Preface to 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass

Walt Whitman’s preface to the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass gave me goosebumps, y’all:

Gwendolyn Brooks’ Annie Allen

Today, Monday, February 10, 2014, marks the beginning of a weeklong mammoth undertaking, the group, close read of Gwendolyn Brooks’ Pulitzer Prize winning collection, Annie Allen. The day job doesn’t stop, and we all have obligations and promises to keep.  I hope to set aside at least an hour each night to read the poem, follow the conversation asynchronously, and make small contributions to the “blab of the pave.”  Oh yeah, and post about it to this blog!  Hold on, the road may get rocky!  


Left to right: Sally Stokes, Alex Reigle, Maura Mullins, Ray Maxwell.

Debriefing the Bridging the Spectrum Symposium 2014 presentation at National Art Gallery Pavilion Cafe, Sunday, February 9, 2014. p.s., It snowed!

Changing the World of Art Librarianship, One Book at a Time, by Sally Stokes,
Catholic University of America, Maura Mullins, Catholic University of America,
Raymond Maxwell, Catholic University of America, Alexandra Reigle, Smithsonian
A panel of students reports on an assignment that involved the reimagining of art
libraries, art ephemera collections, and art databases. The project grew out of an
assignment in LSC 834, Art and Museum Librarianship, in which students surveyed
recent literature on a topic, and identified gaps in the literature. They then prepared a
prospectus for a book of essays that would fill those gaps. The presentations highlight
their visions for the future, as well as the process of filling the gaps and reimagining the

Information Architecture – Week 4: Organizing and Search Systems

Organizing system.

It is important to consider the organization system of a website because that system supports the degree to which users can understand and comprehend the content being displayed. Organization helps the user know where she is, how to navigate laterally from one place to another, how to move through the site hierarchically, how to manipulate the content for a better browsing or searching experience, and where to go for additional information that the user may require (Morville and Rosenfeld, 2007).

The CUA LIS website follows a very traditional organizing system, almost identical to the blueprint illustrated and discussed in our text (Lynch and Horton, 2008, p. 92). It is fundamentally hierarchical, almost canonical, though slightly a hybrid. The Simmons GSLIS site is a hybrid site, and less hierarchical than the CUA site. It includes the horizontal navigation bar at the top pf the page, with very impressive pull-down menus. But the shifting photo gives the Simmons site a sort of dynamism that the CUA site does not have. And the huge aggregation of hyperlinks at the bottom provides a nice bottom-up organizational approach, a browser’s delight. The Drexel CCI site begins with a hybrid traditional top navigation bar, has rotating photos for a dynamic effect, but takes great advantage of the “below the fold” section to offer a wide range of related and interrelated links.

The CUA site is rather static, with the exception of the twitter feed below the fold and in the center. Of course, if no one is tweeting, the twitter feed becomes just another static element on an already static homepage, which was the case for most of Friday, February 7, 2014.

I suppose each site serves its user population well, or else it would be taken down and improved. There is something about the Drexel CCI site, the color combination, the geometry of the layout, and the multitudinous clickable links, that draws me in and makes me want to stay. I recall from a website focus group I participated in at work that they call that “stickiness.”

Search system pros and cons.

Search systems can be useful and appropriate, particularly if the website has several layers of depth and information is not readily available within two or three clicks. The pros of including a search system (Morville & Rosenfeld, 2008) include the following:
1) search gives access to layers of information beneath the homepage that may be several clicks away;
2) search aids the navigation if there is too much information to browse;
3) on a commercial or even on an informational site, search enables the user to zero in on the item required if the item is known and identified beforehand;
4) users have come to expect to see the search box on a website, just like on Google, just like on;
5) and finally, if the site contains dynamic content, a search system can help to control the dynamism and the user’s interaction with it.

The cons of implementing a search system (Morville & Rosenfeld, 2008) could include the following:
1) if the site is poorly organized, creating and maintaining a search system could divert resources away from making the necessary improvements to the content and navigation of the site, and a search system will not save a poorly designed and organized site;
2) if the search system is not optimized, it may not be helpful to the user in terms of creating good and useful search results;
3) a user who just wants to browse, especially where browsing is sufficient, may be put off by the installation or even the presence of a search system, and may flee to a different website;
4) and finally, if the site does not have sufficient depth to warrant having a search system, it may be a waste of resources.

The CUA site appears to benefit the most of the three from the search system, only because it allows separate searches of the LIS website and the whole University site. Also, the search site occupies more real estate on the homepage than the other two, which on the surface appears to be an advantage. However, a number of generic searches on the LIS page, including a search for “modern poetry,” referred me to the CUA public site, so perhaps there is no real advantage to having that option. And the amount of real estate the box occupies can be a nuisance if it clashes witht he overall layout of the page.

Simmons’ search box yields the most impressive set of results for my generic search for “modern poetry.” Drexel only had one match, possibly reflecting the overall technical and engineering direction of school’s academic programs. On the surface, then, I would conclude that Simmons GSLIS site has the best designed search system. It is nicely incorporated into the overall website design, in a prominent location that is neither obtrusive to the eye nor out of balance with the rest of the elements on the page. Search results open up on a page that includes the top navigation bar of the home page, plus discrete subject offers for narrowing (zeroing in on) the search. Neither of the other two sites have similar navigational aids nor additional search functions.

Bridging the Spectrum 2014

Almost forgot to post the slides from my presentation:

Information architecture and web design: week two discussion

I selected web analytics and content analysis as the two analysis methods for this assignment.
Web analytics, a subdivision of which is referred to as search-log analysis (Morville&Rosenfeld, 2007. p. 248), has pros and cons. On the pro side, it provides useful data about how users actually use the search function. From a design perspective, it yields useful information such as what browser was used, what page was visited and when, and what key search terms were used (Lynch and Horton, 2008. p. 58). On the con side, web analytics (or its variations) does not yield the same information that could be derived from direct interaction with users to know their needs directly (Morville&Rosenfeld, p. 38). Web analytics requires significant preparation and training in order to use sophisticated tools and processes. Data collected and analyzed may include most common search queries and reconstruction of elements of a web site session.

Content analysis, in this case, surveys, also has pros and cons. Pros include low cost, straight forward analysis, and minimum preparation required (McNeely&Kolah, 2012). Cons include the unscientific nature of the data received, the inability of the survey instrument to elicit user opinions of hypothetical changes or improvements, and the failure to capture the gap between user reported behavior and reported opinions and perceptions (McNeely&Kolah, 2012). McNeely and Kolah also make reference to social desirability bias, the tendency of the interview subject to try to please the interviewer, that could also be a factor in survey results. Content analysis of this type does not entail significant preparation before designing the method. Data collected might include user experience aspects and existing behavior patterns and trends.

Considering the web design process in the slides, web analytics might be most useful and appropriate in the analysis phase, learning about the users and conducting task analysis. Content analysis might be most useful in the design and administrative (test and refine) stages.

Jasmine: I didn’t think about it as I was reading the articles and chapters, but somehow your explanation reminded me of the “balanced scorecard” approach to measuring program performance in government during the Bush II years. It was a sort of benchmarking exercise, that was less competitive across agencies and more competitive across business units within an agency (or at least that’s how it was where I worked). A red light on your scorecard meant your unit fell short of the goal and you had to stay late every night to try to get to yellow. A yellow light meant progress, but no cigars. And a green light meant performance pay for your boss, and at the worker level, promotions and cool next assignments.

I like your explanation of focus groups, Kirsten. It makes me reconsider one of the articles (McNeely & Kolah) that made a reference to social desirabiity bias with respect to expert interviews that also might be applicable to focus groups. Of course any degree of homogeneity among a group could give rise to biases, and group think, though not mentioned, could also play a part in skewing collective responses.

“A term first coined by Irving Janus, groupthink is the condition caused by social forces that causes contributors to focus on homogenous ideas and even unconsciously agree with faulty thinking. In order to collaborate effectively in a group setting we need to develop techniques to avoid this issue. If we look to high-performing co-located teams for inspiration, their environment facilitates collaboration when appropriate rather than at some artificially selected time.”