Sunday, September 30, 2012

Create effective presentations using Haiku Deck - iPad app

I am sure you have seen presentation slides done in the libraryland by speakers that are often stunning in simplicity. You know the type - one picture as the background with at most 2 lines of text.

Of course, anyone of us could mimic this but for 2 things

1) It takes work and time to look up for suitable pictures. create text boxes to enter text etc

2) Our natural inclination is to fill up the slides with lots of words.

Recently, I saw a iPad app announced that was designed to tackle both of these problems.

Welcome the Haiku Deck iPad app , a free presentation making app on iPad.

How does it solve both these problems?  Firstly, while you can quickly create a presentation on this iPad app it is extremely limited in terms of what you can add.

You can add up to two lines of text - a main text and a subtitle (see below).

You can't change the font currently. Let's say I decide to use that one word "Collection"

Next I select a picture as a background by tapping on the picture icon on the left (second from top)

As shown above, it automatically uses the text to search for suitable images and suggests similar "tags" to search for. You can ignore the text you used and type in whatever search terms you prefer as well.

Tap on the picture you want as a background and you will get a preview on the right to see how it looks. Tapping on "Use Text Background" button will remove the black shading box around the text.

You can also tap on the camera icon for the option to take a picture with your iPad camera or choose a picture already taken on your ipad.

On tapping "Choose a photo", I was pleasantly surprised by the options available.

You can add not just photos on your iPad camera roll or photo stream but you can connect to photos on Facebook, Instagram, Flickr and Picasa. No dropbox , Gdrive , Skydrive yet though.

I mentioned before you cannot change the font of the text but you can change the position of the text somewhat by tapping the layout button (three button from the top on the left)

In this case, I selected the layout on the bottom right so it moves the text right to the bottom. By default it centers the text.

That's ability it. The last thing you can change is the theme.

So far, I tried most of the free themes don't see to make much difference, though the one I selected above is an exception making everything greyish. 

Once it's all done you have the usual sharing options.

If you want a copy to edit on powerpoint etc you should probably select export, then email it to yourself.

Any other options shares a link to a online web version, you can also embed it.  Here's one example.


I've used Haiku Deck seriously twice for a internal presentation and one for an external presentation. The later I initially planned to use this for a Panel on "Future of Librarians" at the Library Association of Singapore seminar/conference last week but eventually decided against. Below I embed it , do note it is not finished or complete.

Is Haiku Deck worth using? If you aren't too picky and want to quickly create a professional presentation on the go, it is definitely worth trying as you could make one in 15 minutes.

In some ways using Haiku Deck allows you to bypass knowing the tips given in Ned Potter's great - 5 easy ways to create fabulous slides and quickly create slides fitting those guidelines.

But if you want something more complicated you will have to export the slides then add more.

Do note, that the exported slides will be exported as images on the slide as a whole (both text and background picture will be one image), so take that into account.

The main issue I see with Haiku deck is that I can't tell where all the images are coming from. Even if they are all creative commons, it doesn't indicate where they are coming from, so one can't easily give credit (or are they public domain?).

Personally, I would also be interested in a decktop version of this.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Don't make me think - Search boxes

I am hardly a expert on usability or user experience but over time of looking at usage logs and talking to users, observing users by walking around and helping I have started to realise a couple of things. Here's one.

When faced with a single search box on a page, from the user's point of view, it makes sense to just try to see what it does by keying in queries in the search box as opposed to trying to figure out what the search box is supposed to do by reading text.

I'm a bit dense so it took me a long while to figure it out. It all began when my institution started on LibAnswers - a Knowledge Base/ FAQ system by SpringShare. This allowed me to track what was been searched and what they clicked or did not click, in response to the results.

LibAnswers/FAQ System

From the first time we launched, I noticed a relatively high proportion of queries, about 8-10% were people typing in or pasting book titles, article titles or even full citations.

This frustrated to me no end (and no this wasn't just because I had a personal target to ensure x% of searches were successful!) surely they didn't think there would be a FAQ answer on that specific book or article they were looking for did they?

And given that they had to come to this page from the main homepage that did embed the library catalogue (not withstanding those who googled in directly) they shouldn't be confused that this was the library catalogue or search right?

A few months later, I realized part of the puzzle. We were embedding FAQ search boxes on our research/subject guides

LibAnswer search box on Libguides

As users were in a state of mind looking for resources to help them with their assignments, they saw a search box and they assumed it would find them resources. This accounted for a lot of the article and book searches I saw.

I was naive enough to think this could be fixed by adding text to explain it was for FAQs (mostly on library rules). But no amount of text added

a) above the search field
b) below the search field
c) In the box header
d) In the search field

helped. People still searched for resources.

In the end I resigned myself to the fact that the user was not broken. A guide that was supposed to help with assignments/research was supposed to have search boxes that search for articles or books. It was the natural to expect this!

So earlier this year we launched the web scale discovery tool Summon and immediately I recommended that we add that search widgets  to the exact same position on our guides.

Summon widget on Libguides

It made sense, since this was where people were searching for books and articles and while Summon wasn't quite the perfect one-search for every article accessible , it was close enough, so it was a no-brainer to add it there.

Did it help reduce the number of searches for books and articles in the FAQ search?

Yes, by quite a bit and they now all went correctly to Summon, but here's the thing... I still saw searches for book titles, articles titles and other content titles in the FAQ. And they came from the FAQ pages (not subject/resource guides) itself.

In particularly digging down I noticed they were on the FAQ pages "How do I find masters and phd thesis?", "How do I find full text of a article" and similar FAQs relating to resources, which gave detailed instructions on how to search.

To help users, I pretty much used the same idea and embedded Summon search boxes in such FAQs when appropriate, so they could search directly from there and reduce the temptation to search books and articles or theses in the faq search.

FAQ page where users were searching for theses

Of course, in some cases I couldn't do anything. For instance from the FAQ page "How do I get impact factors for journals?" , searchers reached that FAQ page then decided to type in journal title names in the search at the top of the page presumably they were hoping the impact factors would appear.

Searching for journal titles on the FAQ that gave the answer

In some cases the journal just didn't have a impact factor assigned but in most cases if they just followed the instructions on the FAQ which also linked to JCR they would have gotten the answer. Sigh.

And I guess you won't be surprised to note even after all these efforts there are still a fair number searching for book titles and journal titles in the FAQ box including those carried on the homepage of the FAQ. And I wouldn't even be so hard on them if it was for items we didn't actually have (so this could be a last ditch search just in case), but the fact is most of them were for searches that would have succeeded if they searched the right search system.

I am not sure when it was I got this epiphany but it was this

When faced with a search box on a page, from the user's point of view, it makes sense to try by keying in queries in the search box as opposed to trying to figure out what the search box is supposed to do.

And if you think back to the above example where people are searching for journal titles on the FAQ page which shows them how to find impact factors, is likely to be used by research and academic staff rather than undergraduates, this affects even our "serious" users.

Which is easier? Type in a book title and see if the results gives you what you want? Or read the often wordy explanation (sometimes even having to go off-page via a link) to try to figure out what the search box covers?

I would argue it's a smarter strategy to just spend 30 seconds typing in the query and looking at the result, then spent cognitive effort trying to understand what the search box covers.

In many ways, it's obvious when you look at the company that is now a verb for searching

Notice, any attempt to explain what is been searched? :)

I would add that this is one reason why I argued in the need to have a "true" one search box that covered not just books and articles but also faqs, library rules and every sort of library related content.

As related in that article , many libraries are now moving towards a "bento style" box moving in content from different silos showing a few selected results for each, and allowing the user to select which type of results he wants.

This requires quite a lot of expertise to integrete different APIs together, so a simple but less sophisticated system would be one that detects zero or few results and follows a link which when clicks searched other systems with the same keyword. Eg. if the libanswers system detects zero answers, it would offer a link that when clicked searches Summon with the keyword.

What about tabbed search boxes? 

In the above example, we are talking about single search boxes where there is usually no choice what-so ever to switch to another mode. This makes the temptation to just try it out and see what happens even stronger, since

1) You have nothing to lose but seconds of your time

2) What other choice do you have? You only have one search option!

But what was multi-tab boxes, that gives you options? And hence it makes more sense to try to figure out which one to search with?

As detailed in my recent analysis of Summon using libraries, such designs are fairly popular making up slightly over 50% and I suspect they are even more popular among libraries without a web scale discovery solution as there is no decent one search box solution.

The good new is , based on past research on the subject and my own experience of usage of our multi-search boxes, many users do not blindly search using the default tab, a fair minority switch tabs - the figure varies , about 20-30% usage results from switches from the default tab

It's less clear though whether this implies most are searching with the correct tab (this varies I guess on a number of factors having to do with user base) but at least search tabs do encourage users to switch search modes more than other methods such as pull-down menus.

I suspect given options that are easy to activate ie search tabs, a fair number would indeed make an effort to figure out what each search tab does, at least more than when there is only a single search box.

So this effect is lessened,  though I would think most would still be biased to try out the default tab, look at the results, if its totally wrong, go back and switch to another promising tab rather than spend  minutes reading the descriptions trying to figure out which tab to use. Without a lot of analysis this is hard to check.

After all, what does the user have to lose if he is wrong the first time?

BTW If you want to keep up with articles, blog posts, videos etc on web scale discovery, do consider subscribing to my custom magazine curated by me on Flipboard.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

You are doing it wrong! 6 presentations/posts on librarianship that impressed me

So we librarians are failing (or are we? See Walt Crawford's analysis of public library closures in US). Amazon is eating our lunches. Google is where people go. Surely we must be doing something wrong? Below are some of the critiques about how we librarians do things that perhaps deserve our consideration. The fact that some of it comes from people who are not librarians (or traditional librarians) but working in the library field is interesting...

1. I wouldn't start from here - Dave Pattern

Dave Pattern is a Library System manager at University of Huddersfield and one of my favourite people in the library industry to watch.

His awards speak for themselves, he was one of the first ever Library Journal Mover & Shakers from outside US and Canada in 2009, won IWR Information Professional of the Year 2010 and is involved in so many amazing and innovative projects from his contributions on Library Impact Data Project , his experiments/tinkering with the catalogue to add recommenders "people who borrowed this also borrowed this" , his contributions on Lemon Tree - Library game (a gamification project I covered before) and more.

So when he speaks I tend to give him the benefit of the doubt....

I wouldn't start from here is a entertaining presentation about what Dave Pattern is unhappy with in the library world (Sessions blogged here). The list includes
  • Librarians fixation with boolean operators
  • MARC 
  • OPACs
  • and in general why things are so hard to access in libraries. 
I noticed prior to the presentation he was tweeting a lot about the need to cut down his content, so one wonders if the list was initially even longer :)

There's a pretty entertaining section on 3 conspiracy theories, though I suspect he is half tongue in cheek, like "We ensure every interface is different"? Though he notes

"Sadly, I’ve been in a meeting where a librarian essentially said that eresources should be difficult to use as it teaches students that somehow effort equates to quality ."

This could be in the context of discovery systems like Summon.

Oh well.

Or could it be we librarians want to make things complex to give ourselves a job? Matthew who we shall meet later has this to say...

Dave Pattern is a self described Shambrarian. I was going to say don't ask , but essentially it refers to people who work in the library industry but don't have a MLIS or similar. It's another tongue in cheek reference, but  a lot of the members are systems IT people working in libraries and because of their background have very different views from typical librarians and that is where I feel their strength lies in seeing things from a different angle.

2. Your library website stinks and it's your fault - Matthew Reidsma

Dave Pattern in his presentation mentions he wanted to rant about terrible library websites but said he didnt need to because Matthew Reidsma of Grand Valley State University did already.

You can watch the presentation referred to here and slides here

Matthew Reidsma is a web developer/eservices librarian with Grand Valley State. Like Dave Pattern, Matthew's institution is one of the pioneer Summon universities, and both are in my opinion among some of the most knowledgable people out Serials Solutions on Summon, Matthew has done extensive hacking of 360 Link screens  and enable creating of scoped searches for Summon without javascript for example.

A lot of his unhappiness with library websites can be summed up as follow.

He wants us librarians to say "User is not like me" and "The website is not for you"

At GSVU he does usability testing every month. He explains
"Why We Do Usability Testing" and even more useful the exact steps he does when doing usability testing at his libraries (including scripts, protocol etc).  

In his presentation, he talks about easy cuts of content, how to handle politics and more.

Do note that Matthew is technically not a shambrarian  , a mistake I made, but he is honoured to be mistaken as one... :)

3. The user is not broken - K.G. Schneider
Karen Schneider also known as Free Range Librarian is University Library of Cushing Libraries. She is a well known and respected speaker and writer in library circles.

The user is not broken is relatively old posted in 2006 but still a goodie. The line "User is not broken" has become a classic and is still referenced even now see here and "Stop blaming the user".

As noted in "Stop blaming the user"

"The user is not broken in that our job is to fulfill the user’s needs, and the user’s needs are, while not always well-defined, possible to meet, or understood by either side, valid — so accusing the user of Doing It Wrong is counterproductive to our goals and needs, and should be avoided. This applies to space usage, reference inquiries, customer service, and use of our online tools."

What surprised me when I looked up this line was that it was actually a line in a whole manifesto, many of which look very prescient to me. Some examples

"The OPAC is not the sun. The OPAC is at best a distant planet, every year moving farther from the orbit of its solar system."

Very true. She also elaborated further on OPACs in the How OPACs Suck series in the same year.

 Six years later, pretty much nobody dispute this. See this blog post by me on my assessment on the shift in expectations for library search 6 years later.

Web Scale Discovery Systems are I believe the industry's current best approach to solve these problems that hopefully aren't simply lipstick on a pig as memorably popularized by Roy Tennant.

"It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than to find a library website that is usable and friendly and provides services rather than talking about them in weird library jargon."

Same point made in #2

"You cannot change the user, but you can transform the user experience to meet the user."

One thought that occurs to me, is teaching information literacy or transliteracy (big dispute over whether it's the same thing) the same as trying to "change the user" ? A rallying cry I have heard recently against the need to teach Boolean Operators to all users is that we shouldn't be obsessed to teach that to everyone as we are not trying to turn users into "mini-librarians" (Dave's law? states that one shouldn't need to become a mini-librarian to use the library effectively). Which brings me to the next subject on library instruction.

4. Librarians: confusing process for product on a regular basis - Iris Jastram

Iris Jastram is a Reference and Instruction Librarian at Carleton College. Her blog Pegasus Librarian is one of my favourite blogs on Library Information Literacy and instruction. For the record other great librarians to read in roughly this area includes Barbara Fister (though she blogs a bit wider), Meredith Farkas (assessment) and more philosophically Lane Wilkinson & Wayne Bivens-Tatum 

Iris's blog which dates back to 2005, is a wealth of her thoughts and insights about teaching classes from a librarian point of view. Many of them have made me evaluate how I do information literacy.
The idea in the post Librarians: confusing process for product on a regular basis  which points out that Librarians are doing library instruction wrongly can in fact be applied to a lot of her posts.

We do seem to focus a lot on process "do this, click that" rather than the actual goal, though I don't want to get into the information literacy vs transliteracy debate aka - "Transliteracy is Information Literacy for latecomers". :)

Some of my favourite posts include

5. MARC must die - Roy Tennant

Roy Tennant like many on this list hardly needs an introduction, but if one is needed he is yet another international known writer and speaker in the library world and is currently with OCLC research.

Similar to "user is not broken", Roy Tennant popularised the phrase "MARC must die" , about the shortcomings of MARC in 2002. Since then the call has being repeated by many including Dave Pattern (see above), Lukas Koster  etc. The details are a bit technical but among many reasons despite MARC standing for "MAchine Readable Cataloging", the Machine readable part is not actually true. For more details see this

What's the alternative? Linked Data it seems. Watch the recent "Linked Data for Libraries" video . I confess I am still figuring this out.

6. Pretty much anything by David Lankes

Professor Lankes is a Professor and Dean's Scholar for the New Librarianship at Syracuse University's School of Information Studies & the Director of the Information Institute of Syracuse (IIS), his book "The Atlas of New Librarianship" won the 2012 ABC-CLIO/Greenwood Award for the Best Book in Library Literature. As I have written in the past, David Lankes wants to inspire Librarians to create a new age of librarianship. 
Rallying call 

Bad Libraries build collections. Good libraries build services (of which a collection is only one). Great libraries build Communities

Here's one presented "reinventing librarianship".


I have listed 6 presentations where people in the library industry have made sweeping general critiques of the way we do things in libraryland that have impressed me. They are also not simply just predictions of doom  (as "fun" they are to read) but make calls for positive changes we can do with much effort.

I could easily double the list of entries , eg Aaron Schmidt work on user experience,  Brian Matthew's Think Like a Start-Up: a White Paper , is a recent one that impressed me but in my current obsessions/roles these are the ones that are most relevant to me.

There are no doubt many brilliant calls for change (open access, open data, big data/data curation roles, maker spaces etc) that will prove prescient in time to come but I lack the wisdom to recognise as yet.

Which presentations or critiques about the way we do things in libraryland have impressed you in the past few years? Do leave them in the comments.

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