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Below The Surface

Monday, July 27, 2009

Champ Tag: An Experiment.

What would you ask a researcher about Lake Champlain? If you're anything like the typical visitor to ECHO, you'd ask about something else. (Yes, I have had questions literally asking about "something else".) We give visitors 3 different topics that they can ask researches about, including Blue-green algae (102 selections), Invasive fish (73 selections), Phosphorus or Nitrogen (62 selections). If none of those match their question, they can select a 4th option - "Something else" (520 selections).

Of course, if you've read my previous post and done the math, you'll notice some inconsistencies in numbers. How can we have 757 selections, but only 269 videos recorded? Your response is saved as soon as you select it, but you have many options to abort recording your story afterward. If I filter it down to only people who have recorded a video, we have 25 responses for Blue-green algae (of which we kept 6), 21 responses for Invasive Fish (of which we kept 7), and 18 responses for Phosphorus or Nitrogen, of which we kept 4. The remaining 205 responses all chose "Something else" - and we kept 56 of them.

So, what can we tell from these numbers? Either we aren't offering the right tags, or visitors are not selecting the correct tags for their videos. As this Kiosk is meant to be an important prototype for our larger exhibit, I feel it is important to correct this issue while we still can test. After all, a map where the only way to get any videos to pop up is by using the tag "something else" isn't going to work.

I've used the YouTube channel to gather some additional data on the problem. I chose this, rather than trying to do an exhaustive analysis of all videos recorded, because a) it was a lot easier, and b) well, did you see reason a? The YouTube channel contains two things. Good videos, and Champ videos. So, I've taken the last 20 videos answering the "What would you ask a researcher about" question, and analyzed the response for tag accuracy.

Tag - Topic
Something else - Question about Champ
Something else - Researchers should communicate stewardship to boaters, not just farmers.
Phosphorus or Nitrogen - Fertilizers containing Phosphorus and Nitrogen make our local lake smell!
Something else - How many types of fish are there, and have any gone extinct from Lake Champlain?
Something else - How old is Lake Champlain?
Something else - Are you studying if Champ is real?
Something else - Is Champ real?
Something else - Is Champ real, or related to a Sturgeon?
Something else - Is Champ real? What is he?
Something else - How polluted is the lake in comparison to other lakes?
Something else - How long does Champ live, and how many eggs the female lay?
Something else - Does Champ live at the bottom of the lake? Is he Blue?
Something else - How long has Champ lived in Lake Champlain? What does he eat?
Something else - Why is the lake blackish, and not blue?
Something else - How did the Champlain Islands get their names?
Something else - How much pollution could you clean up in one day?
Something else - Do you ever plan on going on a really big search for Champ?
Something else - We love Vermont. Honor your ancestors.
Something else - Asking about Champ.
Something else - Do you ever find sea creatures in Lake Champlain?

So, what can we determine from this data? Well, as you already knew, everyone wants to talk about Something else. But what are they talking about? Half of them are asking about Champ. Pollution appears to be another theme, and while they don't all show up on YouTube, I can assure you that more than one person has asked how old Lake Champlain is, and how many different species can be found in the lake.

The next step was to filter this data into a time period. Between July 6th and July 27th (the past 3 weeks), 9 people asked researchers about Champ, and 20 people recorded videos about Champ.

So, with all this data in hand, the great experiment can begin.

Every time we get a Champ video, I have to do a few things. First, we remove it from the Kiosk. These aren't the kind of questions we're looking to gather for researchers to answer. Then, I have to remove the videos from the VFL playlist, and manually add it to the Champ Playlist. Why not let the visitors do this themselves? I could change the script to place videos tagged Champ onto the Champ playlist automatically. I could even set the kiosk to hide those videos by default, so I could review them less often (For example, each Monday morning, or Friday afternoon).

Based on this, I have decided to add a Champ tag to the list of possibilities for the researcher question. Over the next three weeks, I will evaluate what happens. Do the tags shape what people are talking about? Will we get more Champ videos than in the previous 3 weeks, because people see the tag and think "I want to talk about Champ!"? How reliable is visitor tagging? Will visitors use the tag? Will visitors misuse the tag?

Check back a little after August 17th to find out!

~Travis Cook, Information Technology Coordinator

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Kiosk Report: 1000 videos in!

On the afternoon of October 30th, 2008, Suzanne Levine, a researcher from UVM, joined Lifelong Learning Coordinator Linda Bowden and myself in ECHO's community room to record the very first video on our Kiosk. A week later, the Kiosk was on the floor, capturing our first visitors. Things got off to a bit of a slow start. The microphone wasn't sensitive enough and the speakers had been covered by a graphic wrap, making them almost impossible to hear when there were kids in the building. The Kiosk also started off with 5 questions. By Mid-December, we'd solved many of the issues, revised the questions (and reduced the number down to 3) and things were looking up. By years end, we were up to 124 videos recorded.

In April, I posted about how, as of April 11th, things were about to change here at ECHO. I'd expected a noticeable increase in videos. On April 11th, we had 722 videos. Things didn't quite go as I'd expected. The massive school group rush that we get between April and June did not fill up the Kiosk like I anticipated it would. Our daily video count didn't really start increasing until late June.

On July 3rd, the 1000th video was recorded.

I'd have posted about this sooner, but the truth is, I wasn't watching the numbers, and I missed it. I'd had dreams about waiting behind the scenes with Champ and Linda holding a giant Photoshopped cake, ready to jump out as soon as video #1000 was saved. Alas, I have missed yet another good excuse to eat cake. As a sort of belated celebration however, I do have some interesting statistics to share! (Yes, I know, not nearly as tasty.)

Since the Kiosk was launched, we've recorded 1071 videos.

Of those videos recorded, 361 of them have been retained on the Kiosk.

Of those videos recorded, 137 have also been placed on our YouTube Channel.

Of those videos on the YouTube channel, 43 went onto our secret Champ playlist - which was created soon after we started sending all videos to YouTube. These videos don't meet our requirements to be featured as part of the VFL project - but we wanted to keep them around to give everyone a look at some of the creative responses we get almost daily. (76 Additional videos have also been kept in my personal "best/worst of" folder. The collection as a whole is certainly R rated - for just about everything that can earn videos an R rating. Some day, I hope to release a compilation video.)

724 of our videos feature youths.

124 of our videos feature teenagers.

126 of our videos feature adults.

97 of our videos contain a mix of the above. This is usually a parent and a toddler.

Our most popular question, with 441 responses, asks "What favorite experience or memory do you have of Lake Champlain?"

The second most popular question, with 361 responses, asks "What is the top reason people should protect Lake Champlain?"

The least popular question, with 257 responses, asks "What would you ask a researcher about Lake Champlain?"

If you've done the math and are about to point out that we're a bit off someplace, that's because 37 responses were to the two questions we decided to eliminate early into the project.

The largest percentage (38%) of videos kept are for the question on memories of Lake Champlain. The second largest (31%) is the question on top reasons to protect Lake Champlain. The lowest kept video percentage (30%) went to the least popular question, "What would you ask a researcher...", most likely due to everyone asking the researchers if they've seen Champ.

29% of Youth videos are retained.

36% of Teen videos are retained.

56% of Adult videos are retained.

374 People wanted to talk about Something Else. Most of them were probably Champ.

Most people shared memories of Summer, with 213 videos. Next came Winter, with 90. Mud season, Vermont's famous 5th season, got 62 responses. Spring - the less muddy parts of it at least - got 53. Fall got the least hits, only 27. Don't worry Fall. I still love you!

While English is by far the leading language, we have had videos in both French and Spanish. I've also heard visitors from England, Ireland, Scotland, and Australia.

Finally - in the time it took me to write this post (which, admittedly, did suffer from some disruptions) - five more videos have been recorded.

~Travis Cook, Information Technology Coordinator