand the site without confusion.

In looking back to our set of goals, they are fairly clearly defined. They have become our plan in terms of what we want to achieve and what we want our users to be able to do when they come to the site. This was talked about in our reading for this week. According to Brown (2007), teams need a plan and must have a way to track the progress for that plan (97). There are a few ways to note the progress of the individuals and the group as a whole. They include keep members informed about what everyone does, adjust the plan if necessary, and document actions and decisions (Brown 2007, 108). For our site, perhaps some of the ways we can track our progress is through Twitter, our blog site, del.ic.ious, etc. Tracking our progress would be an indication if we are on task to achieving our goals and therefore becoming successful.

Finally, I think another indication of success is reflection. I think it is important for us to individually and as a team to reflect on our site. Having this discussion and hearing what everyone thinks will also help us to gage our success.

history of the Internet

Interesting, and also an example of the kind of peripherally useful things you can post here for extra credit.

February 17, 2009

How do we judge success?

I feel that the main way to measure our success in this project is whether we accomplish the goals that we have now put into place after our site is all said and done. If our wiki site ends up being a reliable and quality resource for information seekers on the RNC protests then I think our site would be a success. If we manage to get to that point in an efficient, team-driven manner then I think our project would be an even bigger success because we not only achieved our goals for the site but our goals for working as a team and accomplishing tasks together while using the resources made available to us.

Specific Indicators of whether our site is a success are harder to list but I will try to do so on all three levels (goals of the users, short-term goals, and long term goals).

The goals of the user:

Can the user easily find the information they are looking for on our site?
Will the user be better informed on the factual events of the RNC protests in St. Paul after visiting and reading the information on the site?

I think those are the most important goals for the user. Everything else such as RSS feeds, saving and modifying tags, and the ability to share resources would be nice but in my opinion those added features don’t determine whether our site is a success or not.

Short-Term Goals:

The short-term goals will be less important when judging the success of the site, since they are working towards the overall success of the finished product. These goals are more working towards success than actually succeeding.

But in my opinion the most important things to accomplish from this section are:

Defining our areas – which we are doing now
Site Planning
Developing strong organizational techniques

Long-Term Goals:

I believe this is the point where we can truly judge the success of our final product.

Did we work well as a team throughout the semester?
Is our site usable, informative, and unbiased?
Is it comprehensive?

February 14, 2009

Topic of Interest - RNC vs. DNC

I am sitting here recovering from a dislocated rib and finishing up this week's assignment - sorry I procrastinated until so late in the week to contribute.

I wanted to attend the chat to suggest an idea for a content section, but was unable to attend (or sit up comfortably for that matter). Instead, I will post here and see if I get any feedback. I ran across a number of articles during my search that compared the way protests occurred and were handled at the RNC in St. Paul vs. the DNC in Denver. I think including these comparisons might highlight some of the security and protest preparations that were particularly useful and others that were not. I think it also might emphasize the role that technology played in the organization and planning of both events. My hope is that by putting this information together in one place and looking from a wider angle, important people with high paying jobs will come together to make a list of "best practices" in the future. However, I believe also that this topic might constitute "scope creep" widening the scope of the site to politics in general instead of just the RNC - which is already large enough a topic with a wealth of available information. Thoughts?

Another piece of food for thought I picked up on earlier this week is the involvement of new technology in politics in general. I believe it was a radio program broadcast that mentioned how politicians like Obama and RT Rybak are using new technologies like Twitter and Facebook to gain support of technology savvy younger voters. I guess I had just always assumed politicians were using the internet to get votes and I was surprised that it was such a huge news story that people in office were using Web 2.0 applications to stay in touch with the voters. I guess the best response I have to that is - it's about time. I think politicians should have to keep in touch with the people they work for (us - or at least that's the way I think it should be) just like we need to keep in touch with our managers and coworkers, and what better way to reach a large and dispersed audience than the internet!?!

As always, comments and suggestions are welcome and appreciated!

February 3, 2009

Back to Twitter for a second...

So, it seemed like the theme in our blog posts about Twitter was all about how we could see how it was an effective tool, but it wouldn't be personally useful. In my interactive advertising class today we talked a little about Twitter and how companies have been using it to enhance their customer service. If you search for "comcastcares" in Twitter, you'll find the site run by Frank Elisson. (http://twitter.com/comcastcares) He is the director of digital care for Comcast, and his full time job is pretty much to respond to people's comments/questions/complains on Twitter! Imagine making your entire living just off Twitter? So I thought this was an interesting way to actually see how the site was effective for big companies since it was hard for us to see how we could personally use it effectively. If you search for Comcast on google, this Twitter account is actually number 5-6 on the list of sites that return to you. They created the account in response to Facebook groups that bashed Comcast's support and company in general.

February 1, 2009

Impression of Twitter

As someone who keeps to herself often I am not very good at being social and I even forget that there is indeed a necessary point to human interaction. Twitter was really easy to use and the whole concept of“asking shows that you care? is a great sentiment, but I honestly do not think I will use it outside of this classroom. We have become spoiled by the variety of options in our lives and when something has so little features it becomes a turnoff and I am no exception to this; I did not care for the word limit, or the inability to go back and edit a misspelled word. On the other hand of things I can see the reason for this since (it could be something that is just in my head, who knows..) In actual life when you speak out loud to another person there is no back key, and so it would make sense that Twitter does not allow this feature. It gives everything a more unedited genuine feel of your current thoughts right than and there. Another reason I would never seek out Twitter on my free time is because it is a program that takes up a lot of time. It is really easy to write a quick sentence, but the constant need to turn on my computer and keep checking to see if anyone has replied can make one a little obsessive.

Before I read chapter six of Connect!, I always regarded communication as an exchange of information but after giving it some more thought my personal view of the word “communication? has changed. When I read stories in books, it is not only descriptive imagery the author is trying to rely to the reader, but rather a wanting to build a relationship between reader and the characters. The author wants the reader to become attached to the world they have created and the people who exist in that world.

Since I am still getting use to the World of blogging I am using my love of reading as a security blanket, so be warned now: most if not all my posts will contain a book or reading analogy. Good-bye until next time.