Rich User Experiences: Dropbox

Rich User Experiences is one of the eight core web 2.0 design patterns (O’Reilly, 2005), and it refers to internet applications that combine elements of desktop and online services.

Historically, desktop applications have been faster, more interactive and responsive than their online counterparts; it is the goal of web 2.0 to bring these experiences to online applications, and to perform ‘heavier’ tasks, traditionally not handled online.

Dropbox is a free file hosting service that allows users to upload files into the cloud and access those files from any internet-connected device. The files can be accessed and downloaded through any web browser, and if the computer has installed a local version of Dropbox, files will be automatically downloaded for access immediately. Dropbox is also available on mobile devices, giving users access to their files when away from the computer.

Dropbox and Rich User Experiences

Dropbox takes the combination of desktop and online application experiences literally, by giving the user the option to access, view and manage files from both an internet browser and the computer if Dropbox has been installed. Editing can be performed from the computer only.

Dropbox has high usability and a simple interface. The web browser interface mimics the file structure of a computer, and the user is easily able to navigate and locate their files. Users are able to search the file tree with the name of an item and it will be quickly located, no matter where it resides in the directory.

Addressability of content is maintained once it is placed in Dropbox’s hands, as file directories can be copied and preserved by the service, as well as the ability to generate and share unique links to specific files.

Dropbox and Rich User Experiences Best Practices

Combine the best of desktop and online experiences

Dropbox is available in browser, on all PC platforms and on mobiles. In browser and on mobiles, the user is able to view and traverse their collection of files already uploaded to the service, as well as download files in their online directory. Once the file is on the device, it can be edited (limited only by native file types and the device itself), and the updated file can be manually uploaded to Dropbox once more to be synced across all devices.

On PC, Dropbox is streamlined and requires installation. Once installed, the entire file directory is downloaded to the hard drive of the computer for immediate editing, and when the file is saved it is automatically synced with Dropbox servers.

Usability and simplicity first

Dropbox is easy to use and presents users with a simple interface to manage their files. The presentation mimics the file directory of computers, allowing the user to become immediately familiar with the environment and easily able to locate items.

Dropbox also accepts any file format without complaint. Specific formats can be rendered and viewed within the browser, whereas others must be downloaded and viewed on the device (if it has the right programs to handle the file). Aside from the ability to render and view a file, Dropbox does not limit users to any set of file formats, greatly increasing the ease of use of the service.

Dropbox also allows users to share directories and files. Entire directories can be shared with other Dropbox users, or single files can be shared with anyone through the generation of a Public Link, which gives access to that file for download.

Summary

Dropbox is a simple, easy to use file hosting service, which allows users to access, edit and sync files from any internet-connected device. Dropbox provides rich user experiences as an online service through its ability to combine the best of online and desktop services and provide users with the ability to perform ‘heavy’ tasks, usually restricted to desktop applications, on an online platform.

Innovation in Assembly: National Library of Australia: Trove

Innovation in Assembly is one of the eight core design patterns (O’Reilly, 2005), and it refers to online services allowing the user to remix and create from a platform provided by a business. This creation involves utilising existing data and capabilities of an established system and giving the user the tools to use that platform however they see fit.

The National Library of Australia’s (NLA) Trove search engine is a platform developed as a collaboration between over one thousand major libraries (Holley, 2010). As of the 20th of March, 2014, Trove has more than 390 million searchable items.

NLA: Trove and Innovation in Assembly

The NLA has developed an API for use with Trove, which allows developers to search, pull entire items (including metadata), copy, view history and create visualisations for any items across the vast database indexed within the Trove platform. The data that is retrieved from calls to the API can be freely manipulated by the developer as they wish, including for embedding on another website. The granularity of the returned data allows capable users to execute almost any action they wish the information once they have received it. The API key, required by the developer to request from NLA servers is freely available, lowering the barrier for entry to almost zero and code documentation is available for all possible API calls.

NLA:Trove & Best Practices of Innovation in Assembly

Design for Remixability & Granular Addressability of Content

Designing for Remixability refers to the design of the platform that allows the user to deal with the smallest possible units, rather than entire datasets or meta-data, etc. This also requires the data to be addressable on an individual level.

Trove gives users absolute granular control over the data they had received from a search request. Any article, within any sized pool of results, is individually addressed and can be accessed and manipulated in any way the developer deems fit.

Apply API Best Practices & Use Existing Standards

When a business develops and maintains an API, there are a number of practices that help to achieve success and ensure developers can get the most out of the robust system they’ve been provided with.

Writing, maintaining and releasing documentation alongside programming interfaces is industry standard practice. If an API is released without supporting documentation or sample code, developers will not be able to understand the interface and it will go unused. Trove has provided full documentation and sample code for its API.

If developers are allowed to request from the platform limitlessly, especially if the service becomes popular, the system will be under heavy load from unfettered requests. It is considered good practice to limit the number of requests each client can send over a given amount of time. Trove limit requests by enforcing an API key system in which the number of requests from the same API key is limited.

Web platforms must utilise standardised file outputs for the data they send to the user. Without standardisation to the rest of the industry, the output is useless and will not be popular with the community. Trove outputs industry standard file types for web services (JSON and XML).

Summary

The NLA’s Trove service is an example of Innovation through Assembly as it leverages its already-existing large service platform and giving the public an API through which they may dynamically interact with the data however they wish. Trove’s output is highly remixable, as it is uniquely addressed and permits granular access to individual articles. Trove successfully implements numerous API best practices including thorough documentation, examples and a way to limit server load by individual key-holders.

Data is the Next ‘Intel Inside': IMDb

Data is the next ‘Intel Inside’ is one of the eight core design patterns (O’Reilly, 2005), and it refers to web services containing a large, dynamic and specialised database facilitating the primary purpose of the site, and the value and importance of owning this data.

The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) is an online compendium of information concerning most famously film, but also television series, games and the people who worked on them.

IMDb and Data as the next ‘Intel Inside’

IMDb allows users to view comprehensive crowd-sourced information on over 2.5 million titles (IMDb, 2014), including synopses, reviews, cast, crew, production and box office details, technical and trivia information, user discussions of the title and more. Behind the scenes of IMDb a massive, ever-changing information source contains every title, actor, crew member, user, rating, trivia piece, etc. for all of its titles.

IMDb as the next ‘Intel Inside’

Own a unique, hard-to-recreate source of data

IMDb, with its comprehensive database of TV, movies, games and more is a perfect example of a unique source of data. IMDb elegantly implements an architecture of participation to entice users to contribute to their database, as well as give actors and crew members themselves the chance to more accurately represent themselves online by allowing them to edit and update their online resume at any time.

Enhancing core data

IMDb allows users to enrich the existing data on the website by permitting the addition and change of existing descriptions, ratings, reviews, comments and tags for all the titles available on their database, as well as the ability to add new titles as they are released.

IMDb also perform large-scale analysis of the user-enriched data, adding value for future users who wish to know more about a specific title. An example of this is the calculation of a weighted-average of user reviews to give an overall review score for any given title, or for a commonly asked question to have a correct answer archived and presented in an easily accessed location.

Let users control their data

IMDb allows users to register on the service for free, and to contribute within the community easily. Any user can submit a rating or piece of information about a title, as well as participate in conversations and submitting reviews as they wish.

Users a provided with a profile on the site when they register, and on this page other users are able to view their contributions within the community and short, summarised data in the form of graphs about the user and their activity on the site.

Actors and crew who have been credited with their part in a title featured on the database are also able to build resumes, edit and append information about their career to provide a dynamic, succinct view of their contributions to their medium.

Owning the index and namespace

IMDb has successfully established itself as the leader in its field and the go-to resource for information about any piece of published popular media today. No other service has equalled IMDb in their ability to store, locate, rank and format large-scale information on film media to-date. In addition to the unique data source, IMDb has also provided its users with meaningful context for contribution and through this mass participation, has made itself even more dominant.

Summary

IMDb is a large online database of film media, including mostly film, TV and games. A unique and elegant leverage of the architecture of participation allows IMDb to set itself apart from competitors by having a dynamic, hard-to-recreate data source backing their service, and have established themselves as leaders in their field due to this competitive advantage.

Harnessing Collective Intelligence: StackExchange

Harnessing collective intelligence is one the eight core web 2.0 design patterns (O’Reilly, 2005), and it centres around the user adding value to a service by participating in it. In order for a service to effectively harness the collective intelligence of its userbase, it must enable meaningful user participation through an architecture of participation (O’Reilly, 2004). The user fits within this architecture as a contributor, whose participation adds value to the service as the number of contributions and other users grow.

The StackExchange Network is a collection of question-and-answer websites, each of which focus on specific subject matter.

StackExchange and Harnessing Collective Intelligence

Within the StackExchange Network, the architecture of participation is the most fundamental feature of the Sites and without it, they would serve no purpose and hold no value to users. Users can choose to participate by asking questions on any of the Network’s sites, each of which is dedicated to a specific field (Programming, Mathematics, Photography, Bicycles, Board Games, etc.). Once a question has been asked, it is permanently visible to the unregistered public for viewing, adding value to the site for users who have not yet registered. As the userbase of a given site in the Network grows, so too does the value of that site both to users who are already participating, but also to the general public who will utilise the Network for answers to their own questions, and some will provide answers of their own, thereby harnessing the collective intelligence.

StackExchange and Best Practices of Harnessing Collective Intelligence

Minimising Barriers to Adoption & Quality vs. Quantity

The entire StackExchange Network is available for use for free, however registration is required to participate on the Sites. Services that wish to have users freely contribute must strike a fine balance between making it easy to contribute (and successfully registering more users), and limiting the power of users on the site (and maintaining the desired standard of content).

StackExchange elegantly balances these two by allowing any and all visitors to register and immediately ask or answer a question, however other site functions are off limits until the user builds enough of a positive reputation on the site to be trusted not to abuse these powers. The reputation system is an effective way to motivate users to produce quality content and effectively rewards them for consistently adding value to the service.

In addition to encouraging users to add value, high-reputation users are given moderator-style privileges, effectively making the entire network self-moderating.

Meaningful Context for Creation

Each of the sites of the StackExchange Network is devoted to a specific field, and within it users may ask and answer questions pertaining to this field. However, without context or motivations to contribute to the network, users will not participate. The StackExchange Network effectively applies meaningful context to contributions to make participating worthwhile for the users. This context is provided in two ways:

  • Subject Matter
  • Reputation

The subject matter of all StackExchange Network sites is important to users either because of personal interests or professional development. Many of the most popular sites are devoted to academic pursuits and many users are professionals practicing in their field, while others are individuals seeking to further develop their personal interests.

The reputation system also provides a meaningful context for participation for users, as they are able to create their own profile, contribute high quality questions and answers and be awarded for their contributions.

Folksonomy (or, Tagging)

The StackExchange Network provides users with access to millions of questions and answers for a wide variety of fields. However, without extensive, effective tagging of questions, most of them would be impossible to find in the mountain of other questions. Fortunately, StackExchange has implemented a tagging system, allowing questions to be tagged based on their content. Tagging is one of the core features of the StackExchange Network.

Summary

The StackExchange Network is an example of an effective implementation of one of O’Reilly’s eight core web 2.0 design patterns. The service provided by the Q&A Network becomes more valuable as it grows because of its fundamental implementation of an architecture of participation, in which users fit in as contributors to the community and are rewarded for doing so.

ROI of social media

Your task this week is to identify and discuss an additional ROI case example on your blog.

What is your view on how ROI was calculated? Did they include all the tangible and intangible benefits? What are the strengths and weaknesses of their approach?

IBM is a multinational technology company based in the US, and one of the most influential businesses in the world. IBM can be credited with bringing to fruition many notable inventions including the floppy disks, hard drives, the relational database and ATMs. More recently IBM developed Watson, a computer capable of winning the game show Jeopardy!

On top of IBM’s notable inventions that still affect people today, are the top rankings of Fortune 500 companies in which IBM earns a spot. IBM has been ranked the #1 Company for leaders and the #1 Green company in the world. The #2 Most respected company and #2 Best global brand. IBM also ranked #2 in the US in 2012 in terms of number of employees, with over 430,000.

Despite the influence and size of IBM, and the field it operates in, it does not have a corporate blog and for a long time did not have a corporate Twitter (@IBM first Tweet on 19th of May 2011). IBM solved the problem of the lack of presence in social media not by simply creating a corporate account on a popular social media site, but instead allowing its employees (almost half a million of them) to create blogs and Twitter accounts and speak to customers themselves. In addition to this, IBM also utilises blogs internally to keep employees talking and innovating.

IBM boasts an impressive 17,000 internal blogs, on which over 100,000 employees interact. Over 50,000 members of IBM are registered on SocialBlue (Internal social network), and there are thousands of employees doing work externally on Twitter and external blogging platforms collected into showcases like IBM Syndicated Feeds.

IBM also maintains an internal wiki which receives over a million visits a day and IBM has also used these platforms to conduct Jams, where employees (and later, clients, friends and family) to openly discuss projects and fund the most popular projects to be made a reality.

IBM has invested significantly in their social media presence. Peterson (2012) suggests that IBM invested $100M into their projects, and recieved $100B, an ROI of 99,900% (almost one hundred thousand percent). It is claimed that the majority of these figures are drawn from the Jams, in which a popular project is given funding to be developed.

I feel that the investment figure ($100M) is incorrect, but no other figures are available regarding IBM’s investment into internal and external social media. External social media, in the way that IBM approached it, was likely very cheap, as employees generated the content at their leisure. Internal systems, the blogging platform and the wiki were likely expensive to develop and maintain for such a large number of employees.

The figure drawn for investment is not explained but I suspect it also doesn’t take into account man hours lost spent idly reading or contributing to blogs.

IBM’s approach to social media was a unique one, and one that was largely successful, but the ROI calculation of the venture appears flawed in multiple ways, and calculating a new figure as anyone other than an IBM employee may well be impossible.

Using social media monitoring tools

This week’s activity requires you to search for and explore a range of social media monitoring tools and discuss your experience in a blog post.

Step 1: Select a brand or organization that you are interested in monitoring. [...]

Step 2: Perform an analysis using one or more of the free tools that you can gain access to.

Step 3: Write a reflective blog post describing your experience a) using the tool(s) that you used and b) presenting any interesting insights that you found from your search.

I have chosen to analyse Queensland Health, as it is the organisation that the assignment chose to focus on.

Queensland Health is the state government’s public health system authority in the state of Queensland, Australia. It is a large department, employing 78,000 across the state as of 2010 (Foo, 2010).

Queensland Health’s current presence in social technology is modest at best, considering the size of the department and the number of people it serves. The presence of official Queensland Health administered social technologies number at only two – Facebook and Twitter. The Queensland Health Facebook page has 3,038 likes, despite regular (multiple per day) posting; while Queensland Health’s Twitter account has more than twice as many with 6,734 followers (both figures correct as at 20.09.2013 at 1413), but this is still surprisingly low.

Queensland Health’s lack of following on social media is surprising as it is a public health department – a service (almost) all people will use at some point during their lives. When considering this, it is more surprising again that in Queensland, a state with a population well in excess of 4.5M, the combined followers and likes (assuming there is no one who has done both – which there would be) are below 10,000.

Numerous tools were used to analyse Queensland Health’s presence on the internet, and gauge the public’s general feelings towards the department. Firstly, Facebook Insights.

The peaks in both the People Talking About This (Blue) and New Likes Per Week (Grey) occurred during a health scare, with an outbreak of E. coli occurring around the same time. In the two days prior to this posting, there has also been an outbreak of Measles in Queensland and so the lines are approaching another peak. This reflects that Queensland Health’s popularity on Facebook is stagnant when not making headlines because of out of control health risks.

Another tool that was used was socialmention, a social media analysis service.

When given the term Queensland Health, socialmention returns evidence of an overall weak online presence. However, it is evident from socialmention’s analysis that the platform most commonly yielding a result for Queensland Health is YouTube and WikiAnswers, both platforms that Queensland Health is not currently employing.

It is worth noting, however, that socialmention’s Top Hashtags includes ‘London’, ‘LosAngeles’ and ‘California’, suggesting that the results gathered by the tool are somewhat skewed by another entity other than Queensland, Australia’s Queensland Health.

Finally, Topsy, another analytics service, produced this graph when given the term Queensland Health.

While I have had to scale it down to fit on the page, the recurring spikes (up to an average on this graph of 44 Tweets/day), followed by a steep drop (down to an average of this graph of 5 Tweets/day) are telling. Each of those spikes represent a headlining news story. In this particular graph, from left to right the news stories are;

  • Sackings over Payroll Debacle
  • QLD Health Warns about Measles
  • Three separate infectious disease outbreaks
  • Measles deaths

Outside of these spikes, which all occurred in the previous month, Queensland Health is surprisingly seldom mentioned by people across the internet, suggesting a lack of meaningful social media presence.

Queensland Health is a surprisingly seldom talked about government department, considering it employs 78,000 people (Foo, 2010), is the only public health department in Queensland – a state of population in excess of 4.5M – and a has a budget of $12.3B (Queensland Health, 2013).

This is even more surprising when considering the number of controversies which Queensland Health have been at the centre of, including (but not limited to) a bungled payroll system that has been projected to cost $1.2B to fix, an investigation into at least 30 deaths under the care of Jayant Patel in a Bundaberg Hospital, and even the proposal for Queensland Health to be completely abolished.

Queensland Health plays a significant role in Queensland as a service, and plays just as significant a role in news headlines for all the wrong reasons. Despite all of this, the deperment remains largely absent from social media, accuring a total of less than 10,000 followers and likers in a state of 4.5M.

Where Queensland Health does have a presence (Facebook and Twitter), they post regularly and attempt to provide relevant, useful information and updates. It is quite possible that the people of Queensland simply take it as granted that the Health department exists when they need it and is not interested in following their news unless it is dramatic.

Australian Associate Press. (2013). Senior public servants sacked over Qld Health payroll debable. Accessed 20.09.13 from http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/senior-public-servants-sacked-over-qld-health-payroll-debacle-20130823-2sfij.html.

Foo, F. (2010). Queensland health payroll not fully tested. Accessed 20.09.13 from http://www.theaustralian.com.au/technology/states-health-payroll-change-was-adopted-untested/story-e6frgakx-1225888223958.

ITNews. Queensland Health’s payroll probe. Accessed 20.09.13 from http://www.itnews.com.au/Topic/336373,queensland-healths-payroll-probe.aspx.

Queensland Health. (2013). 2013-14 State Budget. Accessed 20.09.13 from http://www.health.qld.gov.au/budget2013-14/.

The professional sector employing Enterprise 2.0

This week’s activity requires you to select an organization from the Professional Services Sector … [then] identify and discuss how they are using a blog, twitter, or a wiki to enhance their business. Make connections to the relevant value levers…

Oracle Corporation is an IT company that develops and distributes a massive number of enterprise software and hardware products. Some of the most popular products include the Java platform, one of the most commonly used programming languages in the world, the MySQL database management system; the most widely used of its kind in the world; NetBeans, an integrated development environment for Oracle’s own Java, but also compatible with numerous other major programming languages including PHP and C++; VirtualBox, a virtualisation client allowing guest operating systems to run on top of the installed OS of the computer; and many, many more influential products.

Much in the same way that Oracle offers a massive range of products, it also maintains a large number of blogs. Oracle Blogs is a repository of blogs concerning Oracle’s products, hardware and other topics including management, support, teaching, enterprise systems and industry events.

Throughout the vast number of blogs, Oracle utilises many of the social technology levers described in by the McKinsey Global Institute’s 2012 report; The Social Economy.

Oracle’s blogs consistently utilise social technology value levers concerned with Marketing and sales, and Customer Service.

By posting to a blog and interfacing with potential and existing customers, customer insights are heard and considered to a far greater extent than they otherwise would be without these blog’s existence. In addition to this, talking about new products, patches and planned developments both reflect the use of levers #5 and #6, as customers reading Oracle’s blogs are made aware of developments surrounding new and existing products.

There are also many Oracle blogs that provide customer support, tutorials and advice on how best to make use of their Oracle products.

The size of Oracle suggests that it would be very difficult to adequately impement enterprise 2.0 practises, just because of the number of different products on different systems, developed for and by different people in different parts of the world. Despite all this, Oracle has successfully implemented an extensive online presence in the form of blogging about the development of their own products, their target business strategies, customer support and much more.