Savvy business for “dumb” phones?

The Social Network (also known as “The Facebook movie”) batted a little under .500 Sunday night at the Academy Awards, ultimately racking up three wins – for editing, best original score, and best adapted screenplay – from its eight total nominations, including a potential Best Actor nod to Jesse Eisenberg for his role as CEO Mark Zuckerberg (I find Justin Timberlake a bit more compelling myself).

Oscar, Schm-Oscar, Zuckerberg himself might say: 600 million users strong, Facebook rolls on, a juggernaut seemingly immune to the frequent kerfuffles raised by users over privacy of user data, interface changes, and how to finally, once and for all, suppress all those Farmville notifications from so-and-so.

With that many users, it’s no surprise that there’s plenty to say about Facebook. Some might be most interested to consider the possible ramifications of the company’s move last month to raise millions of dollars, from Goldman Sachs and an unnamed Russian investor, in what appears to be the prep for going public. Others might find the story of a Spanish nun expelled from her convent for – that’s right – “spending too much time on Facebook” compelling.

Unsurprisingly, I was most attracted to this story: no longer content to provide apps just for smartphones,  Facebook is moving into the “feature phone” market.  What’s a “feature phone”? Flip phones, candy-bar phones, or others … slightly lower-end than often pricey smartphones, feature phones can run some applications, but aren’t built around an operating system like Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android, or Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7. While the pundits are lining up to say that 2011 will stand as the tipping point for smartphone adoption in the United States (see our own Bret’s post on the topic, plus the Horizon Report 2011 [PDF]), there are still millions and millions of feature phones in use in this country, and millions more around the world.

Now all those folks can download the Facebook feature phone app, and get 90 days of free data. Maybe not long enough to get them tossed out of a convent, but probably plenty of time to get hooked for Facebook Mobile to become part of their day-to-day. Will other corporations and providers move into the feature phone market? As tablet sales take off, will consumers opt to spend there and save on phones? At least one person has recently noted his interest in pairing his tablet with a feature phone (through which he could create a Wi-Fi hotspot). What happens when two disruptive technologies collide? I don’t know, but if I figure it out, I’ll be sure to post it in my Facebook status.

Bookmarking Services

Yahoo! caused quite a stir back in December when it announced that the company was planning on sunsetting its social bookmarking service, Delicious. Yahoo! has expressed its commitment to keeping Delicious active until it is sold, but many users have started looking for other options. Although the announcement serves as a reminder of the ephemerality of many online services, it has also created an opportunity for upstart companies to assert themselves on the market. Below is a listing of alternatives that might meet your needs. I use Pinboard myself. It’s quick, simple, charges a small fee, and is profitable. Which means it will be around forever, right?

Post a comment if I missed a bookmarking service that you find particularly useful!

Pinboard

Zootool

Google Bookmarks

Diigo

Instapaper (great for archiving articles)

Readability (also great for archiving)

Xmarks

Mister Wong

Accessibility Tip: Using the “alt” tag

Whether you are uploading your image via the Content Manager’s image upload widget or linking it in some other way, one of the necessary HTML attributes for any image is the alt tag. The text in your alt tag is used by screen readers, so that people who access the web using this assistive technology will be able to get the information that you are conveying in your image.

Userfocus has published an absolutely terrific post outlining five different ways to use alt text, and when you should use each kind. Read it here.

The Changing Mobile Landscape

The good people at Mobilefuture.org have published some interesting 2010 year end data on smartphones:

  • 5 Billion apps downloaded, up from 300 million in 2009
  • Twitter grew by 347 percent
  • 200 Million mobile Facebook users
  • 100 million YouTube videos are played on mobile devices DAILY

You can watch their 3 minute review on YouTube below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mCkbrYKQyI

As staggering as these figures seem, the trend toward smartphone ubiquity shows no signs of slowing. Horace Dediu of Asymco.com published an analysis of Gartner’s market data that showed the smartphone market is growing at a rate of 96%. Mr. Dediu predicts that 2011 is poised to be the year that half the U.S. population will be using smartphones.

In fact, smartphones and tablets are on the verge of overtaking PC computing as the primary way people access the internet. In December of 2010, Steve Lohr of the New York Times cited a recent IDC study, writing:

Mainstream adoption, according to IDC, is when a technology moves well beyond 15 percent or so of the market. In 2011, IDC predicts half of the 2.1 billion people who regularly use the Internet will do so using non-PC devices.

The rapid expansion of highly capable mobile computing devices presents several questions for providers of online services. Do we develop for the mobile web or do we develop stand-alone apps? How do we develop a content strategy for mobile devices? How do we port existing services to mobile platforms? Answers to these questions are enigmatic. One thing seems certain, that mobile computing will be to this decade what the PC was to the 1990’s and the internet to the 2000’s. Users now have access to (relatively) inexpensive handheld computers that are orders of magnitude more powerful than the machines that started the internet revolution.

How do you see mobile services impacting Libraries? Have you noticed students or faculty using smartphones or tablets more frequently? How do you use mobile devices in your own life? Post a comment and let us know your thoughts!

Wrap-up: Google Analytics webinar series

We certainly enjoyed the recent webinar series on Google Analytics, Library Analytics: Inspiring Positive Action through Web User Data (an ALA TechSource webinar/workshop), and we hope that you did too. If you missed the sessions the first time around, we do have access to the archives, so give us a yell if you’d like to see them.

We also wanted to collect some information here, for easy access. Enjoy!

Session 1: The Basics of Turning Numbers into Action
Continuing the Conversation: ALA Techsource blog post with slides, additional resource links and content

Session 2: How Libraries Analyze and Act
Continuing the Conversation
: ALA Techsource blog post with slides, additional resource links and content

The presenters provided the following list of recommended readings:
Wikipedia Entry: Web Analytics
“About Us” Page, Web Analytics Association
Measuring Website Usage with Google Analytics, Part I
Measuring Website Usage (from http://coi.gov.uk/guidance.php?page=229)
Library Analytics (Part 1)

Arendt, Julie and Wagner, Cassie. 2010. “Beyond Description: Converting Web Site Usage Statistics into Concrete Site Improvement Ideas“, Journal of Web Librarianship, 4: 1, 37 — 54
Black, Elizabeth L.2009. “Web Analytics: A Picture of the Academic Library Web Site User“, Journal of Web Librarianship, 3: 1, 3 — 14
DANIEL WAISBERG and AVINASH KAUSHIK. 2009. “Web Analytics 2.0: Empowering Customer CentricitySEMJ.org Volume 2 Issue 1.

You may also be interested in this recent interview with the presenters, “Paul Signorelli and Char Booth Discuss the Role of Web Analytics in the Library.”

Google Analytics and the Library

As an undergraduate and, more recently, a graduate student, I have noticed many students no longer want to go to the library to conduct research.  In fact, many times when students go to the library, they are going to meet with a study group or rehearse a presentation because of the availability of study rooms.  Many resources are in digital format and only require a computer with an internet connection for access.  This means that more and more students are using the library”s website to find information and conduct their own research.

One of my main projects as a graduate assistant for the Digital User Experience has been working with Google Analytics to understand what information it can provide to increase usability and accessibility of Indiana University-Bloomington’s library website.  The first few months were spent mining data and exploring the wide range of information that Analytics can provide.

What I have been doing on a monthly basis is mining four separate statistics about page usage.  These are the number of visits a page receives, the average time spent on a page, the number of visitors who exit from that page (exit %), and the number of visitors who enter and exit on a certain page (bounce rate).  They are presented in charts that can be graphed by month, week, or day.  This is incredibly useful for noticing trends in a page’s usage and can provide great information about the page.  For example, a page may see little use but have several days where usage spikes.  This could mean that the page is being taught in a seminar, which would account for many people using it on the same day.

The statistics of these pages can provide great feedback on the usage of the page.  A page full of information should have a higher “average time on page” statistic than other pages.  If it is low, then there may be a problem with how the information is displayed; is it too difficult to read, is it in a logical order, etc.  By knowing the date the page was last modified, one could see on the graph if those modifications have had an impact on its use (whether it be more visits or people spending more time on the page).

Another tool that I’ve found useful is In-Page Analytics.  This allows you to view any of your tracked pages with an overlay of information about visits, average time, etc.  Through this the user can see which links are used the most (ranked by percentage of total page clicks and with the number of clicks) and be provided with a more visual idea of the navigational flow of the site.  The page can be browsed using the same view as the visitor, but also contain information on how the user passes through the site.  If an information page has a low “average time on page” statistics, you could view that page and, with the overlay, see what links people are clicking to leave the page.  Maybe they don’t readily see the information they are seeking and think another page may be of more use?

Google Analytics is also great for providing information about the demographics of the site’s visitors.  It allows you to see where your users are from, right down to the number of users per town or city.  It can provide information on how people are viewing the site based upon operating system, browser, screen resolution, screen colors, and what version of java or flash they have.  This can help page design be optimized for the specifications of the viewers.

Mining the data is fairly easy; the difficulty is what questions to ask of the data and what it can answer.  Analytics provides a huge array of information, but is useless if there isn’t a way to interpret the data.  We have been in the process of looking more closely at the data for subsets of the library (services and departments) and other libraries.  With these groups we have been asking cursory questions such as what trends are occurring, is this page still needed, who uses these pages, are people delving deep into the site’s hierarchy or only looking at top-level information, and is this page being properly utilized?  This has helped to understand how to use the data, but I think there is still so much more to be gained from the information Google Analytics can provide.

ALA Midwinter

This past weekend, I attended my first Midwinter conference in San Diego. Over the summer, I attended ALA Annual in Washington, D.C., which was, quite frankly, overwhelming. The sheer amount of people at the convention center and at programs made it difficult to navigate the conference and take part in (or even find) programs that I thought would be interesting and educational. However, Midwinter had an entirely different feel, and I think I took away more from this conference than previous conferences I have attended.

Part of the reason I was at Midwinter was to begin my participation in the Emerging Leaders program. For those unfamiliar with the program, it is a program that is designed to encourage younger and new-to-the-field librarians to become involved in ALA, and develop leadership skills and opportunities. EL’s are divided into groups to work on a project that spans from now until the annual conference in June. My project, entitled “Smart Money Week,” is a program focusing on developing financial literacy, and is aimed at libraries. The Chicago Federal Reserve is in the leadership role for the project, and is collaborating with ALA to promote programming and outreach at all libraries, although public libraries are largely targeted. Last year, Naperville Public Library and another library in Wisconsin (the name escapes me now) did a similar program with enormous success. This year, several states are doing a state-wide Smart Money Week-Indiana’s’ will be in October. However, the current goal for Money Smart Week is to have libraries nation-wide participate in the program in April of 2012. (Currently, states do Smart Money Week at various times-Nebraska is having theirs in November). Our EL team has several tasks. The first is to assist with the re-launch of a new website dedicated to the Smart Money Week in 2012-filling in holes in the current website, updating information, and adding new resources as necessary. We will also be creating a survey and way of evaluating the programs that will take place in 2011, in the hopes that the results will be used when planning the events of 2012.

I think that the most interesting part of the project will be the creation of evaluation method, and I know I will draw on my experience in DUX as a way to design the survey (or whatever method we use). I have had the opportunity to administer usability tests, while also having the chance to be a “guinea pig” on a number of occasions and although this will be a different type of evaluation, I still think that it will be an interesting comparison to what we do here in DUX-understand how people approach our website, what they gain from it, and how we can make it better.

In an attempt to become better acquainted with all the different committees, roundtables, and divisions that ALA encompasses, I attended a number of committee meetings and discussions on Saturday. During one of these sessions, I heard someone say “I worry about the digital divide-the division between rich and poor, those who can afford iPads and iPhones and the data plans, and those who cannot.” I found this extremely interesting, because so often we hear of “digital natives”-those who have always experienced the internet and know how to use computers and the like, but far less frequently is the idea of those who are not exposed to technology because of a social class difference explored-particularly in an academic setting. The exchange reminded me of a similar experience I observed over the summer. There was an X153 class that came for instruction. X153 is class for incoming freshman that are often the first generation of college students, and may be unfamiliar with newer technologies-such as Twitter. One IA used Twitter as a learning tool, which, while an excellent idea, is difficult for students who have never heard of Twitter, don’t have an account, and don’t have any idea how to use it. However, would these students have been exposed to Twitter if the IA not used it during class that day? Or was there a better platform for the IA to use Twitter? As an IA and a DUX-or, I often find myself wanting to show students I teach new technologies or ways of searching that they may be unfamiliar with-but in 50 minutes, how do I bridge that gap? I’m hopeful that my time at IU, combined with my new experiences with ALA and as an EL, will help me understand the best way to approach such a difficult topic.

The Academic User and the Ebook Experience

Char Booth (one of the presenters at the upcoming webinar on library analytics, which we’ll be participating in – please join us!) has a very good article at LibraryJournal.com this week: “A Rising Tide: The Academic User and the Ebook Experience.”

Many public libraries are beginning to offer ebooks that are downloadable to the patron’s ereader (Kindle, Nook, etc.) and, as Stephen Abram notes in a blog post, ebook checkouts increased by 200% in 2010. But, because of how our ebooks are provided and licensed, academic libraries have not been as quick to offer similar services. But user expectations are changing; those of us who work at reference desks or respond to emails from patrons are starting to get questions like “I got a Nook for Christmas – how can I download ebooks from your library?”

Booth notes:

Delivery platform aside, I find that most digital monographs suffer from the equivalent of a serious personality disorder (e.g., poor communication, lack of self-awareness, negative self-image, inaccessibility, inconsistency, and delusions of grandeur). They tend to be too disparate, DRM-protected, and reminiscent of e-journal content to be accessed or read gracefully, making them a hard sell. At my own institution, I observe patrons struggle to access and understand library-digitized and publisher provided ebooks in a research context. Their shared dissatisfaction is exposed by common questions: How can I tell this is an ebook? Why can’t I print or read offline? How do I turn on the accessibility features? Why won’t the link I copied last week work now? Can I get this on my Kindle?

She goes on to discuss HathiTrust specifically, noting that it “highlights the value-added ebook proposition offered by libraries: service orientation and craft-level production, the two things most difficult to replicate in the large-scale digitext economy.”

Check out the article, and let us know what you think. Do you have an ereader? Have you had questions from students or faculty about ebooks? (If so – how have you responded to them?) Do you think their expectations are changing? What suggestions would you have for the Libraries as we move forward into these newish technologies? Please feel free to leave comments on this post!