Term Project

Basics

Assignment date Due Date Percent of Grade
9/14/2009 12/14/2009 30

Description

Overview

You are going to do one report on a specific topic. You should think about the report in the following context: Suppose you are an industry analyst who has had the responsibility for a specific topic. You have just found out that at the end of the year you are getting a promotion and that a new person is going to take over responsibility for your industry. The only problem is that you are not going to get to meet her — in January when she arrives you will already be off to your new position in New Zealand. You have been given the task of writing this report as a way of conveying your knowledge of the industry to the new analyst.

This topic might be a company or an industry, an industry within a country or city, a developing legal issue, or a product category. Here is a list of industry sectors that you might find useful; here is the list of student projects from Fall 2008. Just talk to me when you think you have a topic. A further requirement is the topic have current, at least weekly, developments; that is, new information is being revealed (not just found) every week. Mechanical calculator manufacturing would be a bad choice for the topic with current developments. The reason for this requirement is that information tracking is quite boring (and pointless) if nothing is currently happening related to the topic.

The report should instruct the reader about the resources that you used and a sense of how you used these resources. You should discuss the Web resources that you used for tracking the topic and for finding background information about the topic; these form the two broad divisions of your report, the status section, and the on-going developments section. These two sections will be of varying importance to varying students; some topics will be more "status"-heavy; others will have more importance on the "on-going developments" section. This report should include instructions that a person would follow if he/she wanted to have the same information delivered to him/her in coming months and wanted to focus on the same Web resources that you focused on when compiling the report. You should also convey a sense of the process that you went through in collecting the information. This research resource information should focus equally on resources that were helpful and those that were less helpful in the compiling of the report.

There will also be a third section to this report containing background, process-related information. This section will contain a listing of the blog entries that you have written plus any research notes that you might have compiled while constructing the report. The research notes page is for your personal use only; I will not be "grading" it per se. It is a holding section for information that you may or may not move to other pages for the final report. This is all that I will say in this about this page.

(Note: In your wiki you will also have a series of blogs because of the "Blog Posts" assignment you worked on throughout the semester. You should create a menu choice called "Blogs" which opens a page that links to each of your blogs. These blogs will not be graded as part of the term project.)

The focus of this report is different than your usual report; I am most interested in the information sources and how to use them and less in the actual content that you report. The content that you report ends up acting as evidence that you actually used the information resources. But what I'm really interested in are the sources, your discussion and analysis of them, and how to use them. Your reporting on information resources can be done in at least a couple of ways:

  • You might have a separate "Information Resources" section.
  • You might have information resources for your status section described within that section and for the on-going developments section described within that section.

In any case you are free to choose whatever way you want for describing the information resources.

The report itself

This report is going to be written as a wiki within the wikidot site; as you might have noticed, this is the same site that this course Web site resides on. In 2007 we used a different host that did not provide such good service. Some students moved to this site at the end of that semester with much success. In Fall 2008 we used wikidot all semester for the course site and for all student projects with great success. For the last two years I used this site for a database workshop that I taught, and I was very happy with my experience with it. You are going to write this report as a private wiki (that only you and your professor can see) until the end of the semester at which time you will make the site public. The third class period of this semester will be dedicated to teaching you how to work with this site.

Here are the things that you need to do with your wiki; this list will be evolving during the semester. (If you see that I have forgotten something, please edit this list.)

  1. Become a member of wikidot
  2. Create a site of your very own
    • Name it (with no spaces) bit330uniqname. If your uniqname is gwbush, then your wiki would be named bit330gwbush.
  3. You might find useful a series of videos that I made about creating a wiki in wikidot.
  4. Update your information in the list of student information.
  5. Modify the start page so that it properly describes your project.
  6. Add a "Assignments" page. Leave it blank for now.
  7. Add a blog:_template page.
  8. Go to the student-list-2009 page and add your information to it.

Status reports

You will have to turn in three status reports during the semester. The idea behind these is to make sure that you're on the right track, and that you have the right idea for the project so that you aren't surprised at the end when you see your grade. I didn't do these last year and I have added them at the request of students who took that class.

How to organize your project wiki

Think about the context of this wiki. It is being used as an educational resource for an incoming analyst; you, the author, is the outgoing analyst who is instructing the incoming analyst about this topic. So most of the content will be organized in a way that you think would help the incoming analyst learn about the topic. At the same time, this is a class and you want to impress me about your knowledge about the skills, techniques, and technologies that you have learned during the semester.

Here are some insights into how I think you should think about organizing your wiki:

  • The wiki home page should provide a guide as to what can be found on the site. It should be easily scannable. It should also provide links into the various parts of the site.
  • Your site should probably have the following sections:
    • Background information
      • An evaluation of the resources you used
    • Recent current events — something like a timeline, a series of blog entries; something that gives the incoming analyst an idea of what's been going on with the company recently.
    • Instructions on how to keep up with ongoing current events
      • Your blogroll will be accessible within the site
      • An evaluation of the RSS feeds that are in the blogroll, including reliability but also what the user can expect to find in each of the feeds
    • Descriptions (for me, the professor) about what techniques and technologies you used, how you used them, what they resulted in
  • The menu system should help the user navigate the site.

Don't forget that this site will be made public at the end of the semester.

How you will be graded

You will be graded on many different dimensions at the end of this semester.

  • Basics
  • Sources
    • I will definitely be looking for useful information resources that you used — whatever types of information resources that we have learned (or will learn) to use this semester, I'll be looking for evidence that you learned how to get useful information using those tools.
    • If you want to show off, then show off: Use Yahoo Pipes for something; subscribe to some page monitoring service; subscribe to NewsIsFree; see what Blogpulse can tell you; tell me how 2RSS helped you — generally, don't forget about all of the resources that I have dug up for each of the classes. See if any of them are helpful and describe for me what you find out.
    • Even if an information resource ends up being not useful, you should still document it. It would be useful for someone to know that the information resource can be ignored and it would help me (and your grade) to understand what you have tried to use (even if you don't end up using them).
    • Types of sources
      • Web pages
      • Web directory entries
      • Blogroll (containing relevant RSS feeds)
      • Deep Web resources
      • Mailing lists
      • Page monitors
      • Special RSS tools (pipes, etc.)
      • Tag site
      • Podcasts & videos
      • Images
  • Resource evaluation
    • An evaluation of each resource's validity
  • Appropriate background content
  • Appropriate current events content
  • Information specialist tutorial
    • Describe how someone might get up to speed on the topic
    • What sites to use
    • How to find new sites that might appear after you have left your position
      • This might involve using a web search alert, following specific RSS feeds, etc.
  • Appropriate use of the wiki software
    • Informative, focused start page
    • Useful top and side menus
    • Tagged pages throughout your site
    • Appropriately structured wiki pages (not too long, many links throughout the page)
      • It wouldn't make sense to just have two or three pages on the whole site. The whole idea of wiki software is to allow useful "chunking" and linking of information.

Resource factors

For each one of the resources (useful or not), the student should at least discuss the following:

  • Name: The name of the service or resource
  • Access: How a person accesses the service. For an RSS feed, you would want to list the Web page where you found the RSS feed (maybe it's the page that lists all of the Web site's RSS feeds) as well as the <span class="caps">RSS</span> feed itself. For a Web resource, you would just want to list the URL.
  • Frequency: For example, how often did you have the email alert sent, or how often did the RSS feed have new information, or how often was it necessary or useful to access the Web resource?
  • Information: The type of information this resource provided for you. If it would be useful, you might show what typical results look like or list 5-10 typical items that the query would return. (Again, only list this information if it would be useful.)
  • Query: The way that you got the resource to give you the information that you wanted.
  • Evaluation: How useful this Web site was compared to all of the other resources. Use a 10 (high) to 1 (low) scale where 5 means it was of average usefulness compared to other resources that you tried out this semester.
  • Miscellaneous: Discuss anything here that you feel would be of interest related to this resource.

How I will arrive at your project grades

Discussion

  1. I have a grading rubric (basics, sources, resource evaluation, appropriate background content, appropriate current events content, information specialist tutorial, general organization, extras) that I used to guide my grading. I have a separate page for each of you that I will fill out.
  2. Among last year's projects, the following were the few that really stood out for me:

Points to clarify

  1. Resource evaluation
    • You don't evaluate “Web resources” (as one group), you evaluate specific Web sites separately.
      • Suppose you were doing a report on a specific company. One way to evaluate resources would be to list and describe Web sites that have business related news. Better evaluations would have links to coverage of that specific industry and company, maybe via a search of that Web site, maybe via a specific column or writer at that Web site. Yes, this is more work; yes, this would mean that you would link to fewer Web sites; however, it would also mean that the links that you provide would be more useful to the reader. Simply providing a long list of business Web sites isn't that difficult or useful — do something more for me that I couldn't do simply with a quick Google search.
    • Don't forget to tell me about those Web search engine queries and blog search engine queries that were most useful for you and that would be most useful for the analyst in the future for finding certain types of information. This is quite important.
    • When telling me about Web directories, you should point to the categories within the directories (if any) that you found that are related to your project. Even if you don't find the information in the category useful because you already know of the sites, you should still link to it because the reader would know what you considered and where to look in the future for updates.
    • You don't evaluate “Tag-based sites”, you evaluate digg or furl or delicious or whatever. You might group the evaluations of these three sites together because they are all tag-based sites, but you don't evaluate them as one entity.
    • When telling me about an RSS/blog search tool, you should provide examples of the queries that you used (and links to their results if possible) when telling me whether or not the tool is useful.
  2. Background information
    • There are two main points to the background information section. First, to provide useful background information. (Shocking!) Second, to provide a series of places to go in order to read more information; an annotated list of such readings would be quite useful and appropriate.
  3. Custom search engine
    • You should list the sites included in your custom search engine in order to give the user some idea of what he/she is getting. On the Google Custom Search home page for your CSE it will list a few of the sites but it will not list all of them if you have more than five or six.
  4. Interface decisions
    • I'm not a big fan of using images in an index of other pages; they simply take up too much room and require too much scrolling (1, 2).
    • If you have a long page that requires a lot of scrolling, think about how you might break this up into smaller chunks. One way to know if it's too long: think about how you might tag the page. If you want to apply tags to specific parts of the page that don't apply to other parts of the page, then it's too long.
  5. Current events
    • Don't just describe what happened — link to articles that provide more details than the simple summary that you provide. You should provide a short summary — show me that you thought about the event you're linking to.
  6. Information specialist tutorial: This should be a fairly major section of the report. Think of how you would teach another BBA who (horror of horrors) didn't take this class and who isn't familiar with your topic but who is Web-savvy:
    • What Web sites should they start with?
    • What search tools should they use to find more sites in the future? What hints can you provide about useful queries? Could you put together a custom search engine to make it easier to search these sites?
    • How useful are social sites? Are any specific tags more or less useful? Which specific sites did you find most useful?
    • For Web directories, did you find them useful? What categories did you find related to your topic?
    • For news sites and blog search engines, did you find any categories that were useful? What searches do you suggest they use? Could you put together a Yahoo Pipe to help combine these queries to make them easier to find?
    • Did you find useful images at any of the image search engines? What queries were most useful?
    • For podcasts and videos, were there any channels that had useful content on a related industry or on your company?
    • Did any alternative search engines provide information specifically tailored to your topic? What were they, and how were they helpful?
    • And so on, and so on.

Fantastic examples

In the following I list example pages within project wikis that really stood out as great examples of what I was hoping to see.

  1. Home page
    1. Software as a Service: good menus (top and side), good intro text, other useful information readily available
    2. SEMCOG Transit Panel: easily scannable, much information available in the top half of the page, good intro text.
    3. Alternative energy: easily scannable information on page, usefully organized side menus (top menus could have been better).
  2. Resource evaluation
    1. Software as a Service
    2. Apple Inc.
  3. Background information
    1. Alternative energy: notice the introductory text, the links to further readings and resources (of all types), and a pertinent video to kick things off.
    2. Start-ups: some introductory text, and links with descriptions to further readings and resources (of all types).
  4. Tutorial
    1. Software as a Service
    2. Social Networking: an absolutely fantastic way to structure this information (for this particular project).
  5. Blogroll
    1. Software as a Service
  6. Integration of Yahoo Pipe output into wiki
    1. Start-ups: this is a great example of using the Feed module to integrate an RSS feed — in this case, from a Yahoo pipe — directly into a wiki page.
  7. News
    1. Software as a Service: for this type of project, with lots of sub-topics, this is a useful formatting strategy
    2. Apple Inc.: useful summaries and organizational strategy for this project
    3. Investment banking: I like this style of writing a summary and providing links to a couple of related stories below it. (I'm indifferent to the pics, especially as used in the index because it makes it too long.)
  8. Site design tips and tricks
    1. Disney: this wasn't part of the project, but it (apparently!) is something that interests Susan, so she wrote up a bunch of tips on using wikidot.
  9. Custom Search Engine
    1. Mortgage Industry: included all the information that I need to understand the CSE.
    2. Alternative energy: interesting way of integrating the CSE into the site
    3. Start-ups: puts CSE high on home page and provides a useful link to an explanation of what it's actually searching.
  10. Providing information about a resource type that ends up not being useful:
    1. Alternative energy
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