ia play

the good life in a digital age

Archive for the ‘digital’ Category

SharePoint search: good or bad?

with one comment

One of my great hopes for our current intranet project is to significantly improve the intranet search.  The current set-up used the search bundled with Stellent. It is universally derided within the organisation and with good reason (the Stellent search itself may not be at fault, I imagine some changes to the configuration could fix some of the more significant problems).

I’ve heard mixed reports of Sharepoint search. Our suppliers are very positive about it, and it does seem hard to imagine how it could be worse that what we currently have.

At the TFPL conference I attended Sharon Richardson of Joining Dots defended SharePoint search. She went a bit far with the statement “…so the problem with search is not the technology, it’s the users” but there’s some interesting stuff in the ‘research‘ she referred to.

55% The content was badly named, didn’t contain the words the users was searching for, wasn’t easily identifiable in search results (e.g. if you have 2 results both called Cafe – which is for London and which is for Manchester?)

30% The content users were looking for didn’t exist

10% Users were using wide or strange search terms (why would somebody search for ‘google’ on the intranet? what exactly did they want to find when they searched for ‘form’?)

5% Search wasn’t finding appropriate content or ranking wasn’t appropriate

I’ve been keeping track of failed or problematic searches on our current intranet. Not particularly scientific but it has been an interesting starting point for evaluating the new search.

30% mismatches in language
25% inappropriate date ordering
15% lack of stemming
15% overly rigid phrase order matching
10% ambiguous queries
5% inappropriate alphabetic ordering of results

If a number of results are assigned the same relevancy then they are returned in date order, and if there are a number of results published on the same day then they are returned in alphabetical order. The relevancy scores don’t seem to distinguish between enough results, so the date and alpha ordering are regularly skewing the results.

The mismatched language and the ambiguous queries are sure to still be problems with the new search. I’m not going to endeavour to ‘fix the users’ here. There are plenty of solutions (best bets, related searches, faceted filters and synonym control) that we can utilise.

Interestingly my experiences with our existing search have suggested that searching for just ‘form’ can be an intelligent, considered tactic in less than ideal circumstances. If you are looking for the sickness form but you are not sure if it is actually called that (absence form, sick form etc) then searching for form and scanning the results can be your least worst option. Given our current search is pedantic in it’s insistence on exact phrase order, I find myself conducting single word searches far more often than usual.

Related posts
SharePoint search: Inside the Index book ‘review’
SharePoint search: some ranking factors

Written by Karen

November 27th, 2008 at 6:21 am

Posted in rnib,search,sharepoint

sharepoint resources

without comments

Here’s some resources that I’ve found helpful getting to grips with the darling SharePoint. I may hold my tongue on the subject of accessibility.

I haven’t been on any training courses but most SP training courses are aimed at either writers or technical folks. This TFPL one looks good for a IM/IA audience. Anyone signed up to go?

All my SharePoint bookmarks are on delicious.

Written by Karen

November 3rd, 2008 at 6:07 am

Posted in sharepoint

TFPL’s SharePoint conference

without comments

I spent Tuesday at TFPL’s SharePoint conference, described by the chair as a gathering of critical fans.

It was held in the Henry Wellcome auditorium at the Wellcome Collection, a very comfy place (dangerously so in the session after lunch)

Here are some quotes to give you a flavour of the day. I’ll do a proper write-up for FUMSI later.

“content management is the weakest point of SharePoint”

“I deleted 80% of the intranet content and no-one noticed”

“content management is in this weird space, fighting with accessibility”

” SharePoint help is c**p”

“please don’t tell me you were at school in 1991”

“out of the box doesn’t cut it for anyone”

“Groove is an interesting puppy”

“SFW are the best people I’ve found. They performed exceptionally and beyond expectation, gave me exactly what I wanted. I’m a happy client”

“…so the problem with search is not the technology, it’s the users”

(Google must be laughing that their rivals still don’t see anything wrong with that final quote)

Written by Karen

October 16th, 2008 at 6:40 am

Posted in sharepoint

David Gauntlett’s inaugural lecture

without comments

I’m hugely looking forward to David Gauntlett’s inaugural lecture on 12th November.

“The particular significance of Tim Berners-Lee’s original vision is that it involved people making and sharing things – all users as contributors, not just readers. Thus began the shift from the ‘mass audience’ towards creative individuals and communities. David Gauntlett has had a long engagement with the Web, having produced the award-winning website Theory.org.uk for over a decade. Several years before the rise of ‘Web 2.0’, he was writing about the Web as a creative and collaborative playground of everyday culture, politics, and self-expression. He has continued to embed an interest in the Web with broader research about creativity and ways to engage people in social research and social issues.

Gauntlett considers these themes in the context of a broader growth in home-made culture, craft, recycling and remaking, which connects with environmental issues, transition towns and cities, and therefore – in one grand bound – the future of the planet. He will argue that this making-and-sharing culture may foster the ‘tools for thinking’ which will be required to solve social and environmental problems.”

The wine reception is all ‘sold out’ but that’s not the best bit, is it? Register for the free lecture here http://www.12november.org.uk/.

Written by Karen

October 13th, 2008 at 6:40 am

Posted in cities,craft,digital

the internet is a school playground?

without comments

“it is the first social environment created for the asocial individual, and in that respect it divides us into anomic particles and conquers us as effectively as any political tyranny. It returns us to high school, where popularity is the only standard of success, where taunts are the dominant style of amusement, and where self-absorption has yet to ripen into self-awareness.”

Lee Siegel at Comment is Free on why the internet isn’t an unqualified good

Written by Karen

June 20th, 2008 at 2:16 pm

Posted in digital,moral panic

digital natives

without comments

This month’s FUMSI included Derek’s Law introduction to Digital Natives but not everyone is taking the concept of ‘digital natives’ at face value. Academic Sue Bennett of the University of Wollongong, Australia is trying to take a scientific approach:

“The idea that a new generation of students is entering the education system has excited recent attention among educators and education commentators. Termed ‘digital natives’ or the ‘Net generation’, these young people are said to have been immersed in technology all their lives, imbuing them with sophisticated technical skills and learning preferences for which traditional education is unprepared. Grand claims are being made about the nature of this generational change and about the urgent necessity for educational reform in response. A sense of impending crisis pervades this debate. However, the actual situation is far from clear. In this paper, the authors draw on the fields of education and sociology to analyse the digital natives debate. The paper presents and questions the main claims made about digital natives and analyses the nature of the debate itself. We argue that rather than being empirically and theoretically informed, the debate can be likened to an academic form of a ‘moral panic’. We propose that a more measured and disinterested approach is now required to investigate ‘digital natives’ and their implications for education.”

The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence

Further reading :

Written by Karen

June 16th, 2008 at 10:16 am

Posted in digital,moral panic

TED wins navigation Webby

without comments

TED.com just won a Webby for best navigation.

Now TED is a great site to while away hours with and still feel like you are improving yourself. I’ve spent lots of time there and I’d be struck by the navigation but not always in an entirely approving way. As with most new and exciting attempts at navigation there’s something fun about it and also something kind of irritating when you need to get something done.


  • traditional but useful text-based left nav combined with the more attention grabbing main content
  • lots and lots of different ways to slice the content – themes, tags, speakers, popularity, most inspiring and so on
  • choice of list or ‘visualisation’ view


  • in the ‘visualisation’ view, the mouseover interaction gets in the way. If I try to select a promo in the middle of screen but move a little too slowly then the promos I am passing over pop up and obscure the one I’m trying to get to.
  • illustrating sub-categories with pictures of individual speakers. Takes a while to realise that if you click on that big promo with a picture of Jane Goodall you get taken to another index with 36 talks on the topic ‘inspired by nature’ and not straight to the Goodall talk.
  • surprisingly low-key use of the tags. No tag browse on the homepage or the themes pages (where I can really see value for drilling down further with them)

But going back and playing with it some more I think all in all that the good outweighs the bad. Would like to see that mouseover sorted though. It is a bit too much like the problems I have with the Windows Start menu(!)

Written by Karen

June 15th, 2008 at 9:29 am

can’t concentrate? blame the internet

without comments

Is Google making us stupid? is the title of Nicholas Carr’s article in Atlantic about the impact of the internet on how he thinks.

“Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.”

Part of me thinks there is something to this but the other part believes this is just an attempt to deny that this is happening because we’re not as young as we used to be.

Written by Karen

June 10th, 2008 at 8:11 pm

Posted in digital,moral panic

blogging – thinking out loud for introverts

with one comment

One casual definition of extroverts is ‘someone who thinks whilst they are speaking”. Introverts, on the other hand, have to work out exactly what they think before they tell everyone else.

Introverts often fear (sometime rightly) that everyone else equates extrovertion with creativity (genius-recluse myths notwithstanding). Whilst this is mostly rubbish, it might help everyone else to realise the introvert’s general brillance if they actually told someone else what their ideas are, maybe once in a while anyway.

Pre-blogging I assumed that blogging was the clearest possible indicator of extraversion/exhibitionism/attention seeking and that the social media phenomenon is for extraverts only. But a surprising side benefit of blogging has been getting this introvert’s vague, unformed ideas out there. It takes quite a lot for me not to see this as a bad thing, given the earlier definitions of introvert.

But I can’t deny the blog has been helpful in getting ideas to completion. It creates expectations from others that you are going to do something you’ve blogged about (aka nagging), flushes out co-enthusiasts, and other people build on the idea and suggest directions. Mostly this hasn’t been with the assistance of internet users around the world but with people that I work with everyday. I recognise that it is slightly ludicrous that I need a blog to share ideas with people a few desks away but there you go.

Written by Karen

June 4th, 2008 at 8:23 am

Posted in digital,gtd

books are doing fine

with one comment

Nice to see a story suggesting that everything isn’t going to the dogs:
books are thriving despite the internet

Written by Karen

May 30th, 2008 at 9:08 am