Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Blogging will be...

a bit more sporadic than usual. I've just signed on to work on a really exciting research project related to  linked data---more specifically how or if linked data might be used to enhance online catalogs.

My semester just got a lot busier, but I can't tell you how excited I am about this project. More later!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Zombies Guide to Boolean Operators

My first foray into video production and just in time for Halloween too.

Technical notes:

Usaura and Click Tests

Want a quick, effective way to conduct small usability tests for your website? Usaura provides a free way to conduct simple "click tests" online. The process is fairly simple. You'll need to upload a screenshot of the page you want to test and then formulate a question (avoid using the keywords found on your website) to ask your users:
"You're a high school student who wants to attend Mizzou next fall. You know it's going to be expensive and that you're parents won't be able to cover the entire cost. Where would you click to find information on how to get money to pay for school? "
Click test results displayed on heat map
Usaura then generates a link that you can e-mail, tweet, or otherwise distribute anyway you like to participants of the test. Users then answer the question by clicking on the website screenshot you provided, indicating where they would go to find information to answer the question. Usaura then tracks those clicks and the amount of time it took for users to make the click.

Click test information can help spot usability problems by telling you whether users are clicking on the areas you expected them to. If the results aren't what you expected, you may need to change the "trigger words" or link labels on your site to match the natural language of your users. If participants take longer than expected to locate an area to click on, you may need to make the information more visually prominent or take a look at the link labels.

Usuara also makes it possible to conduct quick preference tests ("Which new website design do you like best?") and get feedback on a particular aspect of your website by allowing users to submit their comments.

Usaura does have some limitations. Because the test relies on screenshots of websites, it is difficult to test dynamic menus (drop downs, etc.) or other interactive aspects of a site. User questions are also limited to 250 characters.

Overall, Usuara is a neat tool that can certainly help time- and cash-strapped organizations gain valuable feedback from users---and that information is like gold for those of us who want to make sure we're doing our best to meet our users' needs.

Wearable Computing and Libraries

I recently presented on wearable computing in my Emerging Technologies class, and wow, what amazing things are on the horizon in this field. From the Nike+ running shoes to smart tattoos that can monitor your heart to chemical sensors printed on underwear that can detect wounds in soldiers and administer medication. How will wearable computing devices be used in libraries? The SixthSense device created at MIT illustrates what  might be ahead for wearable computing in libraries and how it could dramatically change the way we interact with information in our environment. Check out my presentation and the SixthSense demo below.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Microdata formats and Schema.org

One of the things I've become interested in over the past year is metadata and it's role in linked data and the Semantic Web. I'm all for Web 2.0 and social information tools, but sometimes I think we're stuck in that Web 2.0 rut and aren't looking ahead to Web 3.0 ("the Semantic Web") which in my mind is so much more powerful and interesting. In many ways, the talk about the Semantic Web and linked data is still conceptual. Some of the larger, better funded organizations like the New York Times and the BBC are cutting the virtual footpath through the uncharted Web 3.0 terrain, but many smaller libraries and information agencies haven't quite made the leap yet (and probably for good reason). There has been a lot of talk about RDF and its potential to help us link data so that machines can understand context and meaning. Some have criticized RDF for being too complicated, and in some ways I do agree with this. If we're really going to make strides toward linking data semantically then we do need standards that are easy to implement.

In response to this criticism, the major search engine companies, Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft, have developed a somewhat simpler set of schemas and microdata formats that web developers can implement to help search engines ascertain context and meaning from the see of text and markup on the Web. I thought I would check out what they've come up with to see how easy it was to implement. I used the schemas for books provided on the schema.org site to mark up my reading list. It was surprising easy to do, and once I was finished I noticed that the LibX toolbar I had installed had automatically detected the ISBN numbers for the books in the markup and was linking directly to those resources in my local library. How cool is that?

Schema.org certainly isn't THE solution to the linked data problem, but it was definitely an interesting experiment. I'll definitely be doing a little more research into this to find out how widely it is being used and how it compares to RDFa.

Have you used schema.org schemas and microdata formats? Let me know what you think.


Goddard, L., & Byrne, G. (2010). Linked data tools: Semantic web for the masses. First Monday, 15(11).

Library Linked Data Incubator Group. (2011). LLD XG Final Report (Draft of the general part).

Meebo Chat Low-down

GoogleTalk, Yahoo Messenger, MSN Instant Messenger, AIM . . . With so many instant messaging platforms out there, it's no longer practical to choose just one to communicate with patrons or customers. So how do you manage accounts on all of these platforms? Meebo is one of the many "multi-protocol" chat tools out there that can help you manage multiple chat/IM accounts, making it easier to cater to the individual chat preferences of your users. Just set up your free Meebo account, add all of your other chat accounts (Google, Yahoo, MSN Instant Messanger, AOL AIM, etc.), and you're pretty much ready to chat. If you'd like to close your browser but still be alerted whenever someone wants to chat, download the Meebo notifier for Windows (sorry Mac users). Meebo also has a built in video/audio chat feature and gives users the ability to send files through Meebo which could come in handy when you're collaborating on a project or need to send or receive visual information (e.g., a screenshot) to someone.

One of the biggest advantages with Meebo is that by installing the Meebo Me widget, you can create a way for anyone to chat with you anonymously through your website without needing to create an account or download a chat client. This is a big plus if you're trying to maximize your chat availability and accessibility. The Meebo Me widget is surprisingly easy to install too. Meebo generates the code and you paste it into your webpage code wherever you'd like the chat to appear [here's an example I created for a work project].

The one thing that Meebo seems to be missing is a way to log/archive chats with anonymous users and groups/chat rooms. At this time, logging is only available for conversations with people who are on your buddy list (who are most likely not anonymous users).

With all that said, Meebo is a pretty decent product for those of you wanting to be available to patrons or other customers via chat/instant message. If you know of other products out there (Trillian is one) that might be better, please drop me a line. I'd love to hear about them.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

23 Things

I'm really excited about the 23 Things challenge we're doing in my emerging technologies class this semester. I'm normally fairly adventurous with technology, but this is helping me stretch a little and try out some new things. I'll write more about these as the semester progresses.
  1. Investigate social search engines. [Completed 11/7/11]
  2. Learn more about the Digital Public Library of America. [Completed 10/31/11]
  3. Set up a chat for work, install Meebo Me chat widget and use Meebo to manage the chat. [Completed 9/16/11]
  4. Investigate and compare CiteULike and Mendeley citation management tools. [Completed 11/13/11]
  5. Create a presentation with Prezi. [Completed 10/23/11]
  6. Code reading list using Google rich snippets. [Completed 9/18/11]
  7. Create a MizzouDiversity website click test using USAURA.org to learn more about user interactions with website. [Completed 10/14/11]
  8. Investigate Xena digital preservation software and use it to convert digital photos to ASCII format. [Completed 11/13/11]
  9. Check out the demo of Koha ILS. [Completed 9/10/11]
  10. Become familiar with video file types, codecs and preservation standards used in archives. [Completed 9/26/11]
  11. Create an audio recording using Audacity. [Completed 10/1/11]
  12. Experiment with mind mapping software like Mindomo and Mindmeister. [Completed 9/29/11]
  13. Use Dippity to create a multicultural history of Mizzou timeline. Think about how archives and libraries with local history collections might use this tool. [Completed 12/1/11]
  14. Experiment with visualize.me to create a visual resume and add a QR code to my print resume. [Completed 10/24/11] 
  15. Set up Google+ account and compare it to Facebook. How could libraries use Google+? [Completed 9/8/11]
  16. Attended Jim Ries's semantic search presentation to learn more about using ontologies to improve findability. [Completed 11/2/11]
  17. Tweet from the Missouri Library Association Conference in Kansas City. [10/9/11]
  18. Figure out how to load records into Koha using Z39.50 protocol. [Completed 10/31/11]
  19. Try out Historypin website and investigate phone app. [Completed 11/19/11]
  20. Purchase an e-book from Amazon and try out the Kindle Cloud Reader and Kindle for PC applications.  [Completed 9/21/11]
  21. Set up Second Life account and attend virtual class there. [10/9/11]
  22. Create a digital exhibit/collection using Omeka. [10/16/11]
  23. Look into crowdsourcing options for digital collections. Demo tools like FromThePage and Scripto to transcribe historical documents. [11/21/11]