Internet Librarian 2011: Designing for Optimal UX

Nate Hill and Chris Noll

Libraries are moving from the consumption of knowledge to the creation of knowledge.  There is no publicly funded institution that supports content creation.  This is a role that libraries can, and should, fill.  People with ideas need the resources and knowledge to be able to share those ideas with others.  Nate and Chris talked about their Library Lab project – a modular collection of structures that supports content creation.   We are moving from a read environment to a read/write environment.  Noll is part of Noll and Tam Architects, and they work on many projects with libraries to build services that work for their users.  One project they worked on is the Library-a-Go-Go at the Contra Costa County Library – a book vending machine that they put out in BART transit stations and shopping malls.  The Washington County Library in Minnesota has a manual version of that.  The Redmond Ridge Library Express has a small unstaffed library that you have to swipe your card to get into.  The Boston Chinatown Storefront Library was a one-year pop-up branch, with furniture designed and fabricated by architecture students.  In Houston they have Library Express—a few bookshelves and chairs, but a way of getting some kind of library presence in the neighborhoods they serve.  DC Public Library offers small library kiosks.  The Greenbridge Library is part of the community center.  London has Idea Stores—focusing on healthy living, employment, and traditional library services.  (Sarah’s Note: Nice!  I want to rename my library the Idea Store!)  They get very high satisfaction ratings from users and very low costs for services.  Chris also showed the Morgan Hill Library’s Grab and Go services, and libraries in a phone booth and at a bus stop, and a Denmark library’s Mindspot trailer library.  Onto Library Lab.  Digital collections and services are great, but we still need a physical space to facilitate community contributions to this digital collection.  Library Lab was originally proposed as a DPLA Beta Sprint project, but rejected.  But it’s still a cool project!  So, there are 11 modules, each of which offers 3 levels of scaling.  Modules include things like: collaborate, scanner, audio remix & record, video remix & record, display, printing, hardware checkout, digital design, etc.  The modules are distributed with a creative commons license and are all designed to be hackable.  They’re designed to be constructed out of flexible Penrose tiling.  The 10 basic panel shapes make every iteration of the different modules.  They are all flexible, movable, and changeable.  I WANT THIS NOW!

Internet Librarian 2011: Community Embraces Online 11:1

Denise Siers, Melissa Falgout, and David Wasserman

Denise Siers gave us an overview of the King County Library System: a large system serving many people over a large geographic area.  They have 1 million card-holders, 90% of whom have used the library in the last year.  They have 10 million visits to the physical libraries, and the website has 31 million visits and the catalog has 84.5 million visits.  That’s a ratio of 11:1 – 11 times as much web traffic as foot traffic.  (Sarah’s note: I’m willing to bet that any library would find similar numbers.)  To reach all users, they need to deliver services in the library, beyond the building with mobile library services (bookmobile type stuff), and online.  Even in-library services, like summer reading, often have online components.

David Wasserman talked about his small team of web services staff (2 ½ people total, including him).  They run the social media presences, create videos for the website, and more.  Part of that is the online collections maintenance – eBooks, databases, software.  Focusing on usage-driven collections and offering staff training on key services.  In 2012 they anticipate spending even more money on eBooks than before.  They are past the phase of experimentation for experimentation’s sake.  Their big two focus areas are children’s services and digital reading.  They have a companion website called Tell Me a Story for kids.  They reach significantly more patrons with videos than they do in-person (more efficient use of staff time).  They bring talented staff into the limelight with these services whenever they can.  They’re on Facebook and Twitter and get the most interaction when they give people something worth commenting about.  They target a lot of their content toward women between 24 and 54.  He recommends Hootsuite and asking them for the non-profit rate professional account.  They also offer The People’s University through YouTube videos, web guides, NetMasters, digital signage, and social promotion.  Over 40% of their digital content (eBook) downloads go right to mobile devices.

Melissa Falgout gave us some info on what the web services team is up to.  They have the Evergreen open source catalog.  KCLS.org and their SharePoint intranet are also managed by the web services team.  Statistics show that their patrons want to self-serve, to do things themselves, so the team’s focus is on enabling that process whenever possible.  Their help desk and knowledge base is software-based and provides a professional, fully functional help solution for users.  The goal is to provide 24 hour patron control and access to library services.  They also provide on-site self-check-in stations.  Web services conducted usability throughout the process of migrating from III to Evergreen.  The upgrade cycles are continuous, and this can be frustrating for some staff and users.  They have a mobile catalog that is a mobile site (jquery based), not an app.  They have a Boopsie app too.  Their children’s catalog is a graphical access point and is still in the creation phase (Sarah’s Note: I can’t wait to see this when it’s out in beta!).  They also offer This Just In – a mobile notification system for new items in a user’s chosen interest areas

Denise Siers closed out with some interesting stats.  There are 5.5 billion mobile devices right now, which is 90% of the world’s population.  Texting is replacing voice communication.  No matter what type of library you have or where your users are from, the mobile device is replacing laptops and desktops as a primary way that people access our services.  KCLS surveyed over 5,000 patrons about their user experiences.  This developed a strategic blueprint for the library—and that really did gear their goals for the next years (e.g. Evergreen, a wayfinding program in the libraries, etc.).  They have a Future Services Strategy which looks at standard public library services, but delivering them using the 3 methods of in the library, beyond the building, and online.  Changing technology, demographics, and the fiscal outlook drove their planning.

Internet Librarian 2011: Ebooks & the Future of Publishing, Lending, Learning

David Bowers and Stephen Abram

David Bowers is from Oxford University Press.  Libraries are still a place that people interested in learning can gather and share information.  “Libraries are the original Google.” Oxford University Press is a business with one share-holder—the university.  Their goal is to share information with the larger world.  He mentioned Oxford Scholarship Online.  Overdrive predicts there will be 16 million downloads of eBooks this year.  Oxford has seen a similar huge growth in eBook usage.  As a publisher they’re being approached all the time by companies wanting to work to distribute their digital content.  What’s changed over the last two years is how telecommunications companies can share information with individuals.  The iPhone took power away from AT&T, Verizon, etc. and allowed users to decide which apps and content they put on their devices.

Stephen Abram is talking about Gale Cengage’s project which is investing $100 million in figuring out what a textbook will look like over time, what a children’s book will look like in 2020, what’s going to happen with large print?  Stephen emphasized the importance of this content being ADA-compliant.  The content also needs to be learning-style independent.  Look at systemwide adoption of textbooks and focus on what makes learning successful.  They’re testing 750 “textbook objects” in 150 schools across America.  How do we remove the hard line between the library and the textbook in the classroom?  Multimedia is essential.  The book as a solid stable object is dying, but that’s okay.  We have games, audio, video and other ways to tell stories in a blended environment.

Below is my 10 minute rant about why the Kindle format lending from Overdrive is anti-user, anti-intellectual freedom, anti-library, and something that all librarians should be aware of and disturbed by.  Amazon and Overdrive did wrong by us, and we bent over and took it.  Watch to learn more.  Warning: some language may be NSFW.

Note: Hopefully the video will stay up this time.  I posted it last night and it was flagged and taken down within an hour.  I’ll give you two guesses which company was behind that…

Internet Librarian 2011: Keynote – Lee Raine (Pew Internet and American Life Project)

Raine started with a LOLcat (yep, he knows his crowd).  Pew, pew, pew!  Raine says that the Oxford English Dictionary needs to add a word: “Tweckle” – to abuse a speaker to Twitter followers in the audience while he/she is speaking.

5 questions for librarians as they ponder learning communities:

  1. What is the future of knowledge? How is it created and disseminated?
  2. What is the future of reference expertise?  Literacy and search?
  3. What is the future of public technology Knowledge containers? Divides? Access/lending models?
  4. What is the future of learning spaces? Collaboration? Alliances? Ownership?
  5. What is the future of community anchor institutions? In a knowledge economy?

As of August, 78% of American adults use the internet, and 62% have broadband at home.  Consequences for the learning ecosystem: stuff is coming at us faster, and there’s more stuff, and amateur experts are sharing their information with us easily.

65% of internet users are on social networking sites.  This is the most popular way that people create content and add to the collective experience of the web.  55% share photos, 37% contribute rankings and ratings, 33% create content tags, 14% are bloggers, 13% use Twitter, and only 6% use location-based services like Foursquare.

Raine says “It’s impossible today to ask ‘Who’s a blog reader?’ because blogs look like high end media sites now.  People don’t know they’re reading blogs.”

84% of American adults use mobile phones.  It’s the fastest growing consumer technology in the history of our species.  The # of mobile subscribers in America – 327.6 million phones, greater than the number of people who live in this country.  It’s expected that everyone will now have a mobile phone and be connected.

59% of adults are mobile users (this counts both smart phones and mobile wi-fi use on things like laptops and tablets).  This has changed the way people access information and media.  35% own smart phones.

56% of adults own laptops, 52% own DVRs, 44% own MP3 players, 42% own game consoles, 12% own eBook readers, 9% have tablets.  And yet libraries are all uber-focused on eBook readers and tablets.  Raine says “It’s an elite audience.  I can’t overstate that it’s not everybody.  It is not the majority experience that everyone is comfortable with these gadgets.”

We have to serve multiple audiences in multiple ways.  Mobile connectivity means anywhere, anytime, on any device.  It’s upgraded the experience of real time information in people’s lives.  That real-time demand didn’t exist during the analog days.  He recommends the book Alone Together.

Social networking – 50% of all adults (77% of teenagers) use social networking sites.  People over age 65 are a fast growing group for adoption of social networking.  Social media is more important in people’s lives as they learn.

The coping strategies they use to deal with the information flood come from their networks of people as filters.  People are sentries of information.  Rather than checking in with the TV or radio news first thing when they wake up, many people check in with Twitter or Facebook first as a way to see what’s happening.  (Sarah’s note: I’ve been doing that with Twitter, and now Google+ too, for a couple of years).  Social networks also provide evaluators – we turn to our networks and ask “what do you make of this?”  Social networks are really important signal-senders about what’s true and what’s trustworthy.  Librarians should think about ourselves as being nodes in people’s networks.  We have been in this role forever, but with social networks we have a much easier way to intervene in these conversations and help.  Social networks also serve as audiences.  New media are the new neighborhood.  We like to show off for our audiences, to increase our status, be helpful, build friendships and community.  We act very consciously of the fact that there’s an audience out there, and that does inherently affect what we create.

In 1997 Shana Ratner wrote an article: “Emerging Issues in Learning Communities.”  It looked at the old model (learning as transaction) compared to the new iteration (learning as process).  In the old way of thinking, knowledge was objective and certain.  In the new model, knowledge is subjective and provisional.  And there is often disagreement about which new knowledge will supersede existing knowledge.  In the old system learners received knowledge and in the new model learners help create knowledge.  In the old model knowledge was organized in stable hierarchical structures that were treated independently of each other.  Now knowledge is organized ecologically – disciplines are integrative and interactive.  In the old model, we learned passively by listening and watching, and in the new model we learn actively and we manage our own learning processes.  In the old model intelligence was based on our individual abilities.  In the new model intelligence is based on our learning communities.

What’s the future of reference expertise?  The embedded librarian model seems to Raine that this is a good idea.  This is librarian as scout for relevant material (think about the Occupy movement librarians who are on the streets helping people find information and entertainment during the protests—awesome!).  Librarians are good reviewers and synthesizers, organizers and taxonomy creators.  There are ways that librarians think like nobody else to make sure that things are organized in a systematic way that will actually make sense to the users of the system.  Librarians can also be the organizational steward of bonding capital—deepening relationships we already have.  But maybe we can be steward of bridging capital too—taking individuals outside of their known environments, exposing them to things they didn’t know about but will care about knowing about.  “Librarians are serendipity agents.”

Another model for modern reference—Knowledge concierge/valet in a learning community.  Librarians should be teachers of social media as we’re often among the first people to adopt these technologies. (Sarah’s note: This was why I was teaching Google+ classes at our library while the service was still in beta—super popular class, btw).  Librarians are fact checkers, transparency assessors, and relevance arbiters.  He quoted Jeff Jarvis: “Do what you do best, and link to the rest.”  Links are our friends and making sure people can connect to information that we didn’t create is just as important as connecting them with information we did create.

We need to model the behavior of perpetual learners, so that when new stuff comes into our world and their world we can help them navigate it.

What’s the future of public technology?  When they asked experts what gadgets will be hot.  81% of the group said they didn’t have a clue and that what will be hot in 2020 will come out of the blue.  Themes—experts never would have predicted iPhones 10 years earlier, the innovation ecosystem will change with bandwidth and processing growth.  The era of data is upon us.  Sensors will likely proliferate.  Mobile connectivity and location-based services will grow.  Screens will be bigger and thinner, and possibly 3D.  We will have more consolidated all-purpose devices and apps.

What is the future of learning spaces?  They’re going to be attuned to new kinds of learners.  People are much more likely to be self-starters to gather information.  They don’t think they have to be in a classroom to learn.  In a world of ubiquitous search, they can be querying their friends, searching on their own, and learning.  They also work now in communities to learn instead of making it a solitary experience.  The value of amateur experts is rising – people are their own individual nodes of production.  People themselves can be sharing their stories even if they don’t have the credentials that would have been demanded in the past.

“Remember the war between traditional journalists and bloggers?  How 2003 is that?”  There’s a new war now between credentialed scientists and citizen scientists.  The Smithsonian is working with citizen scientists on programs and data now, and learning much more than they ever could through just traditional credentialed scientists.  This is also true of peer health networks – tips about how to get through daily life, how to cope, care provider recommendations, etc.

What about libraries as anchor community institutions?  ALA put out a guidebook in June about how to think about libraries as these types of institutions in our communities.  Librarians have to wrestle with how much of our work is aimed at helping individuals and how much is aimed at helping the community at large.  Are libraries places for solitary study or community-based study?  Are you a collection library or are you a creation library?  Are you a portal/pathway to information or are you an archive?  ALL REALLY IMPORTANT QUESTIONS!!!

Raine talked a bit about the Pew/Gates Foundation study about libraries that’s coming up (I’m on the advisory group!) – a consumer typology of libraries that will look at the most die hard library users to people who don’t use libraries.  Obviously libraries are in transition and would like some data to help us get through these pressing questions.  Libraries have taken significant steps down the pathway toward change, however.  The study will also look at how we map with other institutions in our communities (businesses, hospitals, etc.).

Internet Librarian 2011: Tips on Redesigning Library Sites

Michael Epstein, Virginia Franklyn, Amanda Foust, Anna Jonsson, and Julie Magnus

Michael Epstein (University of San Diego) kicked the session off by talking about collaboration and negotiation in a library website redesign project.  The relationships we build and negotiate are just as important as the tools and technologies we use.  Successful collaboration requires conversations with stakeholders.  You have to be able to communicate the unique needs of a library website to parent agencies.  His university had embarked on a redesign and not involved the library in the redesign conversation.  They got templates (you know the kind—the “put your stuff here” boxed in locked down things).  The library director retired and the CIO was named the interim director,  at which point a new redesign process occurred and the library staff were able to work through the CIO to be involved in the redesign process.  A library website redesign team was formed including both librarians and IT personnel.  Both IT and the library staff were somewhat defensive at first.  Look for opportunities to collaborate with non-library personnel and build relationships through conversations, negotiations, and compromise.  Be sure to communicate the unique needs of library users.  Be willing to give up some control in return for a truly collaborative approach.

Virginia Franklyn (Pikes Peak Library District) spoke about their library’s website redesign.  The site was way too small for the scope of what their library was doing.  The first thing was to read Project Management for Dummies.  This helped her draw up a timeline for the project which kept everything organized and provided for some accountability.  The project plan was made in the staff wiki, easy to update.  All staff could access it.  They looked at WordPress and Joomla but decided on Drupal.  The framework is flexible and robust and the interface allows for easy staff data entry and patron participation.  And it’s free (!) with a supportive community.  They used WAMP (the Windows version of LAMP).  She read Drupal 6 by David Mercer.  She became active with Drupal groups: Drupal Southern Colorado User Group, Drupal Camps, DrupalCon, and Library BoFs (birds of a feather).  But she admits the development process was mostly trial and error (mostly error).  They did a few usability studies—and found that people wanted the catalog and my account predominantly (no surprise), with occasional needs for info on programs, finding a good book, and research.  They also did card sorting with staff and the public to help build the information architecture.  They used OptimalSort to do the card sorting digitally (nice!).   She recommends Steve Krug’s most excellent book Don’t Make Me Think.  She recommends to start testing once the basic infrastructure is built.  Have a Usability Hot Team.  Make sure your users are a combination of different user groups.  They did four different tests; several are optimal.  And their new site is up: http://ppld.org.

Julie, Amanda, and Anna discussed the Marin County Free Library’s new website (where I had my first librarian job!).  They showed the evolution of the library’s website over time (including a few of my designs, talk about a flash from the past!).  They’re launching their new site 11/1/11 (nice!).  They’re incorporating social media with the new site to make it more interactive.  One of their big takeaways is that you need patience, passion, and perseverance for a project of this size…even when there are inevitable little break-downs in the system.  You might have to combat staff burnout—give them a chance to vent and listen to their opinions.  You’ll also be managing people you don’t supervise…so how do you do that?  Rely on the relationships you’ve developed in your organization.  That person to person interaction is critical.  And you will need people who are tenacious and willing to slog through the sometimes boring work necessary to get the project up and running.  Rebranding your library at the same time as developing a new site isn’t a good idea.  Other tips: when evaluating vendor proposals, see if they can provide you with some previous project examples with a similar budget to yours.  Using Google Docs as a central repository for documentation was handy.  Carrying a printout of your wireframes at all time was also helpful for them.  I have to say, without any real bias—their new site looks nice.  Really, really nice.  Good job guys!

Internet Librarian 2011: Developing a Mobile Presence: Mobile Web, Usability, and Devices

Esben Fjord, Nate Hill, and Joel Shields

Esben Fjord works at the Gladsaxe Public Libraries, a suburb of Copenhagen with a population of 64,000 people.  Their annual budget is $8.5 million (uhh, wowsers).  They use $1.2 for materials and have 110 employees, 1 main library, and 4 branches.  They had money to spend, and did a project with iPad 2s.  Esben set up workshops with some of the staff and brainstormed on what to do with the devices.  The idea was that the best people to figure out ways to use them were the staff that has the daily contact with users.  They wanted to use the iPads as a facilitator for interaction in the library’s physical space.  They wanted to train patrons on how to use them too, and basically brand themselves as a tech-savvy library.  The music librarian was interested in using the iPads as a way to work with sounds and music.  He put different music apps on the iPads and worked with the patrons on them.  Another librarian with a book club found info on authors (e.g. Jane Austen) to share with the club members.  So they gave the members of the club iPads. (Sarah’s note: Holy god. I wish I had money to buy our library staff one iPad, much less buy them for our book club members!).  A third project involved news on the iPad – news-related apps that patrons could borrow.  They are having an Angry Bird tournament at the children’s library – already 50 kids signed up.  They’re also lending iPads to patrons and having them video-record themselves doing book reviews.  They’re also having workshops where users exchange info on what they use their iPads for.  They didn’t want to have long chains on the iPads, so they just check them out as ordinary material…they put a chip in every iPad (RFID).

Nate Hill (NATE!!!) talked about San Jose Public Library’s Scan Jose (mobile augmented reality walking tours).  http://scanjose.org  This was a project that I actually wrote the grant for waaaaaay back when I worked at SJPL to make walking tours with our local historic photos.  I was so sad I left before the project was completed L  Nate noted the discrepancy between big ideal plans for usability testing vs. the reality you experience when trying to crank out a project.  He showed screenshots from the tours (they are pretty amazing). They use the Google GeoLocation API to detect where you are and give you walking directions.  The content was also injected as a Layar in the Layar augmented reality app (coolio).  Nate says “Here’s the deal: Do as I say, not as I’ve done.”  Yup.  The technology for this is a moving target, and it’s storytelling.  Nate was also learning the tech on the fly and dealing with staff changes (e.g. me leaving & other staff moving around too – sorry!).  The content is really all about communication with our users.  One tip/trick for others doing mobile web development is that if you use one of these platforms like jquery mobile, it helps make a lot of decision for you – size of buttons, etc. are already recommended so you don’t have to figure it out.  Nate did a lot of storyboarding for interaction prototyping.  You need to think about where your users are – are they trying to use this in the car? Walking? Running?  Give yourself some structure and tell the story…  Give yourself six or eight boxes, and be strict with yourself about putting the experience into that limited space.

Joel Shields (Washington Research Library Consortium) talked about his experiences trying his library’s website on mobile and being crazy frustrated.  He came up with a wish list of what he’d like to have on his library’s homepage – the library catalog, library account information, locations, hours, and it had to look decent.  His development mantra was “get up and go.”  App vs. mobile website?  He decided (and rightly so) on mobile website (cross platform, baby!).  He built his mobile site on LAMP.  He used iWebkit to download a full template of pages that look fantastic.  Download it to a DropBox account and save it to a public folder, and you have a website ready to go (that’s a cool idea!).  How to get the catalog to work on mobile?  They were using Aquabrowser.  He showed us a live demo of their mobile site and it was indeed very, very pretty and quite functional.  Text messaging integration, contact the librarian, e-document-delivery, etc.  They have a checked out items calendar – which integrates with your calendar app and puts your due dates on the calendar.  That’s neat-o.  They pull in book images from LibraryThing. He emphasized the importance of beta testing with an investment in the technology working and an interest in improving the product.  Do a media blitz to let people know about what you developed.  Posters, banner ads on the website/catalog, etc.  Track your statistics and usage (Google Analytics) to prove that it’s actually being used.

Internet Librarian 2011: Best Betas for Learning & Navigating

Gary Price

Gary’s entire presentation is available at: http://j.mp/bestbetas

Snap Bird (http://snap.org): a Twitter archive tool.  Search for someone’s specific timeline, keywords, favorites, search all the people you follow and their Tweets, Tweets mentioning you, DMs sent and received, etc.  Gary’s found Tweets back into April for some of the searches he’s ran.

Microsoft Academic (http://academic.research.microsoft.com/): 36 million publications from 18 million authors.  You can search by author, organization, DOI, conference title, publication title, etc.  Brand new from Microsoft…

BASE (Bielefeld Academic Search Engine from Europe) (http://www.base-search.net/): 31 million documents from over 250,000 content providers, for academic scholarly research.

Quixley (http://quixley/): App discovery for all the different platforms.  Search for keywords and see what’s on which platform (Sarah’s note: This would be a good tool in helping people pick what device/platform to purchase based on which apps they care most about).

Primadesk (http://primadesk.com/): Aggregates all of your cloud services like Box.net, Dropbox, Flickr, Google Docs, Facebook, etc.

Otixo (http://otxio.com/)

Greplin (http://greplin.com/)

Muse (http://mobisocial.stanford.edu/muse/):  Runs locally, java app, once you download it it analyzes any email box you have and shows you visualizations of your communication patterns.

Leafsnap (http://leafsnap.com/about/): Image recognition for iOS from Columbia University, Smithsonian, and University of Maryland.  Electronic field app that lets you snap photos of leaves on the East Coast and get them identified.

Mealsnap (http://mealsnap.com/): Snap photo of your meal and it quantifies what you’re eating and returns a calorie count.

WeBIRD (http://infodocket.com/2011/10/12/coming-spring-12-bird-song-app-identifies-feathered-friends-by-tweets-shazam-for-birds/):

TinEye (http://www.tineye.com):  20 billion images.  Upload your own image and see how people are remixing and manipulating similar images.

Zotero (http://www.zotero.org/blog/announcing-zotero-3-0-beta-release/): Was only available if you were using Firefox, but the 3.0 Beta 1 is now available for Mac, Windows, and Linux and mobile versions too.  Zotero is good for local archiving, personal digital archiving, and is pretty freaking cool (says Sarah…Gary doesn’t say “freaking” :P).

WorldCat Identities and Visualize Relationships (http://www.worldcat.org/identities/lccn-n79-127769): Identities for content creators.  The “visualize relationships” data is useful to all sorts of organizations. An exciting discovery tool with a visual edge (mind mapping, sort of…kind of like Aquabrowser’s word cloud).

C-SPAN Video Library (http://www.c-spanvideo.org/videoLibrary/): Almost anything C-SPAN ever aired.  It’s more than just the senate and house hearings.  All the author talks are in here, political rallies, etc.  Can just embed specific seconds or minutes or video.  So many learning application opportunities here.

Watch, Know, Learn (http://www.watchknowlearn.org/): free educational videos.

New National Archives search (http://www.archives.gov/research/search/): New search with a ton of different advanced search limit options.

Bitcasa (http://www.bitcasa.com/about/): They store the data.  The metadata and connections are stored on your computer.  If the FBI wants to know who has what, they have the 1s and 0s, but that’s it…not the connections (NICE!!!)

Programmable Web (http://www.programmableweb.com/):  Info on over 41 million APIs.

NeedleBase (http://needlebase.com/): integrating and cleaning data.

DuckDuckGo (http://duckduckgo.com/):  One-man web search operation with a no-tracking privacy policy.

SiloBreaker (http://www.silobreaker.com/iphone-4s-11_248629882): gives you visualization, pulls in different sources, comprehensive coverage of different sources you might not find elsewhere like in Google News.

GlueJar (http://gluejar.com/): Eric Hellman (go Eric!). “the social commissioning of eBooks.”  Kind of a kickstarter for authors…  Awesome.

Internet Librarian 2011: Next Big Trends: Near Field Communication & Interactive Picture Books

Gretchen Caserotti, Kristen Yarmey, and Sheli McHugh

Gretchen Caserotti talked about interactive digital picture books.  Just as with print books, with digital books picture books get checked out in huge “stacks” while other books may get checked out one or two at a time.  The pricing for interactive picture books is very competitive – $1.99 for an app.  There are millions of these out there…  Gretchen tried to demonstrate Overdrive’s eBooks but it wouldn’t appear on the screen (!!!).  Hmmm…  What makes a good app?  Are there customizable features?  Can you turn music on and off, resize it?  The Cat in the Hat app offers read it to me, auto-play, or read it myself.  Anything on the screen lets you click on it and get audio and text descriptions—a great way to learn to read, says Gretchen.  Freight Train is great.  The Moo, Baa, La La, La is one of the best preschool apps out there.  You can touch and interact with everything on the screen – and it is an exact representation of the printed book as well,  And when you turn the pages, it looks exactly like turning real pages.  It gives you feedback too – day, and night, are two different colors.  Everything on the page gives you feedback, but it’s an appropriate level of interaction for preschoolers.  Other picture book apps of note: The Monster at the End of the Book, Spot the Dot, and Pat the Bunny.  The book (in print) is a touch interaction book, and has a mirror on one page.  The iPad app uses the camera in the device to simulate the mirror experience.  It’s also non-linear.  Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes is another noteworthy book too.  Nurse Rhyme Storytime is a good app – lets you interact using the device’s gyroscope to shake to expose words hidden under illustrations.  The Three Little Pigs story lets you interact with the story by blowing into the microphone to act as the wolf to blow the piggy’s house down.  Awesome!  While there are no industry standards, there are important features that we could agree on – is the story itself good, is it usable, what is the level of vocabulary, etc.  Looking for kids’ app reviews online: Best Kids Apps, Children’s Technology Review, Common Sense Media, Digital Storytime, Lunchbox Reviews, Moms with Apps, and School Library Journal.

Kristen Yarmey and Sheli McHugh talked about near field communication (NFC).  What is NFC?  A way for devices to transmit and receive information wirelessly at close range.  2-10 cm usually.  How does it work?  It’s an evolved, specific form of RFID.  You need an initiator which can emit a radio frequency field and a target that can respond to that field (e.g. a smart phone and a tagged smart poster).  When you get close enough to the target with your initiator, the target responds and establishes a communication pattern so the two devices can exchange data.  They don’t have to be powered—they power themselves off of the radio frequency field the other device is putting out.  They can be read-only or read-write.  They do store significantly more data than QR codes, up to 1mb of data.  They can exchange data too, not just give a one-shot burst of data like QR codes do.  So why does this matter?  Why do we need NFC when we have QR Codes, WiFi, and BlueTooth?  NFC is a much faster connection. There’s a Nokia speaker that lets you just tap your phone to the speaker and the NFC connection then allows the rest of the communication and data to be exchanged via BlueTooth.  To sync your documents, just tap your phone to your computer, etc.  NFC is already being used for mobile payments.  Your phone essentially works as your credit card.  Some of the players here: Google Wallet, and ISIS (AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile) and Visa Wallet are coming.  Yale Locks will be putting out NFC locks on the market soon (KEyLink smart car keys do this too).  Mobile Marketing with NFC: Proxama, Google Media.  Social Media: FourSquare at Google I/O, Google+, and NFriendConnector is in prototype.  NFC is really usful for gaming too – Angry Birds has been using NFC with what they’re calling Magic Places (go someplace physical and tap your phone to get levels unlocked).  Fruit Ninja gives you access to new blades too.  We’re starting to see this in public transportation, parking, health care, tickets, grocery stores, and more.    Rosetta Stone will embed a computer chip into your gravestone and people visiting your grave can hear all about your life story. (!!!!!!!!!)  In 5 or so years, we expect NFC on all of our phones.  PayPal, Square, and eBay are more naysayers about the NFC technology…  Who to watch?  ISIS and Apple.  What does this mean for libraries?  A mobile collection—NFC tags on books or media resources w/ reviews, bib info, author biographies, using it for self-check-out, social interactions.  Bibliotecha has a prototype app for off-the-shelf self-checkout with NFC & smart phones.  WOW!  It provides a speedy portal between our patrons and our collections.  We need to keep security and privacy in mind as we move forward with NFC as it has proven hackable, and we’re all about patron privacy…so yeah.  Let’s be smart.

Internet Librarian 2011

Understanding Users and Improving Your Website with Google Analytics

SuHui Ho and Jeff Wisniewski

SuHui Ho

Why use web metrics?  The basic hit count is extremely misleading (we’ve known this for a long time).  Looking deeper is essential.  Some of the reports Google Analytics offers that are useful for us are the Top Content Report and the Traffic Source Report.

Top Content Report: The content on your website is a living being.  So you have to keep it updated.  We always have more content we can update.  We have more rooms to clean on our websites than we have people to clean them.  If you know which content is used most, you can prioritize those.  Look at what the top tasks are too – what do people come to your website to do?  Which pages from the homepage are clicked on most often?

Traffic Source Report: How much of your homepage traffic comes from the homepage settings on your in-library computers?  SuHui says “don’t be so proud of your total hit count” because much of that direct traffic is from your own computers.  J  Referring sites are really useful to look at as well…  And look at search engine traffic too – how much of your traffic comes from a search engine query result?  Really pay attention to search engine optimization – make sure that your website appears on the top of the search results you want.  Reviewing the keyword referrals from search engines is useful – you might see a lot of mentions of the word “hours” with variations of different phrases.

Jeff Wisniewski

Jeff talked about the Goals and Funnels feature in Google Analytics.  A Goal is the page a visitor reaches once (s)he has completed a task or an action…an end point of sorts.  A Funnel is the optimized steps that the person should go through to get to that page.  Looking at both of these in conjunction you can see where people get tripped up.

An example: the goal to register for a class on RefWorks.  There may be several steps in your Funnel (e.g. look at calendar, click on class time you like, click on register, etc.).  Per profile, you get to have up to 20 goals.  Jeff says this is a reasonable limit.  Name your goal something intuitive, because this is what shows up in the analytics reports.  You can set the goal’s position, and pick a goal type (URL destination, time on site, pages/visit).  For us, the URL destination is the most relevant to our type of web business.  Be careful about leading or trailing slashes or spaces because Google Analytics will not match up the URL correctly.  Once you set a goal, you get asked to create a Funnel.  Then you set up the different steps—a Funnel can have an unlimited number of steps.

And then you wait to give Google Analytics time to collect data.  Now that they’ve rolled out real time analytics, that’s awesome.  You used to have to wait at least 24 hours, you can now see some data within minutes.  With Jeff’s example, we see that we started with 886 people.  43 people didn’t get past the first step of the process, and it tells you where they went instead.  The next step lost another 36 people, and then the 3rd step (checkout confirmation) resulted in a significant loss of 317 people.  Whoa.  That’s not good.  But it shows you where you need to make changes and improvements, and in that way it’s super awesome useful!  Whoopah!  Jeff recommends looking at trend data over time instead of hanging your hat on a particular number at one specific time.  Good advice!