Internship, part 3: 23 Things

A few general observations gleaned from my experience (by no means the full work-up of the 23 Things project):

1. There are a lot of social networking sites whose primary letter involves F, T, or P. For the handout I created for Staff Development Day announcing and explaining the 23 Things, I inserted a big graphic that consisted of lots and lots of little icons as something colorful and flashy and as a sort of implied self-quiz (“Lessee, Amazon, yeah, eBay, yeah…little pink basketball?”) Since the original image grid was just a big assembly of icons meant for download and use on a website, many of them were unrecognizable to me. As I set out to figure out what they were with the intention of posting a key to the site, I came to notice just how many sites out there have very similar icons and how often the aforementioned letters are used. Just look at F: Facebook, Flickr, Friendster, FriendFeed, Foursquare, Furl…

1a. There aren’t really any useful indices* to social networking sites, nor is there any comprehensive key to those icons– the same icons which are so often the sole representative of their services on the web. You’d think someone would’ve made a big table of all the sites they could find, plus common icons and service summary, already. At least, if there is, I sure didn’t find it, and I invested several hours into all kinds of searches. Sure, that’s a monstrous task, and sites open and close every day. However, the most comprehensive effort I could find was a 70-page listing of site after site, identified by their stylized logo, with no groupings (photography/images, social networking, design networking, microblogging, etc) or identification to suggest: “This particular little T means Tumblr!” The most useful resource lay in the “see all” links of the “Share This” features of web pages.

*not in Firefox’s dictionary, for some reason

2. People don’t read. They really, really don’t. Now, I already was aware of this, between working at an ice cream shop franchise whose discounts and coupons were usable only at their originating franchise location and hanging out on forums on which new posters often don’t even glance at the rules or any other stickied posts before plunging in.

However: library folk. Not all librarians, sure, but in the library environment and probably at least abstractly supportive of literacy and eduction.

Nonetheless, there were still multiple people who overlooked the 2 or 3 warnings to create a blog (and here’s a step-by-step, illustrated guide to 2 major blogging sites!) before they registered as participants. I wound up increasing the warnings to 4 or 5 throughout the pages, clearly enumerated the sign-up steps, and changed the font colors to add clarity. Perhaps those are constructs I should have kept in mind when publishing the first sweep of content and instructions. On a relevant tangent, I very much appreciate the thesis of Donald Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things, that maybe when lots of people–or even you in particular– consistently pull on push-open doors and fail to keep track of all the different number combinations to command phone functions, maaaaybe the design is flawed, and you are figuratively losing a fixed game. In this case, though the content was there in triplicate, I presumed people would want and have the time to read through everything. I also didn’t clearly isolate the steps of the instructions enough.

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