Professional Development

Conferences, workshops, travel, and other professional development experiences...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

ASIST 2009: Takeaways...

Gentle Reader,

I have posted fuller entries on the presentations I attended at ASIST 2009, but wanted to bullet some of the highlights/takeaways. I also enjoyed the poster sessions and the notorious SIG/CON evening session, during which leading information scientists poke fun at their profession.  I also highly recommend Vancouver as a destination.
  • Plenary session: an audience member asked Tim Bray, “Distinguished Engineer” and Director of Web Technologies at Sun Microsystems: “Managing all these blogs, IM, cell phones, blogs – how do we do that?  Also what about the human aspect of it?  People just use their Blackberries all the time and are being rude

    • Tim’s answer to part 1: You just need to buckle down and figure it out
    • Tim’s answer to part 2: The technology is not the problem, it’s a behavioral / human problem.  

  • “STOP talking about the repository!!” - how major repositories are completely re-focusing and re-branding.
  • Bonnie McKay and Carolyn Watters developed and tested a tool that provides support for multi-session web tasks such as "preparing to take a trip".
  • Users in an online community can use a surprising array of sophisticated communication  techniques, such as sarcasm, and “respected” users in a community can exert social influence through a pretty “thin” medium.   (Rich Gazan)
  • To what degree can log data profile a web searcher?  See Jim Jansen's book
  • Two major ways creators can increase the accessibility of Web 2.0 sites is to put in alt tags for images and don’t use the same phrase in multiple links on the same page
  • we sell microblogging short because of the widespread mockery of Twitter

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New Modes of Information Behavior Emerging from the social web

 Isto Huvila, Uppsala University, Sweden, and Abo Adakemi University, Finland
Hazel Hall, Napier University, Scotland
Mari Kronqvist-Berg, Abo Adakemi University, Finland
Outi Nivakoski, Abo Adakemi University, Finland
Helena Franke, University of Boras and Goteborg University, Sweden
Moderator: Gunilla Widen-Wulff, Abo Adakemi University, Sweden

This was a great session overall, considering how Web 2.0 has changed information behaviors in organizations, or has the potential to do so.  The biggest takeaway for me was a statement made by Dr. Hazel Hall, Director, Centre for Social Informatics, School of Computing Edinburgh Napier University.  She had done a study of corporate environments (including the public sector).  She found that microblogging (Twitter) was the least used of new Web 2.0 tools, and had the lowest perceived usefulness. Yet, when she listed out how different Web 2.0 tools facilitated communication, she found that microblogging actually does combine many of the features of others, and perhaps we sell microblogging short because of the widespread mockery of Twitter. For example: 
-        Microblogging offers social networking, but unlike other SNS,  asymmetric relationships are possible.  This could be useful in organizations because organizational relationships are often asymmetrical.  Everyone can follow the CEO or Dean, but perhaps he/she does not follow everyone else.
-        Microblogging shares the "brief and to the point" benefits of IM.
-         Microblogging shares with wikis the public nature of conversations, which encourages collaborative building of new knowledge, and legitimate peripheral participation
-         Microblogs provide easy linking to other resources, like blogs.
-          Finally, Microblogs share features with CONVERSATION:
o   Meta knowledge
o   Problem reformulation
o   Validation
o   Legitimization of ideas
o   For examples see

Assessing the Accessibility of Web 2.0 Web Sites

Tyson McMillan and Lin Lin, University of North Texas

Tyson McMillan gave a dynamic presentation about his study of how accessible Web 2.0 sites are, using the Web Accessibility Barrier score created by Parmanto and Zeng (2005).  This gives a quantitative metric rather than a pass/fail grade, as many accessibility tests do.  The 176 sites in this work (88 Web 1.0 and 88 Web 2.0)  had to be evaluated manually (Excel) so in order to keep scope manageable, this work evaluated only the home page of each site in this sample.

Two major ways creators can increase the accessibility of Web 2.0 sites is to
-          put in alt tags for images
-          don’t use the same phrase in multiple links on the same page

Cashing on the Wisdom of Crowds for Question Answering

Chirag Shah, doctoral student, UNC Chapel Hill presented some of the most popular questions on Yahoo! Answers.  Rich Gazan talked about how a social Q&A site operationalizes "trust."

Social Reference and Digital Reference: Online Question Answering Practices in Two Diverse Communities

Howard Rosenbaum, Indiana University

Eileen G. Abels, Drexel
Marie L. Radford. Rutgers
Lynn Silipigni Connaway, OCLC
Chirag Shah, UNC Chapel Hill
Rich Gazan, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Pnina Shachaf, Indiana University

  • Eileen Abels gave an overview of the IPL. It is merging with Librarian’s Index to the Internet.
  • Marie Radford reported results from an IMLS-funded project which found big differences between adult and "Net Gen" users of virtual reference services. In her analysis, she found that Net Gen users were not treated as well as adult users.  Once they use the services, most users said they would use the service again, although less Net Gen users: 82% = Net Gen, 92% = adult.  
    • Why users don’t choose VRS
      -          unhelpful answers
      -          non-subject specialist
      -          slow connections
      -          scripted messages
      -          cold environment

      What would attract users to VRS?
      -          faster and easier software
      -          personalized interface
      -          reliable cobrowser

      Both face to face and VRS users want:

      -          extended hours of service
      -          access to electronic information
      -          interact with friendly librarians
      -          Relationships with librarians (this is why is successful)

      What we can do?
      -          Creative marketing.  Promote full range of options and reassure young people VRS is safe
      -          Build positive relationships whether F2f, phone, or online

Monday, November 9, 2009

To What Degree can Log Data Profile a Web Searcher?

Bernard (Jim) Jansen, Danille Booth, Daehee Park, Mimi Zhang, Ying Zhang, Ashish Kathuria, Pat Bonner, Pennsylvania State University

Jim listed a slew of methods one can use to profile web searchers. Post-conference, Jim was kind enough to let me know about his book: 

Takeaways: I talked to Jim after the session, noting that practitioners are struggling to make use of log data.

When Wrong is Right: Intentionally Bad Answers in a Social Q&A Community

Rich Gazan, School of Information Science,  Univ of Hawaii Manoa

Setting: Answerbag, 2003+, 1.6MQ, 8M answers. ?12Munique visitors/month, Multiple answers ranked by user rating, for collab filtering. Why are some intentionally bad answers to questions the highest-rated?  Answers were...

-          From a high-level submitter (69%), 53% across site
-          Funny (or trying to be) – 43%
-          Subversive (challenging quesiton premise) - 34%
-          Social/sympathetic but unresponsive – 20%
-          The only answer submitted – 14%
-          Normative, trying to teach the asker something (54%). Hard to make this determination (i.e. What is 237 divided by 9, Romaine Lettuce

High-level users have more leeway to editorialize, but with public reputations, their intent can be better gauged by the community when posting non-responsive content

Intentionally bad answers can help people cultivate a more critical and refined view of information quality

Takeaways: This session was quite amusing, but in all seriousness, it revealed how users in an online community can use a surprising array of sophisticated communication  techniques, such as sarcasm, and how “respected” users in a community can exert social influence through a pretty “thin” medium.