October 2008 Archives

Assigned Text:

Kilian, Ch7, Ch8

Assigned Text:

Creative Hypertext

Sorrells, The Heist

Complete Kilian Ex 4 (do 2 of the 4 examples), Kilian Ex 5 (3 of 3), and create and upload a hyperlinked resume as described in Ch7.


I will e-mail you  hand you in class on Monday a brief evaluation (each of four categories, evaluated on a scale of 0-5.  A final score of 5 is a D, 10 is a C, 15 is a B, and 20 is an A. 

1) Format/Completeness
On time and without any serious troubles, were you able to publish and publicize (via posting a working URL to the course website) an online resume?
Have you shown you understand file folder structure and URL naming conventions?

2) Readability/Design
Is the text legible? (Not too small, not too fancy?)
Are you using subheadings, bold keywords, bulleted lists, and other features of online text? (Avoiding long blocks of visually boring text)

3) Layout/Links
Are there great swaths of unused space, or are you filling the screen effectively?
Is it actually hypertext (or just a print document shoveled online)?

4) Content/Ambition
Does the content reflect your strengths and ambitions?
Does the project demonstrate a willingness to engage meaningfully with an opportunity to develop your skills as an online writer?

Note that hyperfiction is not something you rush through in order to get to the end. Like all works of literature, hyperfiction demands careful reading and re-reading. Pay attention to the ride.

Assigned Text:

Creative Hypertexts

Write a brief personal response to your encounter with these texts.

Now that you have recorded your personal feelings, move beyond "I liked it" or "I was bored," and focus instead on the texts themselves. What do these texts illustrate about electronic writing, that the more business-focused approach of Kilian's book does not cover? How do these authors use the digital medium, in order to achieve an effect that would be difficult or impossible in print?

Scan this handout on "Close Reading" for tips on moving beyond personal reflection and summary, towards an intellectual analysis of the text itself.
Briefly, exchange feedback with two classmates on their online resumes.  This is advance work for Ex 2-2 (Part 2), which is due Friday.

Just for Fun

Since we've had the chance to play a bit with readability scores, I was amused by this (mostly humorous) news analysis, which refers to a comparison of the gade level of the sentences spoken by Sarah Palin and Joe Biden at last Thursday's vice presidential debate.  (I'm just posting this here for fun... if you're not that interested in it, you don't need to blog about it.)
Assigned Text:

Electronic Literature

Electronic literature is a constantly changing field.

Many authors recognize the feeling of being "lost" in a digital text, and try to exploit it for artistic effect. In other cases, it's necessary for the user to confront the discomfort that comes from being "lost" and overcome it, just as we have to accept commercial breaks on TV, the lack of pictures in novels, and the omission of whole subplots when a book is made into a movie.

The following exercise, which involves reading four literary and one critical work, and writing two short blog entries and one longer hyperlinked essay, is intended to give some structure to your encounter with electronic literature.

  1. Explore for 30 minutes.
    Choose four items from the Electronic Literature Collection Volume 1.  Interact with each for 5-10 minutes, and record your reflections in a brief blog entry.
  2. Investigate for 30 minutes.
    Of the four items you chose, select one to interact with for at least another half hour. (If the text is short and you exhaust it before time is up, go on to another item.)  Record your more detailed experiences in a separate blog entry. (Include a link to the items you chose to investigate.)
  3. Engage for 30 minutes. Keeping in mind these encounters with electronic literature, read "Is Hypertext Fiction Possible?" (George P. Landow), and return to your electronic literature selections for further reading as necessary.
  4. Synthesize.
    Write Ex 2-3, a richly-linked blog essay (roughly 750 words) that records your reactions. Because your first two blog entries will likely record what it felt like to encounter these texts and make them reveal their literary content, this essay should move beyond "It was fun" or "It was boring" and instead discuss the works themselves. (See this handout on "Close Reading").

During class, I will introduce you to interactive fiction.

Due Today:

Portfolio 2

Most of this is the same as the instructions for the last portfolio, but section 1A is different.

If you have revised your online resume, and you'd like me to look at it again, feel free to call my attention to it by including it in an appropriate category.

1A) Write a new blog entry that offers a thoughtful, reflective critique of Crawford Kilian's Writing for the Web, bearing in mind that his editor has asked him to publish a new edition.

  • What strengths should Kilian keep, and what weaknesses should the revision address? 
  • You may include links to entries you have previously posted, and/or links to what your classmates have written on the subject.
Note: Demonstrate your ability to offer constructive criticism. Don't shirk from calling attention to weaknesses, but avoid playing "gotcha."  For tips on offering constructive criticism that your audience will actually accept, read "How To Deliver a Report Without Getting Lynched.")

1B) As you did for your last portfolio, create a new entry on your weblog, with a title that emphasizes what you feel you have accomplished so far this term. Write a brief introduction that introduces the class and your portfolio to a reader who doesn't know the purpose of the assignment or what the class is supposed to cover.

2) Use material you have posted on your blog to support your statement about what you learned. You may give a simple bulleted list, or you may write a paragraph that includes key words that link to specific pages on your site.

When including a blog entry, write some significant words, such as the title of the entry or the reason you are including it in your blog, and turn those significant words into a link. (Please don't use neutral words like "click here" or "my homework" or "foreshadowing in 'A Good Man Is Hard to Find'" for the links... make your words communicate the insight contained in your blog entry: "Emily Dickinson is a sick cookie.")

Sort and organize your entries into the following broad categories.  (I definitely do NOT want just the URLs of every entry you have posted.)

2A) Coverage: Link to one or several entries that include a direct quote from the assigned reading, that identify the source of the quote, and that links back to the course web page devoted to that reading. (Link to your Kilian Review Essay under the "Coverage" section of your blog.)

2B) Timeliness: Link to one or several entries that you posted on time (such as agenda items posted 24 hours before the class discussion, or reflection papers posted before the class meeting... something you posted during a classroom exercise would be a weak contribution here).

2C) Interaction: Include one or several entries that demonstrate your ability to interact with peers. Your entry might link to something a classmate posted, or your entry might have attracted comments from peers. If someone leaves a comment, you should reply to the comment in order to try to keep the conversation going.

2D) Depth: Include one or several links to entry on your blog that shows your ability to write in depth.  (Link to your Kilian Review Essay under the "Depth" section of your blog.)

2E) Discussion: Include one or several links to a page on a classmate's blog where you left a significant comment that was part of a fruitful discussion. (Would "Good job!" or "LOL" count as significant comments? Probably not.)

3) Submit your portfolio by posting a link to it on this page.

Read and/or listen to the "Introduction," "Scott Adams Speaks", and "Parser Fun."

Summary: Review two classmates' online resumes, and write a brief essay about the changes you made to your own.  Upload the essay to Turnitin.com, and post the URL of your resume on this page.

Fall Break


IF Discussion

We will discuss some of the conventions of interactive fiction, with an eye towards understanding what's happening to the commands you type.

As our examples today, we'll play Adventure as a class, and you'll have time to play 9:05 on your own.

Assigned Text:

IF Readings

First, print out these instructions for playing interactive fiction games (also known as "text adventures").

In pairs, choose 3 of the 5 interactive fiction texts. 

Find a partner on your own -- you're welcome to use this space to help you stay in touch. Just agree, with your partner, what games you plan to play. You don't need to be in the same room to play them, though it might be helpful.

Start by sampling (or at least reading about) the games mentioned on this page. http://www.1up.com/do/feature?cId=3168303 Play each for 15 minutes, and then spend at least another hour playing whichever game(s) you wish.
  1. Lost Pig
  2. Ecydisis
  3. Tales of the Traveling Swordsman
  4. Galatea
  5. Photopia

If you'd like some more choices than that, I suggest

Not in the same class, but possibly of interest because you may know the author.

Come to class ready to talk about your experience. Friday's assignment will ask you to present your reactions in the form of a website. You're welcome to blog your responses so you can use them for the next portfolio assignment, but you can also just save them and put them on the web site for Friday.

In class, demonstrate your ability to improve a sample website by rewriting and reorganizing the content.

Update: I don't think we need to do this exercise. I'm more than satisfied by the revisions I saw on your resumes, and the other online writing you've been doing.

As a team, create a simple website with a home page, a separate page for each of the 3 games you selected, and another separate page on the additional hour you spent playing.

Optional: I encourage you to draw on some of what you learned from your encounter with the creative hypertexts. Feel free to make your website creative, rather than simply informative. (If you break any rules, be prepared to share your reasons for doing so.)

Usability, affordances, design, and the project cycle.

Update, 17 Oct:

Remember to e-mail me a summary of the responses you got from the class, and your reaction to the exercise (both in terms of what you learned about your own site, and what you learned from watching the peer presentations). You and your partner can send me a single message under both of your names -- I don't require separate summaries from each team member.

It would be most convenient if your e-mail summary were to include the URL of the site you are talking about (though I noticed in class today that everyone's link from the course website was working fine -- good job).

Assigned Text:

Krug, Intro-Ch3

See also (http://jerz.setonhill.edu/design/usability/intro.htm).

This short video does a pretty good job reinforcing some concepts that we've talked about in class, though the ending makes me a bit uncomfortable recommending it, in that "Please don't let any SHU administrators or my parents know that I've assigned this thing because they really wouldn't understand" way.

With an intro like that, you're curious right?  It's just a couple minutes long.

Introduction to Inform 7.

Due Today:

Ex 3-1: IF Exercise

Use the IFDB to select 3 games; play each for 15 minutes (and write a half-page on each); choose one to play for another hour (and write a page on it).

Assigned Text:

Krug, Ch4-6

Assigned Text:

Krug, Ch7-8

  1. Read the Usability Testing handout that's also on the list for today.
  2. Find two websites that serve an intended audience that is accessible to you. (If you live on campus, pick a site intended to appeal to dorm residents.  If you live under a bridge, pick a site that appeals to the neighboring family of trolls.) You are going to need to watch at least two different people using the websites you choose, so you'll need to pick a site that's intended for the kinds of people you can use as usability testers.
  3. Analyze the purpose of the sites. What are users supposed to do on the site? (Sign up for a service, download a file, fill out an application, reserve a ticket, etc.)  Design a usability test that asks your volunteers to carry out the kinds of tasks that real users will need to carry out.
    1. Note that question such as "Do you like the color scheme?" or "Did you understand the layout?" is meaningless.
    2. Come up with concrete tasks -- facts to find, newsletters to sign up for, files to upload, etc.
    3. Based on your findings, write up a series of recommendations. (Feel free to send your recommendations to the webmasters for real -- just make sure that you frame your comments as constructive criticism, not an attack.)
    4. Upload your report (2-3 pages) into the slot on Turinitin.com. (Here are some models of a typical business report... I'd accept a five-paragraph essay, too, but if you want practice communicating in the corporate world, here are better formats to use: the memo, or the short report.) 
    5. You are welcome to post your findings on your blog, but that's optional.
Sample usability research.  (You should pick a different topic, but use this narrative to plan your own usability testing.)

  • I'm going to test SHU's website and St. Vincent's websites, and I'm going to take the point of view of a high school junior who's in the early stages of the college application process.
  • I send a survey out to current SHU students and current St. Vincent's students, and I learn that most of them trade web links with their parents, and most of them spend at least a little time exploring college websites together.
  • Based on what I learned from the survey, I'm going to set up a test in which I invite a high school junior and his/her parent to look at the school websites for the first time.  I want to observe what happens when a vistior comes to the site for the first time, so I'm not going to test anyone who has been to either website before.
  • My survey indicated that current students were attracted by the campus facilities, range of programs, athletics, and financial aid package (in that order). So, I'm gonig to create a series of questions, and see how long it takes for the testers to answer the questions.
    1. What is the most recent construction project on campus? What is the next big planned project on campus?
    2. How many majors does the school offer? How many faculty teach in the history program, the English program, the math program, and the psychology program?
    3. What percentage of students play a sport on campus?
    4. What is the average tutition, and how much does the average student actually pay out of pocket (minus loans and scholarships)?
  • Before my test subjects look at either website, I ask them what their opinions are.  "Rate Seton Hill's athletics program on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best."  I'd ask for several such ratings, including some that aren't that important to the test subjects. (When Fred Flintstone runs underneath a rock that's a different color than the background, you know that's the rock that's going to fall on him... so if you ask your subjects what they think about a specific thing, they'll be looking for it when they go to the website.) 
  • I would time how long it takes for each test subject to find the answer (or how long they try before they give up).
  • When they are finished, I would give the testers another questionnaire -- "Now rank the SHU athletics program again" or "Are you much more likely, somewhat more likely, neither more nor less likely, somewhat less likely, or much less likely to choose SHU?"  After each of these ranking questions, I'd ask "Why?"
  • I'd then synthesize all the responses, and use them to suggest improvements to the website.
  • While you won't be asked to do this for the current homework assignment, in the real world I would then create a revision of the SHU website that implements some changes, and I'd test the site again. Did the changes make the users find the answers faster, make fewer mistakes, have a more positive attitude?  Or did the changes hurt the site's usability score?  Were gains in one area wiped out by losses in another area?
Nobody knows how long it "should" take for a user to answer a question that you come up with in your usability test, but if you can show that each of your revisions to a site make the site more usable, then you can quantify your value to an employer: "Users find their information 56% faster, the make 20% fewer mistakes, and they are 10% more likely to say the site gives them a more favorable opinon of the organization."

I'm going to test high school juniors, who are sitting in front of the computer with one of their parents.

Ask test subject 1 to look at SHU's website first, and St. Vincent's website second.

Ask test subject 2 to look at St. Vincent's first, and SHU's second.

Assigned Text:

Usability Testing Tips

Usability Testing: 8 Quick Tips
If you already have a prototype and you want to conduct a usability test, and you're eager to learn how to make the most of your opportunity to learn from your users, then this document is for you.

Inform 7 programming exercises.

Due Today:

Ex 3-3: IF Exercise

Sketch out a map of four or five locations (connected by compass directions), and place simple objects in each location. Then, write a brief transcript of an imaginary session playing a text game that features those rooms.

It's kind of a tradition for this kind of test project to be set in "My house" or "My dorm," but you might want to be more creative than that. If you've ever written a short story, try to sketch out the location of a character's house, or the vampire dungeon, or Dr. Von Sinister's mind-control laboratory.

Write out a transcript of what the rooms look like -- but keep your writing focused on the setting, not on things that happen.

Von Sinster's Hideout

The muffled bustle of a London street casts shadows on the frosted glass windows. Heavy oaken doors lead north. A small metal panel in the floor leads down to a service tunnel.
But at this stage, I'm not asking you to write about story events that happen only once, in order to advance the plot...

A guard surprises you by jumping out at you demanding the password.

You wouldn't expect the guard to keep jumping out at you -- the thrid or the thirtieth time you've passed through this location. It would certainly no longer be a suprise.

We chose Slouching Towards Bedlam, by Star C. Foster and Daniel Ravipinto.

I've got a version on my website, but if you want to be able to save and restore games, you should check the IFDB for the appropriate downloads.

Assigned Text:

Krug, Ch9-11

Recent Comments

Aero Windwalker on G4: Alpha Reports: http://blogs.setonhill.edu/KepingWang/2008/11/perf
Megan Seigh on G4: Alpha Reports: My progress http://blogs.setonhill.edu/MeganSeigh/
Anne Williams on G4: Alpha Reports: Not too much acomplished http://blogs.setonhill.ed
Jed Fetterman on Term Project Workshop: Another friendly update. http://blogs.setonhill.ed
Alex Hull on G4: Alpha Reports: http://blogs.setonhill.edu/AlexandriaHull/2008/11/
Andy Lonigro on G4: Alpha Reports: http://blogs.setonhill.edu/AndrewLoNigro/2008/11/f
Kevin Hinton on G4: Alpha Reports: http://blogs.setonhill.edu/KevinHinton/2008/11/you
Jessie Krehlik on G4: Alpha Reports: http://blogs.setonhill.edu/JessicaKrehlik/2008/11/
Christina Celona on G4: Alpha Reports: no creative title today http://blogs.setonhill.ed
Shellie Polly on G4: Alpha Reports: http://blogs.setonhill.edu/MichellePolly/2008/11/a
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
  01 2 03 4 05 6
7 08 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30        
      01 2 03 4
5 06 7 08 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31  
2 03 4 05 6 07 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
  01 2 03 4 05 6
7 08 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31