Eyeing the Top Spot

Eye tracking is totally fascinating to me, from the how-to to the findings. I was surprised to find out that eye tracking in one form or another has been around for more than 100 years.

One of our articles Eye-Tracking Technology: An Introduction was a nice primer for the “how-to”s, and a great teaser for the possible future applications for eye-tracking technology and data. However, two other readings had me captivated. As a former newspaper journalist, I was interested, but not so surprised, by the findings in “Eyetracking the News: A Study of Print and Online Reading”. The entry points for reading print news are headlines and photos, while the entry points online are navigation. Visuals and color increased viewing of elements like briefs and teasers, all not so aha findings, but findings that had me once again relating them to my teaching experiences. Up until a couple of years ago, high school students took two versions of the FCAT — the Sunshine State Standards (SSS) version and the Norm-Referenced Test (NRT) version. The SSS version, because it was funded and implemented at the state level, was always delivered in large chunks of text and murky graphics in black and white. The NRT version always included color and detailed and fun graphics because it was funded and implemented nationally. Students, without exception in the ones I’ve dealt with, overwhelmingly prefer the NRT, and specifically pointed to the colorful and interesting presentation. In fact, some used to beg to take that test and not the other.

The white paper by Mediative, Eye Tracking and Click Mapping Google Places, made a great case for making a significant investment in getting to the top of a Google Places search, and applied findings related to the Golden Triangle from similar Google search studies. The top three or four places received the most gazes and clicks, and subjects were also attracted to the images and social signals added to the top listings. I particularly liked the fictitious scenario with which subjects were presented: road trip that included a number of stops along the way to hunt for tattoo parlors. (In fact, I kept trying to add my own story to go with it. Was this a drunken road trip specifically for tattoos?  Was there a dare or lost bet involved? The eye gazes at the first tattoo parlor location in London, Ontario, were followed by a significant number of gazes at Chaucer’s Pub, which supports this theory of mine, but I wanted to know more.)

Questions for this week: Given the findings of this white paper, how much should organizations depend on eye-tracking studies to guide their presentation of information? And on more of a personal note, if you were looking for a tattoo parlor in a strange city, would you stop looking beyond the first three or four listed on your search? (I’m an information junkie and would probably see all the options available to me before making a choice. Am I the only one?)

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Collective Wisdom

This week is my week to present again, and I will be talking a great deal about crowdsourcing. I am definitely enjoying learning more about the uses of crowdsourcing and its evolution since the term was coined by Jeff Howe. Luckily, because I’m saving up for the presentation, this is going to be relatively brief — for me, at least.

Two articles that I hadn’t already read were “Jamming for a Smarter Planet” and “When the Media Meet Crowds of Wisdom”. The idea behind jamming — or brainstorming through online conversation — fascinated me. Again it harks back to last week’s discussion on social echo, where listening and getting involved in conversations is the key. Jamming gives those closest to a particular topic opportunities to discuss the topic/problem/challenge in an open forum of similar experts. The 2009 Smarter Planet University Jam conducted by IBM came up with some intriguing and viable ideas for issues facing college students today.

Of course, I was most fascinated by the ideas on education and the “T-shaped” student, who shows deep knowledge in one discipline and broader knowledge in others. This is actually the idea espoused by the UF College of Journalism when I was an undergrad in the early 1990s. Today’s T-shaped students are met with even greater demands, which is why they recommended interdisciplinary education, a web-based repository of resources, interconnected campuses, and the idea of “give back”. With so many technological advances and resources already available to today’s students, education at all levels needs to keep up, and what better way to exponentially increase learning than increasing significant discussions on a global level.

That is also the idea behind media shifts in our culture. News spreads lightning fast and traditional reporting methods are slow and dated. I first started noticing changes in journalism when papers started to flail and then television news started soliciting news photos and story ideas from viewers. Now it is not uncommon for non-journalists to report and comment on news events in official media outlets, for alternative media to increase in market share, and for access to experts to allow for greater depth in understanding at faster rates.

I do think there is power in the crowd, and that it can be beneficial overall. But there is also need for filtering that information that is so readily available. What do you see as the negative effects of crowdsourcing the news? How about crowdsourcing in general?

Is there an echo in here?

This week’s our readings focused us on not on participating online, but listening and watching. A couple of our readings focused on online reputation management, including this one from MIT Sloan Management Review titled “Online Reputation Systems: How to Design One That Does What You Need”. It said that in a time when more organizations are “harnessing the collective intelligence of crowds and communities,” capitalizing on the power of reputation will attract good, self-driven people that will trust each other and collaborate effectively. (I will talk about this a little more in a couple of weeks when I present Crowdsourcing.) As with any undertaking on the web, it’s important to identify your organization’s goals and clearly define what your conversations are.

Reputation is defined here as the summary of one’s past actions within the context of a specif community that can help other community members make decisions. And the aim of managing reputation is to build trust, promote quality, facilitate member matching, and sustain loyalty. Prior to reading this, I had no clue that I had already seen reputation systems in action, but I had — Amazon, eBay, Barnes and Noble, to name a few. After having an issue with a product recently, I begun looking online for solutions and what other people were saying and it completely changed my image of and loyalty to a specific brand.

While I did learn much about reputation management, I was even more fascinated by the white paper “Amplifying Your Social Echo.” First of all, social echo is the “powerful reverberation of conversations around your brand that occur in the numerous social networks where people gather today.” Measuring social echo is in essence another a tool for reputation management, but it is also a powerful, accessible, and efficient decision-making tool, also. Listening is the key in social media marketing, a topic that increasingly peaks my interest. Rufus Manning was quoted as saying, “So much can be obtained by understanding what the conversation is, as opposed to trying to start up a new conversation.” Traditional marketing has been so focused on generating talk, that watching and listening is a new approach. Online chatter can be so enlightening. The examples about Windstar and Unisys were spot on, showing that the echo is a giant, available focus group. Echo also tends to be what makes the news, often not so much the original message. If a celebrity or athlete tweets something that no one really pays attention to, it’s just another day. But if that same person tweets something that causes a major echo, then usually it makes for a good story.

This is where analytics plays a big role in monitoring the impact of social media marketing and “social currency”. Time, focused effort, and significant dollars will be required to invest fully in social media marketing and monitoring. Another great point was the advice to not jump into social media conversations on a difficult issue, but to wait, find answers, and hone in on the right message. There are too many non-examples of this on the Internet right now. Here is a great blog entry I ran across Blind Five Year Old, an online marketing firm specializing in search, that presents social echo plainly.

Where would you be more likely to focus your time and money – online reputation systems or social echo amplification?

Mobile Homes in a Digital World

This week’s reading assignment went mobile, and the flow of the reading both overwhelmed and amazed me, but also gave me a few things to ponder, as usual. Let’s snowball all the information we got this week. Ready?

I’ve said it before on this blog, and I’ll say it again: my brain and numbers don’t often mix well. Knowing that, you should have seen me slogging my way through Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2011-2016. It was a good thing there was fascinating information. 2011 was the fourth year in a row that global mobile usage doubled, the first year mobile traffic exceeded 50 percent, and also the first time mobile video exceeded 50 percent. Mobile access is now as common as its non-mobile computing counterpart.

But here’s the kicker: by the end of the year, it is predicted that the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the world’s population. The population of the WORLD, not just the first world, or the tech world. The world world. Think about that, and then say it with me, “Wow!”

Bring that knowledge into the second reading, a primer on QR codes and their use to support causes. Though QR codes have not typically been a very popular subject among my classmates (myself included), how can you argue using QR codes knowing there are so many mobile devices available to link those users to online information for your cause? It cannot hurt to put a QR code on everything you distribute relating to your cause if you’re trying to raise awareness. Numbers may make my head spin, but I’m not sure I can be unclear on this one.

Okay, let’s take both of these lessons into the next article about Apsalar. Apsalar creates and customizes mobile apps, by analyzing and re-targeting the app according to usage of the app. Consider this (keeping in mind the creepiness we’ve been feeling the last several weeks):

An app maker can target users based on how much they spend, their location, their lifetime value, their engagement level, whether they use iOS or Android, or custom events like whether they got past Level 5 or opened a shopping chart.

So we’ve taken these mobile users, directed them toward specific information about our cause (maybe our own app), and can now track and re-target their usage of the app to keep them in our grasp. Now, let’s get really customized and really tracked.

For the final article, we read “How smartphones are changing the face of mobile and participatory healthcare: an overview, with example from eCAALYX” and get another paradigm shift. We keep talking about the creepiness of all this information being used to track us, but now we’re presented with scenarios where it might be a good thing. The article discusses the rise in the use of apps, relating that in 2009 300 million apps were downloaded, but just two years later the number had jumped to 5 billion. This rise in the number of mobile devices and the ways in which people are using apps is creating a significant global cultural shift in communication.

In the field of medicine, mobile device apps are allowing for easier data collection by providing an uninterrupted data stream and availability for remote healthcare in developing nations through portability. So take it a step further, and doctors and patients can benefit from remote monitoring systems. In essence, doctors and other medical experts can track a patient at all times via mobile devices. The implications for diabetes and heart disease patients alone is incredible, but there are hundreds of medical conditions that can be monitored via mobile device – with or without patients inputting data. Also, there may be opportunities for patient health behavior modification through mobile tracking. How amazing is that: a stream of biomedical data, GPS tracking for location in case of emergency, and instant communication with professionals?

Is this sort of data transmission or data gathering too personal (think HIPAA), or do the benefits outweigh the invasion? How about for the customization of apps based on your personal information or usage? How do they compare?