Man, speaking of techie patrons not liking an interface…
Someone in a web community I frequent linked to a newspaper article, noting that you could only read the first bit for free and the rest was paywalled. I thought, hey, I *totally* bet you could read that for free online through the library site. So I looked it up, and I started to type something like:
First you go to the library home page, then you click on the “Research & Information” tab, then you log in, then you can click in the sidebar where it has the ejournals finder to search for which database has this newspaper, then…
And at this point I was bored of typing these instructions and realized that, honestly, no one on the internet would care. (And I hadn’t even gotten to the part where the information she provided wasn’t exactly the same as the title cite so if you used them keyword-style as search terms you would find nothing!)
Maybe there was a permalink that would’ve made this easy, but I just assumed not. Having been trained that way by experience with interfaces like this.
OK, new rule: people can complain that other people are having idea/research/information conversations that cut the library out of the loop, or they can adopt interfaces like this one. But they may not do both.
The thing that really stands out to me in this post (h/t John) about a particularly picturesque problem with Google metadata is the author’s comment about Google Scholar vs. JSTOR.
He knows there’s a lot of problems with Scholar metadata. It’s not actually subtle; the article he found was not actually written by Messrs. Feisty and Embuggerance. But the Scholar interface lets him interact with data in ways he wants to, and JSTOR doesn’t, so he puts up with it. Which has me wondering two things —
1) Incentives and information flow. I’ve read enough Marginal Revolution by now that my first question is — is there really any way for end users to put pressure on JSTOR, or other scholarly databases? Is there any meaningful communication channel there, any way that user behavior (including workarounds and avoidance) even has a chance of exerting pressure to change? I’m guessing not — too many middlemen, interests too diffuse, too many egos and agendas. I don’t like where that leads.
2) Metadata and interface. In the library world I’ve done a lot of reading about, and been in some conversations about, metadata, and it’s often discussed as its own thing, separate. You have all these conventions surrounding how metadata works, and the boundaries of the system are drawn right there. Except — this points out that that’s really not true. Users aren’t using things like Google Scholar because they’re ignorant about metadata quality (the comment thread in that Chronicle article I talked about should show that that’s definitely not true for this population…) But metadata quality is part of user experience, and users are evaluating it in that context, and they’re willing to make tradeoffs on one UI front in favor of another.
This should not be at all revelatory, huh. But it’s a totally different perspective. New mantra: “Metadata is a part of interface.”
Enh, I’m too sick to blog intelligently today. Lately viruses are a part of interface. Send your hopes for a better UI.