Work on tag clouds carried out as part of a project at Sussex University. Grateful for JISC for funding our work which aims to support students around understanding the generic skills that are embedded in their degree programmes.
Get off my cloud: preliminary investigation of tag cloud navigation strategies
Get off of my cloud: preliminary investigation of tag cloud navigation strategies Carol Shergold John Davies Mirona Gheorghiu Tan Chui Chui Judith Good
A lot of students find ‘skills’ a bit baffling Photo by squacco at http://www.flickr.com/photos/squeakywheel/296747265/
Background - the SkillClouds project Skills is a turn-off. They [lecturers] don’t really mention how these are transferable skills you’re picking up ‘cos they are so technically focussed [..] They don’t really say, from this you’re getting communication skills or you’re getting team work skills because you’re doing a group project. They don’t really highlight that. You can say I can read a text and summarise it , but what does that mean for the wider world?
Search strategies (Marchionini, 1995) Marchionini, G., Information Seeking in Electric Environments, Cambridge University Press, 1995. High cognitive load Low cognitive load Search engines <ul><li>Analytic </li></ul><ul><li>Knowing what you want to find </li></ul><ul><li>Defining accurate search terms </li></ul><ul><li>Relies on cognitive abilities </li></ul>Tag clouds <ul><li>Browsing </li></ul><ul><li>Scanning approaches </li></ul><ul><li>Serendipity </li></ul><ul><li>Relies on perceptual abilities </li></ul>
<ul><li>A tag cloud is a visual representation of a set of tags, where a tag is a keyword or way of describing a given resource. It’s typically a weighted list, organised with a paragraph layout </li></ul>
From search to browse - a skill cloud <ul><li>A summary of the embedded skills for a given course or degree programme </li></ul><ul><li>Added to pages within university systems that students already use frequently </li></ul><ul><li>Weighted or neutrally presented </li></ul><ul><li>Linking to resources such as support for job applications, lists of relevant courses/assessments </li></ul>
Evaluation of tag clouds Rivadeneira et al (2007) Font size associated with recall rates ‘ Gisting’ more accurate when tags as a list Rivadeneira, A.W. et al , ‘Getting our Head in the Clouds: Toward Evaluation Studies of Tag Clouds’, Proceedings of CHI 2007. Recall better for upper left quadrant baron coupe grist drawl hovel eerie lanky missy fetid liter prick heave golly
Experimental questions <ul><li>Do UG students use a tag cloud for a simple search/navigation task? </li></ul><ul><li>Does the observed search strategy vary with tag sizes? </li></ul><ul><li>Does search time vary according to tag size? </li></ul><ul><li>What beliefs and understandings do UG students have in relation to tag clouds? </li></ul>
<ul><li>Do UG students use a tag cloud for a simple search/navigation task? </li></ul>89% used tag clouds in at least one trial [35% used text box at least once] 65% used tag clouds for all three trials [11% used search box for all three trials] 13% switched from search box to tag cloud strategy after first trial
Does search strategy vary with tag size? Logistic regression undertaken. In the first trial, being presented with a small search target did significantly increase the chances of using the search box ( p=.038 ) In subsequent trials this effect was not present.
Findings in relation to search time <ul><li>The tag cloud search took significantly less time than the text box search (p=.003) </li></ul><ul><li>Searching for a medium or large target took significantly less time that searching for a small target (p=.001) </li></ul><ul><li>The first search task took significantly longer than the second or third tasks (p<.0001) </li></ul><ul><li>No significant interaction effects were found </li></ul>
Emerging themes <ul><li>Level of familiarity with tag cloud layout and organisation </li></ul><ul><li>Motivation for adopting a particular search strategy </li></ul><ul><li>Tag clouds - screen junk or affordance? </li></ul><ul><li>Importance of font size </li></ul>
Familiarity with tag clouds <ul><li>I think, if it was in a line rather than a box [that would help]. Because in a box it looks like just a jumble, rather than if it’s in a line and you have to scroll down, you know that it’s going to follow on in sequence </li></ul><ul><li>Most students were not particularly familiar with tag clouds </li></ul><ul><li>Most students weren’t aware that the tags in the tag cloud were in alphabetical order </li></ul>
Search strategies Text entry box - analysis .. usually I’m not looking for ‘florists’, I’m looking for ‘florists near the station’, or something. So I’ll put it in the search [text entry box] because it’s more specific Tag cloud search - browse Because I was unsure, so it’s easer to be given a list of options and choose one of those, than think on your own and type it in
Motivation for choices Text entry box Cos it’s easier .. [you] just type it in, which is quicker than having to read everything Because it’s quicker. It’s faster, much faster, to type it and search because you’re used to google .. Tag cloud It’s quicker, I don’t have to do two things at the same time, I just have to do one thing Because it’s just easier
How the tag cloud is perceived A. As ‘noise’, screen junk All search engines have a lot of other things on it, and it takes time to look through it .. I glanced at them [the tags] and saw how many there were and thought No! I’ll just type it in! Maybe because it [the tag cloud] is like lots of random words, I didn’t look at [it]. Maybe if it was organised in another way .. I just thought these [tags] were examples of things to search
How the tag cloud is perceived B. As a potential affordance I think that’s just what you assume, when you open up a website and words are popping up - you just click on them First of all my instinct was to go to search it [with text box]. But then I saw that there was all the list there and I thought OK, well, I’ll find it At first, I didn’t notice it was in alphabetical order, because I think I just jumped to ‘florists’ because it’s massive. And then, when I had to look for ‘printers’ and it’s tiny, I suddenly realised they were in alphabetical order.
The importance of font size I’d prefer it if it’s not in different sizes. Well yes, the big ones did catch my eye, but it’s just confusing: Ignore the fact that that one’s big - I don’t need it - look for the small ones! It’s a bit distracting because things stick out and they’re not necessarily what you’re looking for. So ‘cinemas’ is smaller than ‘estate agents’ whereas you want to look at ‘cinemas’. And it implies that one is more important than the other, which it isn’t. I prefer the way it looks with some big and some small. If they were all the same size it would be boring.
Key outcomes <ul><li>The majority of our sample chose to use tag clouds to carry out a simple search task </li></ul><ul><li>Few students were aware that the tag cloud was organised in alphabetical order </li></ul><ul><li>Font size affected search speed </li></ul><ul><li>Font size affected choice of search method but only for the first exposure </li></ul><ul><li>Many students felt that displaying tags in different sizes was unhelpful </li></ul><ul><li>Some students found the paragraph-style layout of a tag cloud unhelpful </li></ul>
Suggestions for using tag clouds with students <ul><li>Students are willing to engage with tag clouds </li></ul><ul><li>Consider whether it’s appropriate to use weighted tags </li></ul><ul><li>If tags listed alphabetically, this should be flagged </li></ul><ul><li>Consider using different layouts e.g. lists, thematic clustering </li></ul>
For further information about our project <ul><li>http://www.sussex.ac.uk/skillclouds </li></ul>