Archivy etc.

opinions, occasional rants, and sometimes things that have nothing to do with archives at all. Nothing here should be assumed to be reflective of my employer's opinion(s) nor should it be assumed that at anytime afterward, this is what I still think.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

ADR-1: Business resources, question 1.

Okay, so this week was business resources. I'm not at my finest here, so bear with me. I was going to do the whole thing in one blog entry but the reality is that I got so incredibly lost in this assignment that I had a choice. I could give you just the answers, or I could tell you the experience, or both. (Shades of my math major days when if you showed your work, you could still occasionally save your grade despite having the wrong answer.) So here's the thing. Each of the questions will have a separate blog entry. Since they were all taking me forever to do, I needed to break up the assignments anyhow. Who was it that said this would take maybe an hour a week? I don't think they were thinking about me... Since it took me approximately 2 hours to answer question number one--note, that's just the question, not elapsed time for reading the curriculum which I had done prior--and write up the "how I did it piece," I'm doing it in chunks. If I can get more than one answer in one blog entry, I will, but after question 1, this isn't looking so promising and I think I need to quit for tonight.

1) Go to the Business Search Interface. Find the Microsoft Corporation company report. Open the Datamonitor Report. Who is the Chief Financial Officer? What did he do before coming to Microsoft?

Answer: Peter Klein, 13 years in "corporate finance" in Seattle. (I could copy/paste the rest, but at this point you know I found it as I should have, on page 17-18 of the report.)

I'd like to tell you a little bit about this week's exercise for me. I was having a real problem completing it from work. I had a lot of work to do, and I just couldn't dedicate the time to it there easily. So about Wednesday evening I figured, what the heck? I was sitting at home just doing my nails, why not haul the laptop (a two month old MacBook Pro) over and open Safari on up and try to do it? No such luck. I clicked on Daniel's link right into Business Search Interface. Ebsco wanted a login. I don't have a login. It never occurred to me that I'd need one because I wasn't asked for a login from my UAA computer (well, yeah, we probably subscribe to it there and my IP address at work is in a recognized range.)  Hmm, I thought, maybe I have to go in through SLED. So I pulled up and clicked on a few links ("Business and commercial" and the "Hot Topics" tab) and nothing looked like the very colorful blocked page we'd gone in through in the lesson. After a few more seconds of staring at the URL provided in the class information, I realized that was because I was supposed to click on the Digital Pipeline from the main SLED page, not go in through Business and Commercial. (Well, I thought it was obvious that you could get to there from here...) That all sussed out, I found the appropriate page and clicked on the BSI link and again, login requested. So much for my theory that going through SLED would get me there.

How do I get that login? It's not in the course stuff that I could find--I checked the Week zero instructions, re-read over the week's curriculum, looked for a FAQ, no luck. Looking at the Digital Pipeline site, I finally spotted the large "Need a password? Call 1-800" hint on the left. But look, I'm cheap. I used to work for places that had 1-800 numbers, and I knew darn well the agencies took it in the financial teeth back then every time somebody dialed their 800 number--it all rang through as a business hours long distance call, no matter when it was or even if it was a local call. So none of that, I don't need to be running up ALN's phone bill for a research attempt that isn't even real, I decided. [update from 2 hours later: I went back to the course site and finally spotted the FAQs tab that had the login info. Um, web designers of the world? I don't care what anybody says, tabs are NOT visible. They're a clever organizational design concept that doesn't work. Please stop using them.]

So what does any puzzled library employee do? Call up her own ref desk. I got a rather bemused ref librarian who said "what are you doing? Are you at HOME?" and then went and checked to see if he had the appropriate info. He did, and gave it to me. While he was looking, he pondered aloud that it was weird that my IP address hadn't been recognized, which made the lightbulb go off for me: see, I'm working through Clearwire at home. And they pretty much moved out of Alaska a few months back. They're still providing service (probably through somebody else) but made it clear that if I ever canceled my hookup, I'd never be able to re-establish it through them here. So probably--like way back yonder when we used to read our web stats and half our users seemed to come from VA because that's where AOL was located--Clearwire's IP range isn't registered in AK. My curiosity got the better of me (see why it takes me SO long to do these sorts of assignments?) I went and found an ip address lookup site and whaddya know, it's listing me as being in Anchorage AK. Why I couldn't just go in the database, I don't know. So much for that assumption. And of course, since I couldn't leave that alone and the IP address lookup thing also had a Google map with a pointer, I zoomed in til I found the location on the map which was nowhere near my place, or anything really, but in the vicinity of a street named Honey Bear Lane up in the hills between Bear Valley & Glen Alps and of course that made me think of Honey Badger which just gave me the giggles...

I'd like to point out that when I'm working a real reference desk, I stick to topic and not go off on these weird tangents. At least not where the researchers can see me do it, anyhow. I'm not that insane.

At that point I was able to log in, but I'd so totally lost the thread of everything that I'd been doing that I had to go back and look at the BSP documentation to figure out how to do the search... Nothing like watching a tutorial twice! Except here's the thing: the interface that I'd logged into? Didn't look like the one I had seen in the tutorial. Under the search box there, it had buttons for Keyword, Company, Industry... and so forth. That wasn't the interface I was looking at. Well, no wonder. I hadn't lost the thread of what I'd watched: it wasn't the same search interface! Sigh. At the top of the page I had, there was a tab/link for "Company profiles" so I figured, what the heck? Following directions clearly was not working, it was time to get creative. I clicked on that, got the alpha list, typed Microsoft in the search box so it would bump me to the appropriate section of the alpha list, and there was the Datamonitor report. (Thank heavens. If it had been something else, I think I would have started throwing the nail polish bottles.)

But I am kind of curious as to why I was looking at a totally different search interface for BSP in real time than was presented in the powerpoint and flash tutorials. The tutorial versions sort of made sense to me. What I was looking at looked like a much more generic search interface that wasn't oriented to the business world the way the tutorial ones were, and thus made it a lot less intuitive. What button or delimiter did I fail to click? Because I understand the point of the exercise wasn't to find this specific information, it was to get comfortable in looking for a variety of data from companies. Only I ended up frustrated and focused on the exact answer needed so I could do the assignment and move on, instead of really learning how to make use of this database. [Update from next day: I went back into BSP from my work account and the interface looked exactly like the one in the tutorial. The intuitive one, you know? So I went into Academic Search Premier from the Consortium Library site and lo and behold, the interface I'd seen from home was the standard EBSCOHost interface, not the database-specific one. See? I wasn't totally crazy. But I'm thinking a member of the public who had a librarian walk them through this process on-site and then tried it at home would be in about the same shape I was.]

So I open the report, go look at the CFO's name, bop down a few pages to the bios, and read this guy's really boring bio. Total elapsed time from start to finish? About 20 minutes. Out of curiosity, I did a comparison test. I went to Google, typed in 'Microsoft "chief financial officer"', clicked on the second link entitled "Peter Klein, Corporate Vice President and Chief Financial Officer" since it was from the MS website and appeared to be their PR department and what do you know? The exact bio as it appeared in the Datamonitor report. (How much do the research wonks at Datamonitor get paid, anyhow?) Yes, I get that this isn't the point. I get that not everything is what it appears to be in a Google results list. I get that this information may not be quite so accessible for less well-known companies. I get the the Datamonitor report probably has tons more information that isn't sitting publicly on the MS company site (or I hope not, I wasn't likely at that point to go do a side-by-side comparison for the whole thing). And I get that the likelihood of any researcher walking in the door and asking how to find MS's CFO's name and business bio is next to nil, this was just the chosen data item for the exercise and arbitrary tasks often result in outlier results. But elapsed time? Less than 30 seconds. I'm thinking Google wins over EBSCO on this round, even if you take my "how do I log in" time out of it.

And now it may become suddenly more clear why I'm often a sought-after person for usability testing. If it can be broken, I'll break it. And in some really creative ways. But since that's far too depressing, I'll leave you with a picture of my cats blithely ignoring my intense research efforts tonight.

And yes, that's an interlibrary loan wrap you see on the book behind them. Since it's due in about a week, I think I'll go back to reading it instead.


  1. Hi Arlene,

    Thanks so much for the pictures of your kitties. They're beautiful and made me happy.

    I appreciate the constructive feedback you offered. As a result of your comments about finding passwords, the Digital Pipeline number is now near the top of every blog page.

    To try and clear up the interfaces question, please visit and copy and paste the results to me in an e-mail.

    15-30 minutes per week is an estimate I came up with based on what was reported out of the South Dakota Electronic Resources Challenge and trying to compare their resources and discovery exercises with ours. Looks like I have more ground truthing to do.

    I think you and the other participants will find that some lessons will take significantly less time than others. Hope you'll hang in there and find out.

  2. I suspect I was about the worst outlier on this particular lesson, so no worries! I think that rather than getting scared, any of the other participants who read this will be on the floor convulsed with laughter at all the ways a patron (or me) can mess up a simple exercise.

    Glad you like the pictures of the kitties. They are sweeties. The big orange one is Dief (short for Diefenbaker, yes, the late Canadian Prime Minister) and the little one is Lia (short for Centimillia, Mary Astor's character in The Palm Beach Story.) I see I'll have to throw in more pics of them to make up for my current reputation as Worst Student in an Online Course EVAH.

  3. omg! It took me 2 hours to read your answer! No wonder you were having problems--if you had a proper internet provider, it would have been a piece of cake!