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Topsight Discussion 2.0

Hey guys, it’s me again.

While reading through the second half of Topsight I was thinking about some of the things that came up in the discussion last time. Mostly focusing on ethics and the ways that researchers can influence their findings.

In chapter 22, “Describing Systematic Issues”,  breaks down the differences between claims, reasons, and evidence. And while reading through this section it seemed pretty self explanatory, or something that shouldn’t need explaining, I thought again about how sometimes people believe things regardless of the reasons or evidence- or lack of. His chart with the Claim->Reason->Evidence looks simple, but I think it is very important to make sure that one has actual reasons and evidence for the claims they support and when discussing findings and their validity.

My questions on this are:

Can you think of any contexts where spelling out your reasoning and evidence is not important?

Is there anything that needs to be added to this model? Is it too simple?

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Topsight Phase II

(Fun fact for before I begin my blog: Every time I see or hear or read “Topsight” I always think of “Top Gun” and then I get excited because I feel like I’m on a cool plane mission instead of at school. Especially since the entire book is split into different “phases.” It all seems like an elaborate plan or mission or scheme that is playing out before my eyes. That’s all.)

Phase II Review

Phase II of Topsight picks up right where Phase I left off. Phase I discussed the basics of planning a study, from developing research questions to preparing all of the paperwork that is needed to conduct the study. Phase II continues this by addressing how to conduct a study, hence the phase is called “Conducting a Study.” The chapter titles are rather self-explanatory and I am assuming that my wonderfully intelligent and hard-working audience did the reading, so instead of summarizing almost 60 pages of text, for this particular discussion post I am going to hit my favorite topics covered in each of the sections.

Chapter 6: Introducing Yourself to Participants

A well-known saying goes, “first impressions can be tough.” This is why a proper introduction is so important. Establishing who you are and why you are in a place is extremely important if you want the people you are approaching to respect you and to work with you. In this section, the most interesting comment to me was the importance of how you move on after introductions. Spinuzzi suggests that one should not allow participants to be assigned, because then they will feel coerced and may not respond well to your questions. I have seen this in real life as an RA. When I do what we call “intentional interactions” with students, I get more luck having deep conversations with my residents when they approach me or the conversation is not forced; when I read questions off the proscribed list or have sign-up sheets for residents to come talk to me, the conversations are usually a little more strained.

Chapter 7: Observing

The Hawthorne Effect is real. I have felt it in my life and I am assuming you have felt it in yours. It makes me wonder how to get around this effect if you notice it happening.

I love that Spinuzzi makes a point to iterate that people are “weird.” This is so important to remember when working with other human beings. We are strange beings inherently and oftentimes we do not make sense to ourselves, let alone to others. This is imperative to keep in mind as an observer because it forces you to enter situations with grace and patience with others. It also allows you to look past what you are observing and see what is really going on. People are people. And people are weird. Once one understands this, the better off the research process will go.

Chapter 8: Interviewing

This chapter discusses the three different interview styles: structured, unstructured, and semi-structured. What kind of style one uses to research all depends on the type of person the researcher is, what type of person the interviewee is, and what the situation is. I am almost always a semi-structured interviewer because it is the most natural with my personality. I tend to always stray off my questions because I find people so fascinating and because what they say sparks other ideas into my mind.

I ran into trouble last year when researching peace communications in Africa with a friend of mine last year. We had to interview many different people over the course of a semester, and we came up with a solid list of questions. She thought the interviews were going to be structured; I thought they were going to be semi-structured. This led to a lot of confusion and awkwardness during our interviews, when I started asking questions that were not on the list and she did not know what was going on. I say this to remind you to go into interviews with a plan- know what you are getting into and what is expected of you. It will help.

Chapter 9: Artifacts

I honestly thought this chapter was so interesting because I had never heard or thought of artifacts before. Artifacts are “the information resource tools, and other physical materials that participants use” (115). The usually all have something that connects them so that they serve a bigger purpose in the study. They can be used in observation and in interviews and can be seen in the background. Spinuzzi talks about how to use artifacts, where to find them, and what to do with them. If by chance you forgot about this reading assignment and forgot to read (or just didn’t want to, I get it, it’s college) I would recommend reading this chapter because it covers topics that not many research classes cover.

Chapter 10: Collecting Other Sorts of Data

Sometimes life is busy or people need help, so research does not take its usual black-and-white form. This chapter (all two pages) is all about nontraditional research styles, whether that be social media or drawing. It is okay to think outside of the box sometimes. In professional writing, we are taught to be deep thinkers, and that oftentimes requires us to think of something other than what has already been done. We are supposed to be creative, innovate, and strategic. That is what this entire course has been about!

Discussion Questions

  1. If someone was studying you personally, what are some “artifacts” he or she might find and use? (pg. 116)
  2. How does proper interview procedure relate to our previous talks about ethics? (pg. 80-81)
  3. What does it look like to be an active listener? (pg. 107)

 

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Topsight Discussion

Spinuzzi’s concept of “Topsight” is the idea of seeing “the big picture”. This allows one to efficiently identify larger problems that are trickling down into the smaller problems that one would see on a day-to-day basis in the organization. Spinuzzi notes that a doctor would identify the disease rather than simply treat the symptoms, and this is what one aims to do by gaining Topsight and applying it to their organization.

Spinuzzi gives us a guide on how to conduct research in the workplace/organization, noting things to look for a providing the possible perspectives of those we would be researching. A few things that stuck out to me personally were the connections to ethics, and the concept of Topsight itself.

My questions are:

How can you see the concept of Topsight as a tool to apply to your life/organizations you are involved in currently? How would it change from a workplace setting to a club or social setting?

Are there any industries that you feel this method would not be helpful? In what ways would it need to be changed? Could you see this being applied to your future field?

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Top Sight- The How to for field Research

From what I understand of Spinuzzi’s definition of Topsight, I believe it is the process of viewing an organization as a whole and refining your research questions to identify systematic issues that may be small in the beginning, but because organizations are so interdependent can actually become a large problem or a weight on the company’s success. Spinuzzi shows breaks down this process by giving his readers a step by step guide on how to gain this kind of topsight. His broad list on page five gives these five steps, “Designing, conduction, navigating, analyzing, and writing.”

In Chapter two of Spinuzzi’s Toplight, Spinuzzi explains his recommendation for developing good research questions. He starts by broadening the basic idea of a research question from, “a one-sentence expression of the issue you want to study.” (pg 20) to a more broad concept, which is the option to begin your research from a “research concern.” This, I believe, opens the doors to discovering the systematic issue while conducting your research rather than feeling you have to know the issue you’re addressing from the very beginning. The other important thing to remember while developing good research questions is to remember to consider, “What you want to know… What the client wants to know… (and) What your organizations needs.” (pg. 21) This helps to direct your research questions towards finding the systematic issues of an organization.

Ethics are extremely important throughout the research process as there are many opportunities in which a participant’s privacy can be violated. Spinuzzi warns his readers to be extremely careful and cautious with the company, and individual’s information as not doing so could have drastic consequences.

The rhetorical concerns you need to think through as you approach research subjects and pitch your research projects, are who needs the information you are seeking, who does this information affect, and what kind of arguments do you need to use for each of these groups of people in order to pursue the wanted information. As a researcher you need to be able to make a strong rhetorical argument for why you should be allowed to perform your research and why your research is important. This is especially true when pitching your research ideas, because obviously if you cannot successfully pitch your research you cannot move forward.

My questions are:

What did you think of the “3 Levels of Activity” Spinuzzi talks about on page 26? Do you feel that this is a complete list of audiences, or should customer/user experience be involved in this section of the research?

Has anyone had any hands on experience with research? In your experience did you have to pitch your research to anyone, and did you find Spinuzzi’s list of things to always bring on page 70 to be accurate/helpful?

Did anyone find the ethics section to be missing some important points?

 

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Topsight Discussion

Summary:

The reading begins with the definition of the term Topsight which the author defines as, “an understanding of the big picture”(Spinuzzi, Ch1). Topsight was created to access an organization’s overall activity and how that organization’s activity can be changed to produce more efficient results. Topsight includes multiple factors in order to help accomplish this including the resources that they use, chains of communication that people use in the organization, and how employees combine and substitute resources to address their tasks. How Topsight is created is through a five step format starting with the design of a field study, conducting a field study, navigating data from the field study, analyzing the data for trends, and creating recommendations to help use the data to benefit the organization. Chapters 2-5 go on to explain in more depth the use of research and field studies and some of the more important prerequisites that one needs to know in order to use Topsight correctly. Chapter two talks about the use of research design and a research design matrix in order to pinpoint what types of data that needs to be collected and what categories the data needs to be split into. A common research design matrix would include information based on levels of activity (macro, meso, and micro) as well as by the perspective of the tester and the subject being tested. In Chapter three it goes over the importance of building in protections in your research. Creating privacy for subjects, confidentiality and trust between the organization and the testers, control over the participation of the subject in the study, and control over the time that the subject spend being tested. Chapter four talks more about gaining the permission to perform these types of field studies within the company. It addresses the importance of contacting managers and stakeholders at the company in order to make sure everything being done is ethical and legal. Finally, Chapter five talks about preparing the study for data collection. It makes sure that you know the importance of knowing the tools and paperwork behind the study and using the right questions to collect the right data. This includes making sure the data being collect is confidential and that the prompts being used do not breach any of the rights of the subjects in question.

Questions:

  1. What aspects of the Topsight method ensure that the data being collected will reveal the right information for the organization?
  2. Based on what the class has gone over with rhetoric and ethics, would you say Topsight is a good tool for professional writers to use for field studies? Why or why not?
  3. What is the most important step in the formation of Topsight within an organization? Why do you believe this?
  4. How can Topsight be used within the careers of professional writers? Give examples.

 

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Usability and You

The readings were mainly based on the 5Es of Usability. These are, Effective, Efficient, Engaging, Easy to Learn and Error Tolerant. The article by Whitney Quesenberry outlined the basics of these Es and how they all interact with usability of a software. Though the first four were intuitive, the last one was an interesting new concept. Error Tolerance is how the system responds to errors and how easy it makes navigating out of errors for the user. Just recently, I was using an application that was not very tolerant of errors and was therefore frustrating to use. However, when a page is error tolerant, I find myself using it much more frequently and expansively. Quesenberry also talked about the balance of these 5Es and how it varies depending on the page or website in question. This was a very helpful guide in how to use the concepts efficiently. Evaluating the usability of the product by having users engage with it was discussed and a cycle was shown to do this effectively. The last major point made by the Quesenberry article was how usability needs to be integrated constantly rather than right at the end, as that is the only seamless way to do it.

The next article was about some of the technical aspects of the 5Es and some specific considerations about usability in the Indian market. It also elaborated on ways of testing usability and how to calculate the costs of and benefits of it. Arun Ambie wrote about all the ways that usability can be carried out and the importance of carrying them out properly. The article also challenges the idea that this work needs to be done in a lab. The testing can be done anywhere, according to Ambie, as long as the responses and observations are recorded properly. The article also talks about the balance of the ways to ensure usability and adds in useful questions to gauge how we need to approach usability. This article offers more of a look into the various aspects of usability and how it can be carried out and evaluated. There was also a final note on the market for usability professionals in India, which gave us a look into how markets around the world view usability and how it should be more of a priority in this case.

Questions

  1. Do you feel the 5Es of usability are the main aspects we should consider? Are there any you would add or remove?
  2. If you were to design your ideal website, what would your balance of the 5Es be?
  3. The articles talked about evaluating usability and how users are needed for this step. How would you recruit and observe users to draw accurate conclusions about your product’s usability?
  4. How would you integrate usability during the production of your software or other product? If the usability turned out to be low after evaluation of the product, how would you approach changes required?
  5. Are there any ethical implications to the aspect of usability? For instance, how engaging does a website have to be before it becomes overly time-consuming?
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Quesenbery and ArunPrabu

In our two readings for today both Quesenbery and ArunPrabu stress the importance of usability being flexible and dependent on your audience.

Quesenbery defines usability as “the quality or characteristic of a product that meets the needs of the people who use it, allowing them to work— or play— with it for their own purposes in a way that is appropriate for them.”

ArunPrabu uses the formal definition from ISO 9241-11: “the extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specified context of use.”

What I enjoyed out of the second article was the design considerations that were given as examples. It helped me better clarify and put into motion the uses of the five E’s in the real world. “Improving usability is expensive but far more economical than producing a product that creates havoc in organization and frustration for users,” was also something I pulled from the second article that stuck with me throughout reading.

I’m glad I read Quesenbery first, because it gave me a basic overview of usability and the five E’s in businesses/design. Not only that, but an in depth analysis of how to use a user-centered approach.

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Questions:

1. Quesenbery states that there are simple standards for usability, but in the article is seems you can narrow down generalized scenarios on how to approach usability in design and the workplace. Why can’t we write design and development guidelines for usability?

2. Quesenbery also talks about having a balance between the five E’s; effective, efficient, engaging, error tolerant, easy to learn. By balancing them, you can set a direction for designing. Do you think you can have a complete equal balance between those five? Do you think some are more important than others?

3. Which article did you find more informative?

4. We touched a lot on Monday about overall design schemes of the usability.gov website. And looking at the blog article we had to read, the discussion popped up in my head again especially when my eyes were automatically drawn to the ads on the side. I wanted to clarify for mostly myself. Do usability and design aesthetic go hand in hand when it comes to usable software? Or is design aesthetics tied into usability?