1. My score on the Pew Religious Knowledge quiz

    Posted September 30, 2010 in ephemera  |  No Comments so far

    The Pew Religious Knowledge survey recently found that American atheists, agnostics and Jews are actually more knowledgeable about religion than any Christian group. I thought I’d give the quiz a try too, and my results are below…

    You can try out the quiz for yourself here.

    Created with ... Evernote.com

  2. Why don’t I get Twitter?

    Posted July 15, 2008 in social media  |  3 Comments so far

    These days a lot of people like me are addicted to Twitter. Developers across the globe are coming up with interesting tools to visualise, aggregate and automatically syndicate Twitter content (or “tweets”). At conferences and speeches, audiences keep up a constant back-channel of chat using Twitter. I sporadically post to Twitter. But I don’t feel like I’m really getting Twitter.

    It’s not that I don’t see the appeal – if I could force my friends and colleagues to start using it I can imagine it becoming an addiction pretty quickly. But outside technology circles I’m usually met with blank faces whenever I mention Twitter. The end result is that whenever I tweet I feel like I’m addressing an empty room or shouting into a vacuum.

    So Twitter might be more useful to me if my real-life social networks were even partially extant within the Twitter universe. A sensible conclusion to draw from this might be that I should simply join new Twitter-based social networks and make some new friends among those who already use the service?

    That brings us to another problem with Twitter. These days we’re accustomed to social networking sites not only allowing us to connect with our real-life acquaintances, but also to search for and befriend like-minded strangers with similar interests. This doesn’t seem very easy on Twitter, however, which leads me to believe that I’m probably missing something that’s very obvious to every other user.

    I’m nothing if not persistent though so I’m going to tweet on, in the hope that I’ll undergo some sort of Twitter epiphany someday. And if you come across any of my posts, please interact with me in some way – I’ll make it worth your while!

  3. Word clouds and silver linings

    Posted July 14, 2008 in projects, research  |  No Comments so far

    Recently I carried out some user testing on a late-beta website. At the end of each test session, participants were given a piece of paper listing over 100 adjectives – both positive and negative – and asked to tick the ones most applicable to the website they’d been using.

    As the week of testing came to a close, it was possible to flick through the responses and get a sense of what adjectives were the most popular. However, it was less easy to convey this to the client in summary form.

    Of the 100 options available, just over 30 had been chosen by at least one participant, meaning that rendering the results of the survey as a bar or pie chart would be at best inelegant and at worst unintelligible. And I couldn’t chop the least popular choices just to present a simple overview, as this would skew the data and paint an artificially positive picture of how the participants had responded to the site.

    In the end I drew the results of the survey using a “word cloud” model. If you’ve used, well, the internet in the last couple of years you’ll have seen these (although the term itself may not be so familiar!). Each adjective that had been chosen at least once was displayed in the ‘cloud’, and its text size was determined by how many participants had chosen it. This meant that the most popular options stood out clearly and the less popular options, although less visible, were still legible if the diagram was studied closely.

    The resulting cloud met with a positive reception when presented to the client and helped to provide a quick and effective summary of the test sessions, especially useful for people in senior management who didn’t have time to go through the detailed analysis of the tests.

    Although I used Visio to create the cloud, there are a number of tools online that can be used to quickly generate word clouds of your own. Wordle, at http://www.wordle.com, is the one I’d most recommend.

    I’m not convinced that they’re always useful but you never know when you’ll end up in a situation where a word cloud might come in handy.

  4. Online mind-mapping tools

    Posted in software, webapps  |  No Comments so far

    What are mind mapping tools? In short, they aim to visualise the conceptual relationships that make up the structure of thought.

    When used for project planning they allow you to break down the central objective into a set of smaller, inter-related items – these items can then be arranged hierarchically. The end result is an at-a-glance overview of your project which is conceptual in nature, as opposed to the linear and temporal visualisation provided by a Gantt chart.

    A vast array of mind-mapping applications can be found online, some of which are free. However I’m more interested in their web-based counterparts, not only because the potential for sharing, publishing and collaboration is much greater, but also as the user can access their mind maps from any location (at least in theory).

    Over the next few weeks I’m planning to try out the following online mind-mapping tools and post some updates on my experiences. I’ve been interested in mind-mapping for some time but have never embraced it wholeheartedly, so maybe these tools will persuade me to become a fully-fledged convert…