Researching Usability

Weekly Round-Up: December 4th

Posted on: December 4, 2009

Re-visiting the definition of a digital library

This week has been pretty busy, filled with lots of meetings and preparation for the project meeting which we are hosting on the 15th December. This week ux2 have been re-visiting the definition of the digital library and came to the (perhaps obvious) conclusion that it is something which cannot be tied down to one definitive version.Ā  I’ve been reading ‘Evaluation of Digital Libraries: an insight into useful applications and methods’ Edited by Giannis Tsakonas and Christos Papatheodorou. The definition by Jesse H. Shera mentioned in the introduction was one which resonated with me as it seemed to touch on what we are trying to achieve in our project:

…contributing to the total communication system in society…

Though the library is an instrumentality created to maximise the utility of graphic records for the benefit of society, it achieves that goal by working with the individual and through the individual it reaches society.Ā  (Shera, 1972:48)

Too often it feels like definitions concentrate on the technical parameters of a digital library and in differentiating it from the traditional library. This idea describes a common goal of both traditional and digital libraries; the interaction with individuals and society. Including users in the evaluation of a digital library is something which we hope to do at each stage in the project because social and individual benefits and feedback between them are important criteria to evaluate. Whatever definition used, there seem to be four critical elements which should be present in addition to the digitised format for a digital library to be correctly labelled: curation, preservation, archiving and cataloguing.

Interactive Information Retrieval (IIR)

Another term which was discussed during the meeting was Interactive Information Retrieval. It came up during the Designing User Interface tutorial which ux2 attended at ECDL09. Some of the examples discussed involved multifaceted ways of retrieving information. I started to think that there might be a better term for describing these particular interfaces because IIR can describe most forms of interaction with digital libraries from simple to complex and unique. A term was floated which might better describe IIR which uses multi-faceted/web2.0 interaction: Immersive Interactive Information Retrieval (IĀ²R)? The dictionary defines Immersive as “pertaining to immersing or plunging into something”. I think this could describe the synchronous interaction that takes place when using web2.0 technology because the interaction is immediate and does not have to stop and start, keeping the user’s experience fluid and continuous. If there is an existing term for the type of interaction I am talking about I would be interested to find out.

Wordle

For some Friday fun I thought I would share a few word clouds that I generated through the services Wordle and Tweet Cloud. I’ve known about Worlde for a while but never used it in anger. Earlier this week I heard people at the Online09 conference tweeting about the idea of using it in conjunction with a CV which seemed like a good idea. This got me thinking about it as a good way of quickly communicating information to someone to give them a snapshot of someone’s ideas and interests. I therefore decided to create one for this blog and for my delicious links to see what patterns were emerging. I’ve provided the resulting images below.

Twitter Cloud does the same kind of thing, grabbing data from all your tweets over a specified period (day/week/month/year). The clouds aren’t quite as impressive as the Wordle ones and you can’t customise the design yet but its a great idea and something which I imagine will grow in interest as people seek to analyse their tweets. As I will be marking my first anniversary using Twitter on the 9th Dec, I thought it would be appropriate to include a cloud from a year of tweets to see what it looked like. I was pleased to discover that the three most used words were: usability, thanks and blog! šŸ™‚

Wordle blog

Wordle delicious links

Twitter Cloud: a year of tweets

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