Syllabus

Here is much of the information that students typically think of as being part of the course syllabus:

Software

I use a Macintosh computer (all varieties: desktop, laptop, mini, iMac). I try to use the Firefox browser as much as possible. I also have the Safari web browser installed on my computer. I prefer Firefox since it has focused on cross-platform availability from the beginning. It also has a large community of developers behind it.

I have installed the following on my browser:

  1. Extensions
    1. Download Statusbar
    2. PDF Download
    3. delicious browser buttons
    4. GoogleBar
  2. Search engines
    1. delicious.com
    2. MarketWatch
    3. Technorati
    4. wikipedia
  3. Other
    1. adblock extension — prevents ads from appearing in your Web pages that you view

Why Take This Class

Do you want to learn about how to use Google and Yahoo to a more in-depth level than the average student? Do you want to know where and how to find interesting blogs, images, and podcasts? How about RSS feeds and email alerts? Do you want to know how to use software to monitor Web pages without programming? Finally, do you want to learn how to stay current on developments in all of these areas after you leave UM? (After all, technology is going to continue to change after you leave school.)

If so, this class is for you. (If not, then run far, far away.)

In this course we will learn all about the above. We will explore these tools from the perspective of an undergrad who will soon be entering the workforce and will have to successfully, efficiently, and effectively gather and monitor information on many topics. This is not a class about building Web pages or writing HTML or using delicious.com — it is about finding information on the Web and having it delivered to you with a minimum of effort. You will conduct and write up and experiment in which you compare two web search tools. You will also write a report in which you describe web resources needed to find and track information related to two different topics. You will get participation credit in the course in a variety of ways (of your choice), including writing a blog, creating a podcast, creating a tutorial, teaching the class how to use a particular Web resource, etc. Finally, there will be two small tests (but no final exam) during the semester.

UM & Ross Calendar 2009

For more information, you should look at the Ross Business School calendar and the official UM Academic calendar for Fall 2009.

Holiday or event Date(s)
Ramadhan Aug 21 — Sept 19
Classes begin Sept 8
Rosh Hashanah Sept 18 — 20
Id al-Fitr Sept 21
Yom Kippur Sept 27 — 29
Sukkot Oct 2 — 4
Shemini Atzeret Oct 9 — 11
Diwali Oct 16 — 18
Fall Study break Oct 19 — 20
Thanksgiving break Nov 26 — 29
Id al-Adha Nov 27
Classes end Dec 14
Exams Dec 16 — 23

Course FAQ

Here are some smart-aleck answers to questions that both I and the student wished hadn't ever been asked. These are all actual questions from actual students.

Will this be on the test?
Yes — otherwise, why discuss it in class? Of course, the answer is "no" if it's obviously not going to be on the test.
Do we have to write in complete sentences?
no, u can rite how u want — its not lik were in collige wher spelin & grammr mattrs
I didn't come to class (on some particular day). Did we do anything important?
No. I saw that you weren't in attendance and cancelled all of the regularly scheduled activities.
I won't be coming to class on (some particular day). Will we be doing anything important?
Do we ever? What we do on any day is generally no more important than any other day. If you miss a day, check the Web site and check with your friends, enemies, or random classmates to see what you missed.
Can I have an extension on this assignment? I have been sick/will be going on a flyback/want to visit my friends/have too much other homework.
No, you can't have an extension. You will receive a penalty of 20% for each day that your assignment is late. Be you sick, dead, afflicted with leprosy, tortured with scurvy — you take the penalty if the work doesn't get turned in.
Are you finished grading the assignment yet?
Yes, I finished grading the assignments and decided that I would keep them until you asked me about them. Thanks for reminding me.

Course Policies

Honor code
Personal integrity and professionalism are fundamental values of the Ross Business School community. This course will be conducted in strict conformity with the Academic Honor Code. The Code and related procedures can be found at this page. The site also contains comprehensive information on how to be sure that you have not plagiarized the work of others. Claimed ignorance of the Code and related information appearing on the site will be viewed as irrelevant should a violation take place. Non-Ross Business School students taking the course should also familiarize themselves with the Code as they will be subject to the Code as well while in this course.
Interviewing
Neither going to an office visit nor having an interview are valid excuses for missing an exam, turning an assignment in late, or not contributing to group work. It is up to you to ensure that you can contribute sufficiently to your project.
Showing up late for class
I have no trouble with you showing up late for class (provided that you have some reasonable reason for being late — don't simply make it a habit to show up late); however, I do ask that you not disturb the class by walking to or across the front (especially if the professor is lecturing or leading a discussion).
Turning in assignments late
If you turn in an assignment after it is due, you will be penalized a minimum of 20% if it's turned in by the end of the day it is due, 50% if it is turned in the next day, and no credit for any time after that.
Attendance
I do not care if you come to class or not come to class. Really. Just so long as you turn in your assignments and do not have an adverse effect on the learning or grades of your classmates, it is up to you whether or not you come to class. However, know this: It is my goal to make coming to class be an indispensable part of your learning!
Services for Students with Disabilities
If you need an accommodation for a disability, please let me know at your earliest convenience. Some aspects of the course, the assignments, and the in-class activities may be modified to facilitate your participation and progress. As soon as you make me aware of your needs, we can work with the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities to help us determine appropriate accommodations. I will treat information you provide as private and confidential.
Computer-related caution
Since this course is dependent on computers (and their ability to be up and running), some adjustments may be made to the course syllabus and contents throughout the term. This may affect the timing of the assignments and other course activities. At various points in the term, the course schedule might be issued. (You should always assume that any printed schedule is out-of-date; look to the course Web site for the most up-to-date schedule.) Also, although UM and the Ross School supports the software and network being used for this course, and even though we are using sophisticated computers, nothing that involves computers ever goes as smoothly as planned. Please understand that this may result in certain inconveniences to you. Your responsibility in these matters is to report serious disturbances to the professor as soon as possible.
Religious holidays
I am aware of the religious holidays scheduled to take place this semester. I am also aware of, and fully supportive of, the University's policies on religious holidays and academic conflict. I believe that we do not have any assignments scheduled to be turned in on any of these days. However, we do have classes scheduled on some of these days; I encourage you to meet with other students and read the Web page to see what information you might have missed. After having done both of these, then you can come to me during office hours to get any clarification you might need.
Thanksgiving
We will be holding a class the Monday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving. It will be a regular class day. You can miss it just as you can miss any other class day, but you will be held responsible for the information just as you will be for any other class.
Adding the class late
If you have missed the first three days of class, then you may not add this class. You will have missed too much information.
Final exam
We will not have a final exam.

Course Readings

We are not using any books in this class. If there are articles that you are supposed to read, I will either hand them out or provide you with a link so that you can access it online.

Course Goals

The following are the goals that I have for students in the course:

  1. Search the Web efficiently and effectively using a variety of search engines
  2. Usefully compare and contrast the features of Web search engines
  3. Reliably assess and discuss the quality of an information resource
  4. Choose an appropriate search engine based on a specific information need
  5. Use a variety of search engines to efficiently and effectively search RSS feeds
  6. Use a variety of search engines and a variety of delivery mechanisms to keep up with news and current events related to a specific topic
  7. Use page monitors to track changes and updates related to specific pieces of information
  8. Use a wiki to organize and present information
  9. Write an informative, well-structured blog
  10. Use tags to describe information with the goal of building a useful personal information document database

Course Background

Information retrieval has traditionally been conceived of in terms of precision and recall. The results of a search engine query are said to have high precision if a high percentage of the retrieved documents are relevant to the user's question. The results are said to have high recall if the search engine returned a high percentage of the relevant documents from the whole document base. These types of measures were particularly relevant in thinking about the performance of search engines in the context of professional searchers, well-defined topics, and document collections of fewer than a couple hundred thousand.

Now that search engines must do their job for regular people searching for documents related to ill-defined topics within document collections numbering in the billions, the discussion concerning information retrieval should take on a whole new direction. Precision and recall are still relevant; however, new concerns are more central to the discussion. In this context the important dimensions to consider when thinking about the choice of a search engine are its ability to support the discovery of a query result's structure, the exploration of that structure, and a facility for helping a user be aware of pertinent changes to a document repository. Discovering the structure is part of the interactive process the user goes through both to help him/her learn about what documents are available and to help him/her refine the query. Exploring the structure is the process the user goes through when learning about how the documents (returned as the result of a query) might be clustered and how the clusters might be related to each other. Change notification is a tool that allows a person to keep up with changes (relevant to a particular query or set of documents) as they occur in some structured and facilitated way.

Further, searchers also are interested in the delivery form of the information, the automation level of the query, and the type of the information. The delivery form is the underlying technological infrastructure within which the information is delivered (email, text message, Web page, or RSS feed). The automation level of the query (and the resulting information) refers to whether the user could set up an automated monitor to deliver the information or if he/she would have to perform the query each time he/she wants the information. The type of information refers to whether the information comes from a reference site (acting as a primary source of some information), a mainstream media site (newspaper or journal), or a more opinion-based site (a blog or wiki). Knowing the document type is not simply of academic interest; it determines which search engines cannot be used (since they do not index the document type of interest). The document type also is an indicator of the quality of the data. The choice of search engine and the user's overall query strategy are determined by the user's desired delivery form, how automated he wants the delivery of the information to be, and where the user thinks the information should come from.

Finally, the scope, scale, and variety of information are so vast that a person cannot hope to have complete knowledge of anything but the most obscure topic. This is where the interrelationships among the types of information can help the searcher find relevant information and reference sites. Blogs tend to be focused on specific topics and attempt to follow developments reported on in the mainstream media; they also tend to point out reference sites that they find to be of interest and value. Mainstream media sites tend to provide well organized access to specific topics, provide easy-to-access archives of stories, and provide informative articles that provide both useful overviews of specific topics and their own opinion about the usefulness of both online and real world reference sites. If a person is interested in some specific topic, both blogging sites and the mainstream media can be used to search for and filter information that might be of interest. Thus, even if a person is simply interested in the reference sites related to a specific topic, reading and tracking relevant bloggers and mainstream media sites can be an effective way of discovering new sites and gaining knowledge of current developments related to them.

All of the above leads to the goals of this class. The student is going to learn how to evaluate Web search engines according to a variety of criteria, including how well it performs (precision, recall), how well it supports the search process (discovery of and exploration of structure), the continued monitoring of a topic (change notification), the delivery forms that it supports, the automation level it provides, and the type of information it can retrieve. The student is also going to learn how to use a variety of search engines (for Web pages, blog sites, RSS feeds) and search tools (email alerts, page monitors) to search for and monitor Web pages and blogs in order to learn how to more efficiently learn about a topic and keep updated with changes related to that topic.

Bibliography
1. "30,000 Hits May Be Better Than 300: Precision Anomalies in Internet Searches", by Caroline M. Eastman, Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, Volume 53, Issue 11, p 879-882.
2. "Towards information retrieval measures for evaluation of Web search engines", by Jacek Gwizdka and Mark Chignell, unpublished manuscript, 1999.
3. "Information overload, retrieval strategies and Internet user empowerment", by Christopher N. Carlson, in Haddon, Leslie, Eds. Proceedings The Good, the Bad and the Irrelevant (COST 269) 1(1), pp. 169-173, Helsinki (Finland), 2003.
4. "Criteria for Evaluating Information Retrieval Systems in Highly Dynamic Environments", by Judit Bar-lian, in Proceedings of the 2nd International Workshop on Web Dynamics (May 2002).
5. The Deep Web: Surfacing Hidden Value , by Michael K. Bergman, The Journal of Electronic Publishing, 7:1 (August 2001).
6. "Accessing the Deep Web", by Bin He, Mitesh Patel, Zhen Zhang, and Kevin Chen-Chuan Chang, Communications of the ACM, 50:5 (May 2007), pages 94-101.

Formal Course Description

The following is the course description as it appears in the University's course catalog:

This courses focuses on a student's need (both while as a student and in the future while working in business) to be familiar with business information resources. The student will learn about different types of information resources on the Web, strategies for effectively and efficiently accessing these resources, and the tools and Web sites currently available for managing that access. This class is targeted at any student who is going into business and believes that he/she will need to be comfortable and productive with the process of monitoring the Internet for information.

Course Facts

This is basic information about the class.

  1. Catalog #: BIT 330
  2. Name: Web-based Information Resources
  3. Professor: Scott Moore (samooresamoore)
  4. Target: Undergraduates, especially BBAs
  5. School: Ross School of Business
  6. Dates: September—December 2009
  7. Credit hours: 3
  8. Sections:
    • 1: MW, 11:30am-1pm
  9. Location: Tozzi Center, E1405
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