Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Users on the portal: consuming and contributing

I continued the previous study with more data: this time I took all the logs from Oct 1 to December 18 2008. The idea, again, was to see how much the previous annotations (ratings and bookmarks) would "guide" the choice of new users.

The datasets:

1. All bookmarks and ratings in MELT until Oct 1 2008. This comprises of 565 distinct resources. We call these resources with Social Information (SI), as it is something that is shared and made public by users.
  • 88 of these resources were on the list called "Travel well" resources. They are made available directly from the portal front page. They were recorded to the system by a user called "EUNRecommender" suggesting that these resources should be of interest and good quality. Additionally, annotations from other users were made available.

  • 477 of these resources were annotated (ratings and bookmarks) by previous users. These were either the pilot teachers, project partners and staff in the office. The top bookmarked and rated once would appear on the "Most bookmarked list", also accessible from the front page. Similarly, annotations from other users were made available.
2. I took server-side logs from the period of Oct 1 to Dec 18 2008. At the end of this period the portal had 340 users registered, out of which some people never used the portal when logged in and a number was project related staff. We excluded those people from the logs and were left with 168 users, out of which 82 had clicked on a resource on the portal at least once. Additionally, users who do not log in are recorded, so our click-though includes many more users. This group had:
  • clicked ("played") on 1711 distinct resources (all users);
  • out of which 974 were clicked ("played") by logged-in users (82);
  • bookmarked 294 distinct resources 351 times;
  • rated 323 distinct resources 385 times;
    = 394 distinct resources annotated.
The method for this study is a manual log-file analyses using my own defined logging scheme (see here).

Questions: How and where on the portal do users discover resources, do they rather discover new resources or re-discover once that have been annotated by others? Are the suggestion lists like "Travel well" resources or "Most boomarked" effective, i.e. are many resources discovered through them?

We split our understanding of "discover resources" meaning two different things and look at the separately. Discover meaning:
  1. finding the resource on the portal, clicking on it (i.e. play). This is also called implicit interest indicator;
  2. finding a resource and creating an explicit marker on the resource in terms of rating or bookmarking with tags (explicit interest indicator).
The first one is important to know how big coverage the resources that have been "touched upon" or "hit" cover from all resources in the repository (use). The second one, is important as it creates explicit maker which can be used for cues and social navigation purposes. Moreover, the second one can be used as a proxy for reuse. For reuse we use the following definition: " resource is integrated in a new context with other components, and when this occurred more than once, we consider the resource reused".

1. Who discovers resources?

Out of 82 active users, 63 had annotated a resource at least once, 75% had annotated more than once. Average was 11.6 annotations, median 4. The top two users annotated 120 and 108 times, the following users 50 times. There were 36 users who bookmarked and rated, and 14 users who only bookmarked and 13 who only rated.

2. What kind of "actions" take place?

By actions, in this case, I mean playing the resource (click on the link), bookmarking and/or rating it, but also viewing evaluations related to this resource or checking the "Favourites" from the user who had discovered an interesting resource.

Table 2 presents data on how the users (described in 2. above) interacted with resources. The left column explains where on the portal this action took place, whereas the top row indicates the action. There were total of 3542 actions related to this.

In general, this group annotated 75% resources in SRL, 15% in tag cloud, 4% on the Travel well list, 3% in their own favourites (ratings) and only 1% on Most bookmarked list.

Table 2

Let's first look at what happens in the Search Result List (SRL). Table 2 shows that most things happen when users are here: resources are played more than 2000 times (2/3 of all plays), most rating (70%) and bookmarking (73%) of "virgin" resources also take place here. We can also see that some small amount of resources with SI are rated and bookmarked from SRL (less than 10%). This indicates that some users paid attention to cues made available by previous SI and found them useful.

Mostly, though, it's "virgin" resources. This is a good news, in a way, as I was worried that users might be lazy and not discover resources that other users have not annotated before. On the other hand, most users click on resources and never annotate them, so we are left to guess whether they liked them or not... only 13% of these clicks lead to rating the resource (268), for example.On the average, 71% of virgin resources "hit" get annotated, and 29% of resources with SI get annotated.

Table 2 also shows that the tag cloud is a good catcher of ratings (15%) and taggings (15%), whereas the "Travel well" list is a real hit catcher. 13% of hits on resources with SI are played here. This list was comprised of 88 resources, out of which only 54 got played. The average was 6.8 plays/resource (median 3.5), but in reality, some got played a lot more than others. 30% received more than average hits. The highest were 30, 29 and 28 (great, just checked the top dog, and it's a dead link :(.

The story looks worse for actually bookmarking and rating resources from the Travel well list, only 18 of them got hitched (20%). 2 got bookmarked twise and two rated 5 times (no overlap). So, I suspect that we did not succeed that well in creating appealing "recommendations". I'll get back to that point at a later stage. A rather effective features of TW list was the use of "view evaluations" and "view other users", about 40% of both were generated here, so they helped users to social navigate the portal.

Compared to "Travel well" list, the "Most bookmarked" resources did not seem to have the same effect of chatching eyeballs. This is bizarre, as both these are available on the font page, however, "Most bookmarked" are a click away on the tab. As 84% of these hits come from users who are not logged in, I think it might be lots of clicks from our testing period, but also it's possible that this is only what users experience on the portal and then fly away (forever..?).

Lastly, table 2 shows that some ratings take place in Favourites. That's good, since we intended favourites to be the place for that. I imagined that teachers first want to use the resource, so they put it on thier favourites and then come back later to rate it. Well, users know better, they seem to take about a second to view the resource and bookmark it on the SRL. I will have to look if there is any qualitative difference between ratings of the ones in SRL and Favourites?

3. Where do these actions take place?

I was also interested in seeing what kind of search methods do users choose to use. Possibilities offered on the portal are the following:
  • Explicit search: using traditional search box with text or advanced search options. This results in resources on a Search Result List (SRL) where users can view the metadata about the resources as well as the annotations by others. Searches within results in SRL can also be refined, or ranked either by popularity or ratings. Also "Browse by category" results in this.

  • Community browsing: These include browsing the tag cloud, and examining bookmarks created by the community. In our case these are lists of most boomarked items; travel well; tags; other people Favourites.

  • Personal search: Looking for bookmarks from one's own personal collecction of bookmarks (Favourites)
Table 3.

Of all searches 76% were Explicit searches, where 21% Community searches and 2% personal searches.

What comes to spearing actions on other things on the portal, we can observe some differences between the logged-in and not logged-in users. Whereas not logged-in users spend most of their actions on searching (60% + 17%) and playing resources (23%), the logged in users have a more variety.

The logged-in users search differently, they use far less the Explicit search function (28%) and also spend less time on the Community search (only 8%), but additionally they have the Personal search function available (3,5%). The difference here is that these users can interact with the resources that they have found earlier ("keep found things found"). There is quite a huge difference between how much actions are spent on searching between these groups, 77% vs. 40%. Logged-in users also play less resources (18%), but still "outsmart" not logged-in users in terms of searches returning plays:
  • the first group spears 3.4 searches to play one resource, whereas
  • the logged-in users spear 1,98 searches to play one resource.
This apparent inefficiency is partly due to the fact that we are still testing the server and probably many tests are done when the user is not logged in. However, this is something to remark for now and keep the eye on (check: can I omit the searches from the office using the data from Analytics).

A major difference between the two groups is what I call contributing actions. We already have seen that 27% on resource with SI get played and that on the average 13.3% of searches take advantage of Community browsing. We also saw that some 6% of annotations on the SRL are on resources that have Social Information related to them. So where does this social information come from?

In Table 3 we see that contributing actions cover about 40% of all the actions by logged in users. This is about 16% of all actions during this period! I will come back to this point later trying to make a picture of what the input is by a group of logged-in users and how it can be taken advantage of by other users of the system.

4. What resources do get played?

Users can access 30116 learning resources through the portal, and many more assets. During the trial period, 1547 distinct resources got played 2828 times by all users. That make an average of 1.83 plays/resources, but in reality some get a few hits and a few gets many hits (median: 1). 27% get more than one hit, most hits were 35 ( strangely, this resource was not even bookmarked "123216875").

I was interested in what happened with resources that had Social Information vs. the ones that were "virgins", not yet annotated by previous users.

Of the total plays (2828 times) 73% were on resources without SI and 27% on resource with SI. If we look at it from all resources that were made available, out of 565 resources with SI 34,7% were played at least ones, whereas from all other resources (29551), 4.57% got played at least once. Also, some of the newly annotated resources got hits right away, we have 54 resources that got played 70 times, most likely thanks to their new annotations. Some of these newly annotated resources (32 cases) prompted 99 further annotations from the new users. These 99 annotations were made both in SRL (69%) and in social navigation areas like tagcloud and Favourites (31%). This shows that these new annotations became useful to other users right away, actually more so than the previsouly annotated resources, out of which only less than 10% were found of use by these users (31% vs. 10%, see Table 4).

It's quite interesting, though, that only about one third of resources with SI got played. I would have thought that it is more. This might be due that our search result list is not ranked to start with. It is possible for the user to re-organise the results by popularity or ratings, but actually we do not know whether this happens (currently have not found a way to log it). I guess the other side of the coin that surprises me is that users clicked on so many resources that did not have any annotations on them. I guess it's a good sign of curiosity :)

Interestingly, we find that users who are logged-in discovered less resources than the others. Out of all these resources (n=1547), 68% were played by users who were not logged in and 44% by logged-in users (last row in Table 1). The same can be observed for resources with SI and not.

Table 1.

5. How many annotations per resource?

Of the total amount of annotations received during this period, we can count that 394 distinct resources received 734 annotations, they were half and half ratings and bookmarkings.
  • 322 resources received 383 ratings. 13% received more than one rating, average 1.18. Top amont of ratings were 5 ratings, which was only on 1 resources.
  • 294 resources received 350 bookmarkings. 14% received more than one bookmark, average 1.19. Top amont of bookmarks were 5, which was only on 2 resources.
58.5% of annotations were on new resources, and 41.5% on old ones. They were distributed rather differently, the "old" resources received on the average more annotations than the new ones.
  • 38 Travel well resources received annotations 99. 63 of them received more than one annotation, average is 2.6 each. The top one received 12 annotations.
  • 97 previously annotated resources (this includes 32 resources that were discovered during this period and annotated later by other new users) received 209 annotations. Average is 2.15 annotations per resource.
6. Story of the Travel well list

Barely about 15% of the 88 resources on the list were re-discovered by the new users! Previously we saw that these resources received a good amount of "hits" and eyeballs, but not so many of them actually resulted in ratings, and when they did, they were not equally distributed among the resources (Table 4). Only 18 of the annotations took place on the TW-list, otherwise, an additional 20 resources from this list were annotated on the SRL and tagcloud. So the success-rate of these recommendations was less than 50%! Can barely call these recommendations. I will look later which ones were "thumbed up" and which ones downed. As with the previously bookmarked resources, ahem, maybe the taste differs between the two sets of users.

Table 4

The resources on the "Travel well" list received many more hits (average 7.12) than just "any previously annotated resource" (average: 0.68).

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