Book Review: Business Analysis

Now in its third run, Business Analysis is a key text for anyone eager to use their LIS qualification outside of the traditional library setting. Placing the reader squarely in the IT world, Business Analysis discusses the historical context, development, and future of the discipline, whilst providing the reader with professional techniques, process models and skills frameworks. The text serves as a handbook for those developing information systems to fulfil business operations, whilst also providing a very balanced and valid introduction to the relatively new discipline of business analysis. Filling the gap (read, gigantic fissure) between business needs and business change solutions, the role and skillset of a business analyst has too often been overlooked, often due to the lack of a standard definition across industries. However, this BCS published text standardises and validates the experience and knowledge base of this specialist profession.

Not only for the Business Analyst, I would recommend this book to anyone undergoing change, or looking to instigate change in their workplace.

 

Paul, D., Cadle, J., and Yeates, D. (2014). Business Analysis, 3rd edition. Swindon, BCS Learning & Development Ltd.

 

Book Review: Information Literacy beyond Library 2.0

A sequel to Information Literacy meets Library 2.0, Information Literacy beyond Library 2.0 is in my opinion, a must read for all information professionals. Exploring the shift of the information environment triggered by social and mobile channels, the contributors within this text explore the impact of technology trends on information as well as digital consumption and literacy, whilst sharing case studies to demonstrate trends and suggest theories. Questions are asked, new ways-of-working and theoretical frameworks are introduced, all in an effort to respond to the ‘new’ information literacy.

Key case studies include: Using games as treatments and creative triggers: a promising strategy for information literacy, written by Susan Boyle; and Informed cyberlearning: a case study, by Hilary Hughes.

 

Godwin, P and Parker, J. (2012). Information Literacy Beyond Library 2.0. London: Facet Publishing.

Google it

In an age where ‘google’ has become synonymous with information searching online, I think it’s important for all Google Search users to understand what Google Search is, and how it operates. Formed in a Californian garage, Google is the very handsome love child of Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Both studying at Stanford University during the mid 90s, they were on a joint mission: “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” (1)

Google Search, as we know it today is a Web search engine. If you are unfamiliar with this term, think of a Web search engine as a gateway to the World Wide Web. When you google something, you are searching Google’s index of the Web. A common misunderstanding is the assumption that when querying the Web using a Web search engine, you are searching the whole of the Web. This isn’t strictly true. Not only are you not searching the entire Web, you are not searching the Web at all. You are instead searching Google’s index of the web. The Web contains many pages, most of which would be incomprehensible without the help of the indexing of Web search engines. Google’s day job is to find and index information held on the Web, in order for users of Google Search to be able to access the information they want.

Google Search / I’m Feeling Lucky

When you hit search on your Google browser, your computer starts communicating with one (or more) of Google’s servers. These servers contain large databases of the Web’s content, and are accessed via Google’s query engine. The query engine retrieves potential information sources, and the Google algorithm (the recipe for which is top secret) gets to work determining the ranking of the potential information sources. Google Search will then feedback the results of your query, usually with multiple options. These results have been ranked in terms of reliability and trustworthiness by the Google Search algorithm.

The Birth of Search Engine Optimisation

Due to the ranking of pages within indexes, an entire cottage industry has grown up around Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). With many website owners relying on Web search engines to send users to their website, a pay-to-play operational cost has developed around the Web. In order for Google Search to operate efficiently, Google use a ranking algorithm in order to try and return what they interpret to be the best version of the information the user is looking for. In order to do this, Google Search ranks pages and sites, assigning a score to every page contained within the World Wide Web. The ranking of pages by Google is an intricate and ever changing process, which has led to the SEO industry flourishing. In an effort to improve rankings, Webmasters operating outside of Google will try and trick Web search engines – resulting in the ranking process being honed time and time again by the Web search engine owner (Google in this case) in order to filter out this spam.

As with most technology, Web search engines are evolving. Moving from the simplistic tagging of information, to a semantic understanding of the Web. No longer relying on what site owners tell them about their pages, Google are beginning to delve deeper into their knowledge base, aggregating semantic data by analysing the connections between information, as well as the information itself.

Enter centre stage right: Machine Learning.

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Sources: (1) https://www.google.com/intl/en/about/our-story/ http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/z8yc2p3 https://www.google.com/search/howsearchworks

 

How to design a library that makes kids want to read

This TED talk is 12 minutes well spent. Michael Bierut discusses his input as Lead Graphic Designer on a New York library initiative, sponsored by charitable organisation, Robin Hood. Using energy, learning, art and graphics, Bierut’s work on this years-long ‘passion project’ supported school librarians in inspiring new generations of readers and thinkers.

Paper Review: The role of networking and social media tools during job search: an information behaviour perspective

Published in 2016, The role of networking and social media tools during job search: an information behaviour perspective, written by Prof. Hazel Hall, Prof. Robert Raeside and John Mowbray is an analysis of the available literature concerning networking behaviours of young jobseekers in both online and offline environments. Concentrating on three key themes: the use of social networks and informal information channels during job searches; networking behaviours in job search; and the use of social media tools, the paper offers an informative introduction, to a largely unexplored area.

Touching on the importance of ‘loosely-knit social circles’ that are generated using social networking sites, the paper recommends the need for further examination of young jobseekers’ engagement with social media tools supporting networks in online environments. During their interrogation of sixty-three papers from the extant literature published between 1973 and 2016, the researchers, sought to answer two questions:

  1. What are the key offline networking behaviours employed by young jobseekers during the job search process?
  2. How do social media tools support the networking behaviours of the young jobseekers during the job search process?

In answering these questions, the researchers propose Wilson’s (1997) general model of information behaviour as a suitable theoretical framework. Concluding that gaps exist within the literature, where further research is necessary to expound the process of networking during job search by young jobseekers.

 

Sources: Mowbray,J., Hall., Raeside, R. & Robertson, P. (in press). The role of networking and social media tools during job search: and information behaviour perspective. | Wilson, T.D. (1997). Information behaviour: an interdisciplinary perspective. Information Processing & Management, 33(4), 551-572.

I, Daniel Blake

I finally got round to watching I, Daniel Blake this weekend. A film directed by Ken Loach and written by Paul Laverty, which very deservedly won Outstanding British Film at the 2017 BAFTAs. In light of heightened political opinion following the election, there is so much that could, and has already been said about this heart breaking film. The social housing crisis; dependency on Food Banks; and sanctions use in the Department of Work and Pensions are instantly recognisable as features of the current government’s continuing policy of austerity. However, for me, the social commentary that struck home most was my bread and butter: digital literacy and digital access.

“You have to apply online sir.”

Throughout the film, the government’s Digital by Default Service Standard is big, brash and in your face. Introduced in 2014, the original 26 criteria points of Digital by Default were introduced to encourage those with digital access to do so. In it’s latest rendition, the service standard sets out 18 criteria for digital teams to follow, when producing the digital formats of the most used government services, e.g., registering to vote, managing your taxes, claiming a carer’s allowance, etc. Contact telephone numbers are online, assessment forms are online, Universal Jobmatch is online. However, the GOV.UK website specifically states: “Assisted digital support is an integral part of any service, helping users who can’t complete the service on their own.”

The reason for the introduction of Digital by Default Service Standard is simple: it saves the government money, and it saves the citizen time. Paper-based services are generally more costly in administration time than digital, and on the whole, digital provides a much more readily available and accessible solution to paper-based services for its users. Going digital saves on staffing and processing costs, whilst also opening up the possibility for easily maintained reporting, data and performance analysis, and user satisfaction monitoring. However, as with all things, there are user barriers that must be considered.

“Right, can you give us that ‘coz with computers, I’m dyslexic.”

No two users are identical. You’ll forgive me this broad brush over a fairly technical issue, however, anyone who has worked on the production of a digital solution to one which was previously paper-based, knows user stories or user profiles are usually (and should be) coming out of your ears by the time the initial analysis for the project is complete. Without comprehensive analysis of a user base, a solution will always lack something, for someone.

This presents as a double edged sword, and is often partly responsible for the improvements, and later variations of a digital service, during the life of said solution. Where a digital solution isn’t already present – understanding of a user base, and collection of data to be used for intelligence is often very difficult. Imagine trawling through a year’s worth of Jobcentre paper applications for Jobseeker’s Allowance and trying to make some semblance of sense from these without digital.

To put this into perspective, consider the latest from the Office of National Statistics from January to March 2017: There were 1.54 million unemployed people (people not in work but seeking and available to work). That’s potentially (and for the sake of this argument) 1.54 million users of 1 government service. 1.54 million people that need to be considered and thought about when designing a digital process and solution, which allows the claimant to make a claim for Jobseeker’s Allowance. Do claimants operate differently depending on age, education, disability, literacy level, postcode, previous employment, digital literacy, digital access, whether or not they have dependants living with them…the list is endless. And without a database with very many rows and columns to query, producing a once-size-fits-all digital solution is a very hard gig.

Zero digital skills. As is the case with the character Daniel Blake, digital literacy is not a given. In the UK, with an aging population, it’s safe to assume that there are citizens who will need to use a government service, who are unable to use a computer. Coupled with high WIFI fees and a state pension, you may also have a user group without access to digital. Is it enough to slap “Assisted digital support is an integral part of any service, helping users who can’t complete the service on their own.” across the GOV.UK website, and assume that this box is ticked?

Providing for disabilities. No two persons with a disability are the same. Therefore particularly careful attention, and a wealth of knowledge needs to be applied when designing digital solutions for persons with a disability. Assistive solutions are often helpful, but costly. Advances and updates to assistive solutions, even more so. User monitoring and review is absolutely paramount in providing appropriate services, and all too often in the past, users with a disability have not been considered, when designing processes and software to support these. It is often assumed that a person with a disability will be a dependant, and therefore will be supported by a carer or family member. This simply, is not the case. Southward, in What Does Digital by Default mean? sums this up rather succinctly: “If you enter the digital world then ensure your interface is based on user requirements and not built for businesses. Navigation is vital, especially for users with impairments.”

“I’m just going round in circles.”

It’s all a bit negative this, isn’t it? But it’s worth considering, and it’s worth debate. I don’t have a one-size-fits-all solution to digital literacy and digital access, and I tip my hat to anyone working for a more comprehensive and accessible Department of Work and Pensions.

The next time you use one of the Government’s services, consider how you would have gone about it: without online access; without having the physical ability to type or write; without being able to read; or having never used a computer before.

 

Sources: I, Daniel Blake. (2016). [DVD] UK: Sixteen Films | GOV.UK | Digital by Default News | Southward, I (2014). What Does Digital by Default mean? (https://www.arrkgroup.com/thought-leadership/what-does-digital-by-default-mean/) |Lawton, R (2015). Digitising public services in the UK: An introduction (https://www.arrkgroup.com/thought-leadership/digitising-public-services-in-the-uk-an-introduction/) | England, A (2015). Putting the User First. Manchester, Arrk Limited.

Book Review: Essential Thesaurus Construction

Vanda Broughton’s book Essential Thesaurus Construction is a great introduction to the thesaurus. Gleaning material from the MA in Information and Library Studies course that Broughton teaches at University College London, the volume provides an insight into the principles and practice of thesaurus construction, as well as providing broader application principles for vocabulary and retrieval tools.

Outlining the difference between a thesaurus used in information work, and a thesaurus providing synonyms and antonyms, Broughton provides a basic manual in indexing tools for both LIS students and practitioners alike. Highlights include: classification schemes; special thesauri; building and maintaining a thesaurus – structures, hierarchy and software.

 

Broughton, V. (2006). Essential Thesaurus Construction. London: Facet Publishing.