You are going to do one report on a specific topic. (You will find related pages at wikis and the list of student wikis.) 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. 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.

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. Last year 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. 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) bit330f08uniqname. If your uniqname is gwbush, then your wiki would be named bit330f08gwbush.
  3. Modify the start page so that it properly describes your project.
  4. Add an "Assignments" page. Leave it blank for now.
  5. Add a blog:_template page.
  6. Go to the student-list 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.

  • RSS lab (day 8, September 29; 5%)
    • Decide on topic
    • Have wiki site created
    • Describe topic on “start” page of your wiki
    • Enter information about topic on this wiki's topic page (here)
    • Be sure to have talked with me about your topic before this day
  • Project day (day 12; 5%)
    • Should have added list of relevant Web pages, Web sites (description of why they're included), links to specific Web directory entries, RSS feeds (description of why they're included), news feed searches (description of why they're included)
    • Developing page on background information
    • Developing page on ongoing events
  • "People search" day (day 21; 5%)
    • More resources on existing pages, better organized as well
    • Should have added list of relevant resources from the Deep Web, description of page monitors that you used, description of email alerts that you used
  • End of term (day 27; 25%)
    • By now you should have added a custom search engine to the site
    • Should have added tag-based sites information

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.
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