February 25, 2009

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.

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

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 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, 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 (
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.

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?