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One of the really useful things about being involved with JISC-funded projects is that you get to take part in programme meetings and they often lead to finding out about interesting tools that I probably wouldn’t otherwise have come across. So last week I was with the STELLAR project team that went to the programme meeting for the ‘Enhancing the Sustainability of Digital Content’ programme meeting, and we were introduced to the Harvard Business School Elevator Pitch Builder tool. For anyone who hasn’t come across the ‘Elevator Pitch’ the idea is that you have the length of a journey in an elevator (lift) to make your pitch, for your project or idea. The thinking being that you might be in a lift with the Vice Chancellor and he asks ‘what do you do?’ Essentially it is a tool to get you to structute and organise a succinct pitch that gets across the key points of what you want to say.
Harvard’s Elevator Pitch tool gets you to create some text to answer WHO, WHAT, WHY and GOAL, then analyses your pitch in terms of the number of words, time it will take to say and how many words are repeated. The tool suggests suitable words that you might want to use to get the attention of the person you are speaking to. It’s a good tool to use to get a nicely structured pitch for a project.
JISC programme meetings are a really useful part of being involved in a JISC project. You generally get the chance to find out at an early stage what the other projects in your programme strand are working on (in our case a range of digital content, from UK Web Archive big data through to archaeology, geospatial and botanical content). That can be really useful as you can find where there is common ground and make a lot of useful contacts amongst people working on similar things. So we’ve got a few contacts to follow up in the digital libraries area. And JISC programme managers are really useful people to know as they have a great breadth of knowledge of what is going on in several areas of work.
It has long intrigued me why libraries (or maybe librarians) like to use different words instead of the words that our users would commonly use. The issue/discharge, check-in/checkout, return/borrow terminology always used to seem to me to be at odds with how users thought of the processes. In most cases in my experience library users (borrowers, readers, patrons…) would say ‘I want to take this out’ or ‘I want to bring this back’ but I’ve never yet seen any library that uses those words to describe the processes.
And we’ve carried on this process into the web-sphere, as this recent report by John Kupersmith from Berkeley ‘Library Terms that Users Understand’ clearly identifies. Looking at 51 usability studies he has picked out several terms that users simply don’t understand (shown in the image on the right). Terms like database, periodical, serial, and resource are included in the list and they are all familiar from usability tests we’ve done ourselves. Database is one that I always find particularly interesting. To most people a database is something like Microsoft Access and few people outside libraries would ever consider them to be a collection of library stuff.
It’s good to see recommendations about the use of natural language such as ‘Find’ in the report. That certainly matches what we have found from our own work and we’ve ended up going with ‘Find’ for our search feature on the home page of our website. Journals, articles and ebooks may not be quite the best terms to use with Find maybe.
I am slightly surprised to find that users aren’t that sure about the term ‘Library catalog’ but maybe I shouldn’t be, as I think that libraries themseleves are maybe slightly confused about what is in a library catalogue these days, in the age of knowledge bases and discovery systems. Is your catalogue just a list of printed materials, or a list of everything owned or licensed by the library? I wonder whether users were any clearer about what a library catalogue was in the past?
Just recently wordpress.com has started to flag up the number of blog posts that you’ve published with the sort of message you see on the left. As well as telling you how many blog posts you’ve published you also get a target generated by wordpress. When I first saw it I thought OK, so there’s a goal I wonder what’s at the end of the goal. Well, actually, nothing, other than a seamingly random quotation, Oh, and another target. So I’m really not quite sure of the point of it. Done 101 blog posts, well, why not aim for 105. Well, I will write more if I’ve something I want to say, but I’m not sure about an artificial target that has no objective other than achieving the target.
Now I realise that wordpress.com is free at the point of use to the blogger, so maybe you shouldn’t expect anything extra for nothing, but blog more just to reach some arbitrary target doesn’t seem like much of an incentive. But maybe the prize is the little quotation and I’ve missed the point entirely?
I updated the ipad to iOS 5.1 this morning. http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1504 Apple seem to be getting smarter with doing these updates for the ipad now it doesn’t have to be done through itunes. So I got a pop-up message saying that it was available with a link (and an indication in the Settings list that there was an update available). That took you through a licence terms screen to the installation process. After a quick download and verification process the installation process was actually marked by the logo and a progress bar on the ipad screen. That’s an improvement on the screen just going blank while it does the update. The process took about 10 minutes from start to finish. It still ends up just blanking out the screen at the end as far as I could tell and doesn’t seem to give any message that it has actually finished (which would be good). But a really straightforward and painless experience.
Apple list the following updates in 5.1. Probably few if any are relevant for me on the original ipad without a camera but never mind.
- Japanese language support for Siri (availability may be limited during initial rollout)
- Photos can now be deleted from Photo Stream
- Camera shortcut now always visible on Lock Screen for iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS and iPod touch (4th generation)
- Camera face detection now highlights all detected faces
- Redesigned Camera app for iPad
- Genius Mixes and Genius playlists for iTunes Match subscribers
- Audio for TV shows and movies on iPad optimized to sound louder and clearer
- Podcast controls for playback speed and a 30 second rewind for iPad
- Updated AT&T network indicator
- Addresses bugs affecting battery life
- Fixes an issue that occasionally caused audio to drop for outgoing calls
So there’s a new ipad coming out soon, http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/mar/07/ipad-apple, not apparently ipad3 but just ‘the new ipad’. So next year when there is the next version what do we have?, the new ‘new ipad’ and the old ‘new ipad’, it seems a bit confusing, I wonder why not just ipad3 or ipad 2S if they really had to.
Another things that strikes me about the ipad is the figures they showed at the launch about the sales. These showed that Apple shipped 15m ipads which was more than the number of HP PCs that were sold. That seems to suggest to me that Apple see the ipad as being a mass-market tablet device. But isn’t the price a bit of a barrier? At that price I can see the Apple fans buying a new version each year, but if you’ve already got an ipad or ipad2 are you really going to be buying a new one quickly? If Apple are looking at the PC market then the likely PC replacement cycle must be around 3-5 years I would have thought. Will Apple really be able to encourage people to spend the price of a decent spec-laptop every couple of years? I would wonder.
Talking with colleagues during the week about the data we have, brought it home to me how incomplete our view of our electronic resources use actually is. The various systems that we have to record usage all give us a different perspective but all have limitations. If we think about a simple requirement, which would be to know who is using our resources, broken down by which resource, from which supplier, and whether they are students or staff, and what course they are studying, then its simply not easy to pull that together in a simple way.
We use EZProxy wherever we can and the daily logfiles tell us what URL has been accessed and who the user was, when the site was accessed, and where they came from. But not all our electronic resources go through EZProxy. Tools such as RAPTOR, officially launched recently, allow EZProxy logfiles to be processed and statistics generated of which databases are being used. Unfortunately for us RAPTOR is largely designed for a federated search world where electronic resource access largely goes directly to a wide range of publisher websites. In our case we use a Discovery system (in our case EBSCO Discovery Solution) so most of our article level links show up in the EZProxy logs as links to EBSCO. So at this stage RAPTOR just tells us that our resources are being delivered from EBSCO.
For some of our resources we still use athens and we can get similar data to the EZProxy logfiles, although the data is provided externally and downloaded monthly.
Directly logged-in resources
Other resources can only be accessed through the use of specific user names and passwords. For these sites all the data will tell us is that the site was accessed, how many times, full text downloads etc, but it can’t tell us who is using the site, as we have to rely on the statistics from publishers and don’t have access to the logfiles.
Publisher statistics and JUSP
Use of electronic resources is also monitored by the various suppliers. Some of this data is added to the Journal Usage Statistics Portal which saves some time that would have to be spent in collecting data from individual publisher sites by providing a collected Counter-compliant set of journal statistics. But while tools like this show us the overall use of those resources, they don’t help if you want to drill down to see who is looking at those resources. Are they students or staff, are they students from this faculty or another? And they also seem to suffer from some issues around the impact of Discovery systems generating additional queries (leading on some occasions to suppliers shuting down access because they think they have detected unusual patterns of usage).
Links to library resources are also present and tracked in the institution’s Virtual Learning Environment. In this case VLE logfiles might tell us who has accessed the resource but the details of which resource has been used is limited to the URL and it apparently isn’t possible to track every single location within the VLE where we place links.
An incomplete view of the world
So what might help us? Based on experiences with the RISE projct with the EZProxy logfiles we can use some techniques to add bibliographic metadata to the EZProxy URLs. That can give us article details, Journal titles and publisher information, for example. Combine that with the data we can get about the user to pick up their course or faculty and that gives some potential to be able to answer our original question “who is using our resources, broken down by which resource, from which supplier, and whether they are students or staff, and what course they are studying”.