Researching Usability

Posts Tagged ‘EdCM

Overview of Twitter Use in Libraries

For those not involved in Higher and Further Education, JISC provides a service called JISCMail which facilitates knowledge sharing within the UK using mailing list based services.  One of these mailing lists, Web 2.0, is for anyone interested in Web 2.0 and its use in libraries. This month there has been an ongoing and interesting discussion (via the public library mailing list) on the evaluation of Web 2.0 services in libraries. This is something which is relevant to our project and in particular Workpackage 2: to undertake usability inspection and contemporary UX techniques research. Out of this discussion is seemed appropriate to examine how libraries are currently engaging with Web 2.0 and the impact it is having on users.

Something which Phil Bradley said in his response to the discussion stood out:

Measurement and evaluation has to be linked more to the activity than anything else

Quite often we concentrate on the technology or platform such as Twitter or Facebook, when often it’s the experience that should be considered first. Often there are multiple tools available to do the same job. In addition, tools are increasingly working together to ‘mash-up’ technology into a single service for end users. User’s are more interested in obtaining information to fulfill their needs or complete specific tasks than the technology being used.

I am hoping to write a series of blogs on this subject providing a snapshot picture of Web2.0 use in libraries. This will help to identify trends as well as the more innovative things being done which other libraries might be able to learn from. It wont be exhaustive but will hopefully provide a grounding for the project’s development work while also being useful to those working in libraries.

I have included the list of resources which were provided to the mailing list during the discussion. Thank you to everyone who contributed, the information will provide a valuable starting point for the overview. If you know of other resources please feel free to post them here.

Edinburgh Coffee Morning Quiz of the Year

This morning Edinburgh’s techy collective lined up to take part in the annual social media quiz as organised by Mike Coulter. As a regular at the weekly coffee mornings, I was excited to take part this year and test my knowledge. As it turned out I have a lot to learn, especially in knowing the meaning of acronyms like ASCii, JPG and USB, recognising company headquarters, famous tech faces or knowing the Google Protocol for rss feeds. The winner will be announced later today but I doubt our team are anywhere in the running. As they say, its the taking part that counts! Below is an image taken by Brendan MacNeill of me dutifully writing our answers down. Thanks to Mike for organising such a fun event for us geeks.

Interactive Triptych Framework (ITF)

This week has been largely spent reading papers as I try to review the Interactive Triptych Framework as a possible framework for evaluating library@nesc later in the project. I still feel like I’m at the beginning of a long journey on this subject and often find that Twitter can be a massive distraction when trying to concentrate for longer than 20 minutes! That being said, I wanted to summarise the framework below from the paper which proposed it. Other papers of relevance will be documented in subsequent blogs.

Analysing and evaluating usefulness and usability in electronic information services, Tsakonas & Papatheodorou, Journal of Information Science, 2006;32

This paper presents the ITF model and suggests that interaction is effected equally by content and system characteristics. It also states that usefulness and usability are interconnected from the user’s point of view. ITF is a holistic picture of user interaction and other approaches to Electronic Information Services (EIS) evaluation. The proposed framework illustrates the interactions taking place between the three components: system, content and users. Each component interacts with each other and it is these interactions which define three evaluation approaches: usefulness, usability and performance.

An important observation of the research paper was the identification of a correlation between usefulness and usability from the users point of view. In addition to this is that fact that all attributes (usefulness, usability and performance) were equally preferred by users and considered important for their interaction. However, the research also reported that usefulness precedes usability when users are asked to state a preference suggesting that content quality is paramount for EISs.

An integrated approach which evaluates usefulness and usability is recommended in order to provide a holistic image of user interaction. If the ITF were to be adopted for the planned evaluation of library@nesc then such an approach would need to be designed. This is something which I intend to give some thought to.

Social Media event from NESTA

In addition to reading this week I also watched a streamed event on social media organised by NESTA entitled ‘Social media – a force for good?’. This well organised and interesting event invited three people with something to say on the subject to answer questions: Stephen Fry, Biz Stone (founder of Twitter) and Reid Hoffman (founder of LinkedIn). If you missed the live stream you can watch on the NESTA website. Although it was a talk on social media, Twitter inevitably dominated the questions. I’ve summarised a couple of points raised which I thought were topical and of interest:

  • Biz stated that his prediction for Twitter in years to come is that it won’t be triumph of technology, more a triumph of humanity. It seemed like there has been recent debate about social media and whether or not it is a saviour or slayer of humanity. I think scientific research will play a great role in attempting to answer this question. Twitter is relatively young and very little (if any) solid research has been done on its effects on individuals and society. There seems to be a huge amount of potential for researchers on this subject and this makes it an exciting subject.
  • Another similar question asked if things like Twitter are increasing isolation amongst people. Biz refuted this when he pointed to the many Tweetups that happen around the world. As an attendee of a weekly Twitter related meet-up- Edinburgh Coffee Morning I tend to agree. Although I am relatively new to the group it seems that many friendships have been formed through face-to-face conversation which has continued on into Twitter and more recently Facebook. The Guardian wrote this week  ‘Is local the new social now?’ and when thinking about the popularity and regularity of local Tweetups then it is fair to say that it is.
  • Finally a topic which cropped up a few times was the power of the masses on Twitter. Reid Hoffman put it as “The wisdom of the crowd or the madness of the masses.” This refers not only to the information which influences us on an individual basis but also the potential of Twitter (and all forms of mass communication) to whip people up into a frenzy with (possible) catastrophic consequences. One could argue that the masses are not on Twitter which is equally correct but I wonder how long it will be before this changes and we see more extremists using Twitter to communicate their message (if not already)? Something to be aware of at least.


I thought I would post another Dilbert strip which I saw this week. Its on the theme of cloud computing and made me laugh. Have a great weekend! bookmarks

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