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Once Found, What Then?:  A Study of "Keeping" Behaviors in the Personal Use of Web Information. William Jones, Harry Bruce The Information School University of Washington Susan Dumais Microsoft Research. The Problem. Finding things is a well-studied problem.

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once found what then a study of keeping behaviors in the personal use of web information

Once Found, What Then?:  A Study of "Keeping" Behaviors in the Personal Use of Web Information

William Jones, Harry Bruce

The Information SchoolUniversity of Washington

Susan Dumais

Microsoft Research

the problem
The Problem
  • Finding things is a well-studied problem.
  • Keeping things found is not so well-studied but arises in many domains:
      • Everyday objects in our lives
      • Personal files – paper and electronic
      • Email
      • The Web
related work
Related Work
  • Organizing personal files
      • Files & “piles”, (Malone, 1983)
      • Location memory is limited, (Jones & Dumais, 1986)
      • Preference for browsing, (Barreau & Nardi, 1995); but see Fertig, Freeman & Gelernter (1996) for a rebuttal.
  • Organizing email
      • Similar use patterns, similar problems as for personal files, (Whittaker & Sidner, 1996)
related work cont
Related Work (cont.)
  • Organizing the Web
      • Widespread use of “Bookmarks”, (Pitkow & Kehoe, 1996)
      • Steady increase in number with time, (Abrams Baecker & Chignell, 1998)
      • Increasing use of folders, (Abrams et al., 1998)
      • Frequent use of “Back” button within a session; infrequent use of “History”, (Tauscher & Greenberg, 1997)
overall research objectives
Overall Research Objectives

We’re looking for answers to the following questions:

  • How do people manage information for re-access and re-use? How do people “keep found things found”?
  • What problems do people encounter?
  • What can be done to help?
the research plan
The Research Plan
  • Study 1: Observe “keeping” activities as participants complete work-related, web-intensive tasks in their workplace.
      • Completed. 24 participants in all.
  • Study 2: Observe efforts to “re-find” web information for a subset of these same participants.
      • Ongoing. 13 participants in all; 9 have completed.
  • Analyze video recordings of Study 1 and Study 2.
  • Survey a larger group.
      • Initiated.
  • Prototype selectively.
study 1 the participants
Study 1: The Participants
  • 6 Researchers.
  • 9 Information professionals -- including librarians and corporate information specialists.
  • 9 Managers.

… may approach web information differently:

  • Researchers – have “direct contact” with information.
  • Information professionals – are mediators.
  • Managers – receive filtered information from colleagues, subordinates, their boss, etc.
study 1 the procedure
Study 1: The Procedure
  • Prior to the observation
    • Participants completed an email questionnaire…
    • and listed at least three work-related, web-intensive “free-time” tasks.
    • One task was selected for the observation.
  • During the observation
    • Participants were observed in their own workplace.
    • Sessions lasted about an hour.
    • An “over-the-shoulder” video recording was made of participants as they “thought-aloud” while working on the task.
    • Participants handled office interruptions (phone calls, visitors, etc.) as they normally would.
study 1 the results
Study 1: The Results

Many “keeping” methods were observed:

  • Send email to self.
  • Send email to others.
  • Print out the web page.
  • Save the web page as a file.
  • Paste URL into a document.
  • Add hyperlink to a web site.
  • Do nothing (and enter URL directly later, search for or access from another web site).
  • Bookmark the page.
  • Write down the URL on paper.
a functional analysis
A Functional Analysis

Several functions appear to influence the choice of method:

  • Reminding
  • Context
  • Portability of information
  • Number of access points
  • Ease of access
a functional analysis cont
A Functional Analysis (cont.)

Additional functions:

  • Persistence of information
  • Preservation of information in its current state
  • Currency of information
  • Ease of integration
  • Communication and information sharing
  • Ease of maintenance
other notables
Other Notables
  • Participants seemed to distinguish between three categories.
    • Web sites used repeatedly – make it easy to access.
    • Web sites used infrequently but important to be able to access.
    • Web sites to check out later to see if useful.
  • Participants distinguished in different ways.
other notables cont
Other Notables (cont.)
  • Some participants went to great lengths to maintain a single hierarchy.
    • Print web pages to file with other papers.
    • Save email documents to filing system for e-docs.
    • Work with assistant to establish consistent organizations across paper documents, e-docs, email & favorites.
  • Keeping practices appear to vary with a person’s job and relationship to information.
study 2 delayed cued recall
Study 2: Delayed Cued Recall
  • A second study looks at how/how well people are able to get back to web sites.
    • Session 1: Participant describes each in a set of web sites they have visited recently – without including name or URL.
    • Session 2, 3-6 months later: Participants are cued with these descriptions and told to get back to the site as best they can. We observe methods used and problems encountered.
study 2 results so far
Study 2: Results So Far…
  • Success rate is high – 142 out of 151 trials or 94%
  • The site is usually located using the method first attempted -- 123 out of 142 trials or 87% of the time.
  • The most common of these “first methods” were:
    • Direct entry of a URL – 51 of 123 trials or 41%
    • Favorites – 32 of 123 trials or 26%
    • Web search – 29 of 123 trials or 24%
    • Following a hyper link from another web site – 23 of 123 trials or 19%

… as driven by the data. Simple extensions to Add Favorites to support the following options:

  • Add a comment.
  • Save Favorite to filing system.
  • Email Favorite.
  • People use a diversity of methods to organize web information for re-access and re-use.
  • A functional analysis can help us to understand the diversity of methods observed and their relative popularity.
conclusions cont
Conclusions (cont.)
  • Methods differ in the functions they provide.
  • No single current method provides all the functions a user may need.
  • The relative importance of functions (and hence the choice of methods) depends upon the task at hand.
conclusions cont26
Conclusions (cont.)
  • A “natural” study of people doing tasks in their workplace can be very useful.
observations and speculations
Observations and speculations
  • Participants appear to be effective at returning to a site. Success rate is high and the first method chosen usually works.
  • Direct entry, search and “hyperlink to” account for 83% of successful first-try methods for re-access. These methods require no keeping activity up front.
  • Does this reflect a trend? Will improved finding tools eliminate the need for keeping activities?
  • But… participants sometimes searched in several different “places” before finding a web site (or sometimes giving up).
next steps
Next Steps
  • Complete our analysis of video data.
  • Continue to collect survey data.
  • Extend and validate the functional analysis.
  • Broaden our exploration to look at how people manage information across organizational schemes.
for more information
For More Information
  • http://kftf.ischool.washington.edu/