Qualities: Technology Skills

Some might say I had plenty of technology skills when I entered the MLIS program. However, these skills were focused more on problem solving and programming than on identifying and meeting information needs and user needs with technology. Prior to my coursework, I had spent very little time creating websites, and had only done some minor tinkering. I had a grasp of JavaScript but most of the work I had done on the web was limited to programming, with little attention to design or usability. I was also ignorant of CSS and XHTML, and had not used Adobe Dreamweaver and other related tools.

I applied the design methods, usability considerations, and information architecture principles I learned in my coursework at the iSchool to the websites and tools I created during this time. I was also able to explore and use various web standards, tools, and technology platforms. While it's important to make good practical decisions about which technologies to use when designing a system, the concerns about identifying and meeting user needs remain the same:


iPlay website
iPlay website (look familiar?)

Throughout my coursework, I created a number of websites using various technologies:

TiddlyWiki Thesaurus (aka TiddlyThesaurus, TWT)

Amateur Astronomy Thesaurus
Amateur Astronomy Thesaurus (a TiddlyThesaurus)

I created the original TWT while working on a course project in autumn 2007. This course, LIS 537: Construction of Indexing Languages, directed students to construct a thesaurus for a chosen user group and domain. My group chose amateur astronomy, and created the Pacific Northwest Amateur Astronomy Thesaurus. The TWT was built as an aid to this thesaurus construction process, and an alternative to manual methods such as using index cards or spreadsheets to collect and organize terms. My group saw value in the tool (noted here: my docfinal paper, Sonja's portfolio, and Tim's portfolio), and the instructor (Trent Hill) encouraged me to continue working on it so he might use it as a learning tool for future versions of the course.

The tool was built out of a standard TiddlyWiki, through code customization and additions. The TiddlyWiki technology has been described as a "reusable non-linear personal web notebook." Conceptually, it can be thought of as a collection of index cards ("tiddlers") with small chunks of content which are searchable, tagged, and linked to each other inside a single, self-contained web page. It's like a wiki because multiple people can edit it, but it's not page oriented - it is element oriented.

Since its inception, the TiddlyWiki Thesaurus has spanned projects in several of my courses:

I have attempted to use this project as a focal point and practical application for the methods and techniques I've learned in my coursework. In LIS 537 I created the TWT tool to reduce some of the repetitive, manual tasks that provided little educational value during the thesaurus construction process. In TC 518, my group conducted user research with members of the LIS 537 course taking place concurrently. I assisted one of the groups in that 537 course who chose to use the TWT tool, learned about additional usability issues, and implemented several requested features involving data import and notation. Finally, the independent study allowed me to address a number of usablity issues that had been identified, and to produce a new version of the tool. I hope that the TWT tool can provide some benefit for future students in the LIS 537 course, and lives beyond my own time in the Information School.

Other TiddlyWiki Creations

IA Summit TiddlyWiki
IA Summit TiddlyWiki

After discovering the versatility of TiddlyWiki, I worked on several other projects in an effort to grow my understanding of this technology: