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iSchool Portfolio

Social Media Text Analysis: Reddit

Based on a student data project that used Python machine learning libraries to analyze text from the social news and discussion site Reddit, we developed a scholarly research paper to submit to the HICSS 2022 conference. Focused on two popular advice subreddits, we created manual coding data to identify user demographics disclosures, described whether any patterns could be observed when comparing user metrics and algorithmic scores, and speculated on the role community moderation played in interpreting study data. I was first author on the published paper, co-author of the original student project, performed much of the data labeling and quantitative analysis, and presented our findings at the virtual conference. I offered guidance and feedback for other authors.

Because basic statistical analysis failed to suggest any interesting patterns with metrics or text analysis algorithms, we chose to frame the study as an exploration of behavior and identity disclosure in semi-anonymous environments. To that end, we needed to expand our original attempt to automatically extract demographics based on text pattern matching logic and instead manually reviewed each post to identify age and gender, if explicitly included. This allowed us to draw inferences between our forums of interest in terms of disclosure rates and community moderation and expectations. Furthermore, we could comment on extraction methods in general, suggesting principles to avoid assumptions and maximize accurate coverage of demographic information that future researchers could use.

In addition to scalability issues with demographics disclosure, we realized that we should have more carefully considered which subreddits to include in our dataset–ideally those with similar community guidelines–which may have resulted in more compelling analysis using the same algorithms and metrics data we originally collected. This may have allowed us to go beyond an exploration of demographics and disclosure. This was a scholarly work, so its effect, if any, may not be seen for some time.

Because of this project, we learned some of the limitations and opportunities for using Python to explore online communities. Personally, it was an excellent opportunity to participate in the scholarly publication process and prepare a presentation of the project.

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Personal & Volunteer Portfolio

Queer Silicon Valley: LGBTQ+ History Digital Exhibit

Freelance project working with a small team to organize an online history website about area queer communities over the last 50 years.

Screenshot of QueerSiliconValley.org homepage
QueerSiliconValley.org homepage shows some of the 17 topical categories offered.

Last year, I was hired as an independent contractor to support the development and launch of a local history website. Originally intended as an in-person exhibit, QueerSiliconValley.org, a website documenting the history and culture of LGBTQ+ communities in and around Santa Clara County, California, was developed and launched in the summer and fall of 2020. Ken Yeager, BAYMEC Community Foundation’s Executive Director, spearheaded the effort and hired a small team of SJSU students to assist. Yeager’s “garage full of stuff” and a shared Google Drive was nowhere near exhibit-ready when we started. My role included project coordination, content wrangling, and helping set up the website.

Planning and communication via email alone quickly became untenable. During the early task breakdown phase, my teammates and I used a project management tool to assign and prioritize actions and research, but without the buy-in of our lead, the tool was abandoned to more lightweight methods. Part of the problem was that our lead would routinely communicate different requests and concerns to individual team members. To ensure the team was communicating those updates with each other, we established a private group chat, and I maintained a list of tasks related to whatever piece(s) of the project were active at a given time, along with who was responsible for them. I would also send an email as needed with this list as a status update. Team rapport was built via chat and Zoom meetings and was critical not only to our success, but social support during a sometimes-difficult process.

Each element of the project had its own tasking system, usually in Google Sheets, for managing notes, metadata, and status. This process became even more critical once the project hired a developer to build a custom WordPress site for us, meaning we had very specific content structure requirements to meet, as well as a needing a central place to note, report, and manage bugs and requests.

Throughout the project, I advocated for language and content changes to ensure the site was as inclusive as possible, such as including a content warning before stories involving violence (approved). I also helped the team learn some of the tech tools we used by creating a WordPress tips and tricks document and personally training our lead on how to navigate the site’s admin tools. I created a style guide, worked with our website developer to take ownership of several front-end display issues and fixes, and supported outreach and marketing efforts by creating slides, a media coverage page, and a ‘social sharing’ category. I did not stick to the letter of the project brief—if such a brief ever existed—and routinely offered suggestions and found ways to make things work.

Although I have not been actively involved the website management since December 2020, I know that new content being added has a clear place and format thanks to my efforts, and the team is empowered to carry out the work. Furthermore, the organizational systems I helped put in place set Ken Yeager and the History San Jose team up for success with an in-person exhibit opening mid-2021. It was by no means a perfect process—what is?—but having access to a variety of management theories and ideas meant I had ample tools to deploy as needed to keep things moving.

QueerSiliconValley.org website/online exhibit

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iSchool Portfolio

Redesign Proposal: LasPilitas.com

For my graduate-level information architecture course, I teamed up remotely with two classmates to complete a semester-long design proposal with several distinct components and deliverables, including content and business strategy, content inventory, user research plan and initial card sort task results, personas, and mock-ups or wireframes. We chose to focus on the website of the family-run California native plant nursery Las Pilitas, a treasure trove of information about gardening and nature that appears among the top Google search results for queries relevant to its somewhat niche interests, but suffers from navigation and wayfinding issues. Based on the publicly available SEO data we could find, we posited that a relatively high bounce rate reflected this poor navigation, meaning users landed on a particular page, such as a page about a popular plant family, but did not explore image galleries, information about specific varieties of the plant, advice about landscaping with these plants, and so on.

Screenshot of my early research notes

As students, my teammates and I balanced responsibilities in order to maximize learning, as the project was an opportunity to practice a variety of skills and gain experience with new tools. I created all the wireframes in Balsamiq; developed our content inventory process in Airtable; designed the report, personas, and and slides; performed competitive and background research; drew the final version of the site map diagram; and did light project management/tracking in a simple spreadsheet.

Screenshot of a portion of our project tracking spreadsheet

Based on content inventory and competitive research, we knew we needed to improve the site’s overall organization for more meaningful breadcrumbs to give visitors entering via web search a sense of where they’re at and what else they might explore. We expected this would also support effective “related” links on deep nodes like plant detail pages. Additionally, we wanted to explore modernizing the global navigation bar with a fat menu design. We tested a number of possible user flows on the existing site and noted pain points to accomplishing common user goals like making a purchase or finding plant information, which informed several smaller decisions in terms of buttons, tooltips, search interface, and media experience.

Since this was a student project with no client contact or budget for in-depth user research, we were limited in our scope. The wireframes, labels, and personas are all effectively a first iteration and would undoubtedly evolve over the course of doing real client-contracted work. In particular, I’d like to be able to see site analytics and search traffic data to more effectively identify important entry points and stress cases for visitors and customers. Additionally, the content library is enormous, far too many documents to cover for our project, but a thorough accounting of the site’s content and how it’s internally linked would be an important starting point for a site redesign.

User flow from entry point (plant group page) to a plant detail (product) page to shopping experience comparing existing experience with proposed redesign wireframes

Translating ideas and inspiration to a coherent mock-up requires creativity and a clear sense of your users and the product. We realized that, for as much as we could do on spec, our work would only really be actionable after we could address the limitations. Despite that, the team benefitted from the collaborative design process overall and enjoyed learning new tools, like Balsamiq, Lucidchart, and Airtable, to make design ideas tangible.

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iSchool Portfolio

Social Media Survey Research Plan

For my graduate-level survey research methods course, I devised a questionnaire and research proposal to investigate attitudes about personal disclosure and privacy on different social media platforms, especially among gender diverse people. I hypothesized that individuals with marginalized identities, including transgender people, would be more likely to either disguise or hide aspects of their identity or share less personal information on social media sites where those identities and/or perspectives put them at greater risk for harm, such as abuse, threats, or career problems.

As a solo project, I was responsible for developing the questionnaire, performing background research, and writing the proposal. Throughout the project, I consulted with my classmates, instructor, and external contacts to test and improve the survey instrument and overall research direction. To explore my research question, I knew I needed to collect survey data on two key areas: social media use and demographics. The specific question and answer sets for each were informed by background research, in particular several previous scholarly studies of social media and identity, as well as general knowledge of survey design best practices. 

There were three sections of social media questions, one each for Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, each with nearly identical question and answer sets (UI copy and functionality differences between the sites reflected) so they could be directly compared. Each section began by asking respondents how often they used a given social media platform and only those who selected “I use it once a week or more often” were shown the following question set. The questions for each platform were divided into two pages to reduce participant fatigue. The first page asked participants about the type of information they share about themselves and their interests and what kind of privacy settings they use. The second, shorter page asked users to rate their agreement with five statements on a 5-point agreement scale. These statements were particularly influenced by previous research about online privacy concerns and community.

Screenshot of agreement questions from Facebook section of survey

For demographics, I wanted to include more aspects of identity than just my area of focus (gender) without seeming too invasive, as well as deliberating excluding answers that might identify respondents. Age was asked as a set of ranges; disability status was a simple yes/no; most questions allowed for multiple selections and every item could be skipped or marked “Prefer not to answer.” “Other” with a text field was an option for many questions, but I aimed to design the questionnaire so most respondents could easily answer without writing anything.

According to feedback from peers and survey testers, I mostly succeeded in my goal to write an easy-to-answer questionnaire that gave respondents options they felt described themselves and their point of view. Data collected with this instrument would have been readily analyzed and compared with (hopefully) minimal manual coding.

An important challenge I faced when designing this questionnaire involved writing questions and answers that were complete, accurate, AND readily answered without being time-consuming. Some of my questions asked users to recall information they might not have in mind, such as profile fields they completed. In an effort to eliminate open-ended questions entirely, I made a list of topics that people might post about, which started out very long (40 or so items) and ended up with 22 named topics, 14 of which combined two or more related topics. These labels might not have been a great fit for many respondents’ mental model of their interests, and I heard feedback from survey testers that they were confused about which boxes to check for more specific interests they had in mind. Additional user testing prior to launching the study would be ideal. Additionally, had I moved forward with this proposal, a key concern would be sampling–gender identity is not a screening question, nor can a gender diverse population be effectively quantified for the sake of random sampling techniques, so careful, targeted recruitment would be necessary to attract respondents with marginalized identities.

Screenshot of a spreadsheet with work-in-progress topic labels next to screenshot of question as it appeared in the survey

Research proposal and questionnaire (PDF) on Google Drive

Throughout this process, it was a pleasure to reconnect with survey research and quantitative analysis skills I first honed working in market research once upon a time. I learned quite a bit about the existing body of research about user behaviors and attitudes toward social media. We sometimes think of this as an emerging field, but relevant studies go back at least 20 years to online forums, newsgroups, and early social media like Friendster. It reinforced my desire to incorporate intersectionality and inclusion principles in my work as much as possible, which is why I did not opt to limit the study to participants of a particular gender identity and instead collect demographics that may reflect multiple oppressions to better contextualize my (proposed) findings.

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iSchool Portfolio

Instructional Design: Excel Basics

In Spring 2020, the culminative effort of my Instructional Design (non-K12) course was an instructional design plan for a topic and audience of our choosing. At the time of selection (pre-COVID-19), I was a regular “tech mentor” volunteer at my neighborhood library and worked with the librarian volunteer coordinator to identify and plan an “Excel Basics” class for adults in the nearby community. The plan includes handouts, a survey, and a downloadable learning tool (.xlsx file).

Instructional design plan & proposal (PDF) on Google Drive

Video introduction to the course (submitted for peer evaluation with other materials)

Unfortunately, due to library closures, we did not schedule the class. Though it’s possible to offer this class online, as some library offerings are, I did not pursue it, as I suspect much of my target audience would find the technological barriers to participating overwhelm their desire to learn this tool, and face-to-face would be more productive, so it will have to wait.

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iSchool Portfolio

Social Media Data Analysis: Twitter

In Fall 2020, the final group project in Problem Solving With Data asked us to use newly-learned R and Python skills to analyze tweets to answer self-selected research questions aimed at addressing some kind of social good. My two-person team opted to look into Disability Twitter, a topic I proposed. I also pulled, filtered, and merged the data, as well as performing a large chunk of the content analysis and writing the corresponding sections of the report.

Final report (PDF) on Google Drive

While there are many aspects of the analysis I would do differently under other circumstances (see p. 28), it was a great opportunity to match my interest in/knowledge of a Twitter community with developing technical skills.

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iSchool Portfolio

Cultural Timeline

Open in new tab

Asked to create a timeline on a humanities-related topic of our choosing for a Fall 2020 Digital Humanities course, I selected gender nonconformity in pop culture, a somewhat broad and tricky topic as the terminology and understanding of gender identity outside the binary is an evolving one, especially as it concerns culture and media. The resulting interactive object includes a selection of some–but certainly not all–instances of how these identities have been represented since the 1800s or so, along with brief analysis and commentary on those representations. Featured in the iSchool’s Student Showcase.

A complete reference list follows.

Media List

Bayer, J. (2019, April 3). Prince “Symbol” [Photograph]. Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/23401011@N03/40565825163

Classic_Movie_Gals. (2008, June 12). Marlene Dietrich in Seven Sinners (1940) [Movie still]. Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/27534776@N07/2574399770

Drümmkopf. (2007, July 2). Left hand of darkness [Photograph]. Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/30453880@N04/4171543007

Hipp, M. (2012, May 20). Angry Inch – Hedwig & the Angry Inch [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWI6E8gdBzk

JasonOnEarth. (2007, August 1). Star Trek: TNG – “The Outcast” – ‘I Am Tired of Lies’ Scene [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMqGlSjAbwA

JonSnow. (2011, June 21). Pink Flamingos, live homicide [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bHKJt8beCI

Loose Women. (2017, June 30). Eddie Izzard on Why It Was Important for Him to Come Out | Loose Women [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2rYR0n5zTQ

Movieclips Classic Trailers. (2019, August 2). Boys Don’t Cry (1999) Trailer #1 [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ar9wGSd7KVQ

Ramirez, S. [@therealsararamirez]. (2020, August 27). New profile pic. In me is the capacity to be Girlish boy Boyish girl Boyish boy Girlish girl All Neither [Photograph]. Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/p/CEZak3AHwjG/

RuPaul’s Drag Race. (2020, October 8). Every Miss Congeniality’s Entrance (Compilation) [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CalCAwLOJYo

Saturday Night Live. (2013, October 14). Pat at the Office [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYkjXMpKBBQ

STAT CHILE. (2016, January 8). Sylvester – You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) (1978) HD [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ifr13Upytb4

Steven Universe. (2017, November 22). Stevonnie Run Into Trouble At A Dance Party | Alone Together | Cartoon Network [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEELKp3jLd4

Unknown. (n.d.) Mathilde “Missy” de Morny [Photograph]. Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mathilde_%E2%80%9CMissy%E2%80%9D_de_Morny.jpg

References

Amin, K. (2013). Ghosting transgender historicity in Colette’s The Pure and the Impure. L’Esprit Créateur, 53(1), 114–130. https://doi.org/10.1353/esp.2013.0012

Anders, C. J. (2019, February 25). Exploring the genius of Ursula Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle. Tor.com. https://www.tor.com/2019/02/25/unlocking-the-full-brilliance-of-ursula-le-guins-hainish-cycle/

Anderson, R. (2013). Fabulous: Sylvester James, black queer afrofuturism and the black fantastic. Dancecult, 5(2). https://doi.org/10.12801/1947-5403.2013.05.02.15

Arroyo, B. (2014). Sexualizing the transgendered body in Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Boys Don’t Cry. Textual Overtures, 2(1). https://doi.org/10.4000/ejas.14078

Avilez, G. (2019). Uncertain freedom: RuPaul, Sylvester, and black queer contingency. The Black Scholar, 49(2), 50–64. https://doi.org/10.1080/00064246.2019.1581978

Brodeur, N. (2020, January 31). When your signature ‘SNL’ character isn’t funny anymore: Julia Sweeney revisits Pat. Seattle Times. https://www.seattletimes.com/entertainment/when-your-signature-snl-character-isnt-funny-anymore-julia-sweeney-revisits-pat/

Butler, J. (1999). Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity (2nd ed.). Routledge.

Chambers, B. (2018, September 10). How The Left Hand of Darkness changed everything. LiteraryHub. https://lithub.com/how-the-left-hand-of-darkness-changed-everything/

Conway, J. J. (2012, June 29). Dress-down Friday: Mathilde de Morny. Strange Flowers. https://strangeflowers.wordpress.com/2012/06/29/dress-down-friday-mathilde-de-morny/

Cooper, B. (2002). Boys Don’t Cry and female masculinity: Reclaiming a life & dismantling the politics of normative heterosexuality. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 19(1), 44–63. https://doi.org/10.1080/07393180216552

Dean, L. (2020, August 10). Queer characters find power in “She-Ra” and “Steven Universe.” Bitch Media. https://www.bitchmedia.org/article/history-of-queer-representation-in-cartoons-she-ra-korra

Dry, J. (2019, December 12). As ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ joins National Film Registry, Kimberly Peirce addresses its complicated history. IndieWire. https://www.indiewire.com/2019/12/kimberly-peirce-interview-boys-dont-cry-transgender-1202196536/

Dunn, E. (2016). Steven Universe, fusion magic, and the queer cartoon carnivalesque. Gender Forum, 56. http://genderforum.org/transgender-and-the-media-issue-56-2016/

Ellsworth, M. P. (2016, April 22). Words of liberation: Prince’s lyrics and queer identity. MTV News. http://www.mtv.com/news/2871846/prince-lyrics-queer-identity/

Feder, S. (Director). (2020, June 19). Disclosure: Trans lives on screen [Documentary]. Netflix. https://www.netflix.com/title/81284247

Fitzgerald, T., & Marquez, L. (2020). Legendary children: The first decade of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the last century of queer life. Penguin Books.

Florido, H., Mitroff, K., Sugar, R. (Writers), &   Bae, K., Kim, S., Michalka, E., Jones-Quartey, I. (Directors). (2015, January 15). Alone Together (season 1, episode 37) [TV series episode]. In R. Sugar, W. Moreland, & C. Beaton (Executive Producers), Steven Universe. Cartoon Network Studios.

Gammel, I. (2012). Lacing up the gloves: Women, boxing and modernity. Cultural and Social History, 9(3), 369–390. https://doi.org/10.2752/147800412X13347542916620

Gudelunas, D. (2016). Culture jamming (and tucking): RuPaul’s Drag Race and unconventional reality. Queer Studies in Media & Popular Culture, 1(2), 231–249. https://doi.org/10.1386/qsmpc.1.2.231_1

Hallam, L. (2010). Monster queen: The transgressive body of Divine in Pink Flamingos. Bright Lights Film Journal. https://brightlightsfilm.com/monster-queen-the-transgressive-body-of-divine-in-pink-flamingos/

Hamel, J. (2018, May 11). The Pansy Craze: When gay nightlife in Los Angeles really kicked off. KCRW. https://www.kcrw.com/culture/shows/curious-coast/the-pansy-craze-when-gay-nightlife-in-los-angeles-really-kicked-off

Hawkins, S. (2017). The sun, the moon and stars: Prince Rogers Nelson, 1958–2016. Popular Music and Society, 40(1), 124–128. https://doi.org/10.1080/03007766.2016.1245482

Kelso, T. (2015). Still trapped in the U.S. media’s closet: Representations of gender-variant, pre-adolescent children. Journal of Homosexuality, 62(8), 1058–1097. https://doi.org/10.1080/00918369.2015.1021634

kydd, E. (1998). Star Trek: Insiders and “Outcasts.” Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media, 42, 39–44. https://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/onlinessays/JC42folder/StarTrekGender.html

Le Guin, U. K. (2010). The left hand of darkness. Ace Books.

Patterson, G., & Spencer, L. G. (2017). What’s so funny about a snowman in a tiara? Exploring gender identity and gender nonconformity in children’s animated films. Queer Studies in Media & Popular Culture, 2(1), 73–93. https://doi.org/10.1386/qsmpc.2.1.73_1

Pidduck, J. (2001). The Boys Don’t Cry debate: Risk and queer spectatorship. Screen, 42(1), 97–102. https://doi.org/10.1093/screen/42.1.97

Poole, R. J. (2018). “Rise like two angels in the night:” Sexualized violence against queers in American film. European Journal of American Studies, 13(4). https://doi.org/10.4000/ejas.14078

Prince. (1984, June 25). I Would Die 4 U [Song]. On Purple Rain [Album]. Warner Bros. Records.

Richards, J. (2016, October 19). Do we need to time warp again? Queer identity and the problems with the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Bitch Media. https://www.bitchmedia.org/article/do-we-need-time-warp-again/queer-identity-and-problems-rocky-horror-picture-show

Schmidt, T. (2010). “Being cool about it”: Performing gender with Eddie Izzard. Gender Forum, 29, 20–30. http://genderforum.org/private-i-public-eye-issue-29-2010/

Schoellkopf, C. (2017, June 13). Eddie Izzard reflects on coming out as transgender, why Caitlyn Jenner is a role model. The Hollywood Reporter. https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/bookmark/eddie-izzard-reflects-coming-as-transgender-why-caitlyn-jenner-is-a-role-model-1012926

Song, L., & Tan, C. K. K. (2020). The final frontier: Imagining queer futurity in Star Trek. Continuum, 34(4), 577–589. https://doi.org/10.1080/10304312.2020.1750564

Taylor, J. (Writer) & Scheerer, R. (Director). (1992, March 16). The Outcast (season 5, episode 17) [TV series episode]. In M. Piller, G. Roddenberry, & R. Berman (Executive Producers), Star Trek: The Next Generation. Paramount Television.

The Matrix is a “trans metaphor”, Lilly Wachowski says. (2020, August 7). BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/newsbeat-53692435

Whiteneir, K. T. (2019). Dig if you will the picture: Prince’s subversion of hegemonic black masculinity, and the fallacy of racial transcendence. Howard Journal of Communications, 30(2), 129–143. https://doi.org/10.1080/10646175.2018.1536566

McEnany, A., Mason, T., Wachowski, L., Adler, J., Berns, A., Hernandez, T., Mattis, L., & Sweeney, J. (Executive Producers). (2019-present). Work in progress [TV series]. Circle of Confusion; Showtime Networks.

Young, E. (2019). They/them/their: A guide to nonbinary and genderqueer identities. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

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Personal & Volunteer Portfolio

JavaScript Quote Randomizer (Glitch)

A fun project to display quotes from Schitt’s Creek character Moira Rose alongside dictionary definitions for her esoteric vocabulary choices.

Explore the project code on Glitch.

Categories
Food Blog Personal & Volunteer

Cooking with Spade & Plow!

When COVID-19 hit, we signed up for the CSA of one of our favorite Campbell market vendors, Spade & Plow in San Martin, Calif. And they asked me to do a guest post on their blog in exchange for some really beautiful extra veggies they wanted to highlight: spring shallots, radicchio, squash blossoms, and summer squash. I really enjoyed it, and you can read about it here:

FIRE UP THE GRILL! SIZZLING SPRING FAVORITES

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iSchool Portfolio

UX Evaluation & Prototyping: Yummly

For my graduate-level web usability course, I completed a solo project that explored a design problem and its possible solutions. I hypothesized that a key problem with recipe search experiences is the discoverability and ease of using filters so users could easily sift through recipes irrelevant to them based on ingredients, diet, style, or other factors. I focused on Yummly.com, a recipe search tool that already offers many of these filters, but could use improvements in some aspects of the user experience.

Compilation of annotated screenshots highlighting possible UX issues with top recipe search experiences
Screenshot of notes from informal user interviews collected via Instagram direct messages

Without a budget or resources for in-depth user research, I reached out to my personal network via Instagram to solicit feedback on recipe search experiences, including what they use to find recipes and their frustrations with recipe search. After identifying key user concerns, I performed competitive analysis of top recipe sites and identified their strengths and weaknesses. Based on this background research, I devised a list of potential user interface changes, taking heavy inspiration from Jenifer Tidwell’s Designing Interfaces patterns. These included a clear entry point the filter wizard to make this feature more prominent; adding modules for features results and suggested filters within the search results to enhance discovery and help users struggling with too many results; and using modal panels (popover windows) for filters, results, and source pages to address the problem with jumping users out of the search results without any way back. I also designed a “favorite site” feature that, in conjunction with an existing “saved recipes” function, could help personalize results for logged-in users.

Screenshot featuring multiple slides with prototype components

I faced significant challenges while working on this project, not least because it happened during Spring 2020 and COVID-19 restrictions severely limited my ability to perform prototype testing. Although the assignment only called for paper prototypes, at the time, I found it easier to use PowerPoint to develop a high-fidelity clickable prototype using screenshots, shapes/text, and embedded links to other slides to simulate clicking and scrolling. I had not yet become acquainted with professional wireframing tools and my instructor did not encourage remote user testing, so I could only test the experience with my partner.

Even this limited testing suggested a number of changes for a second iteration of the prototype and was an informative experience. Overall, as a first attempt at a solo user research and testing initiative, I learned quite a bit about how much I have to learn from other people–even people who are relatively “similar” to me–and that even relatively small-looking design iterations require thorough consideration. I also really enjoyed the process. Details of my process, findings, testing, and learning reflection can all be found in the linked report.

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Personal & Volunteer Portfolio

TWWSJ Blog Posting Guidelines

Documentation created as reference for political action group members who may wish to post to our WordPress website. Not intended as standalone how-to.

TWWSJ Blog Posting Guidelines

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Portfolio Yahoo

Tumblr in Web Search Experiment

Explored ways to feature relevant, engaging Tumblr content in Yahoo web search results.

Screenshot of Tumblr search results experience for query "Charleston" sometime after the horrific church shooting
Tumblr in Yahoo Search results (no longer live)

Ask
After Yahoo acquired Tumblr, Search leadership asked me to find a way to feature Tumblr content in web search results.

Process
I started out with several things to consider:

  • Understanding the type of content on Tumblr
  • Determining what content, if any, could map to real web search user needs
  • Figuring out what metadata we could extract from Tumblr posts and whether it was enough to work well in our content management platform
  • Learning as much as we could from what little data the Tumblr team could share with us

Because I was unable to discover much evidence of existing Yahoo search-to-Tumblr content behavior in our logs, and the nature of Tumblr’s content is freewheeling and relatively unstructured, we had to experiment.

The first test featured content from specific Tumblr users (celebrities, online personalities, organizations–entities with discrete matching queries) in a simple image carousel. Limitations of this approach: only image-type posts could be displayed, so blogs with text posts, links, etc. would appear with limited results or none at all, despite frequent updating; we could only trigger on keywords that had a clear match to a single blog (e.g., Beyonce, ZooBorns). As a result, coverage was low, and leadership tasked us with significantly expanding the experience.

“[Emily] took on a very demanding team that wanted to create a new experience for users with Tumblr content. She patiently worked with the team and in many instances stepped in to help move the project forward. Without her it would have taken much longer to launch the experience on Search.”

Product Manager, Search

To accomplish this, I needed to rely on automatic triggering methods that offered far less control over what content appeared in search results. Despite concerns about relevance and quality, we launched a test for a small percentage of search traffic. The initial test had to be taken offline within days because, although the backend team took steps to remove content flagged as “adult,” pornographic results (and worse) slipped through.

Search leadership was determined, however, and resources were provided to dramatically improve the indexing for quality and cleanliness. The backend team also added logic for when to return content at all, based on timeliness and other factors. A visual designer was brought in to collaborate a unique template for Tumblr that accounted for the variable types of content and included more Tumblr branding (color, logos). The UX and content improvements launched as a test for a small percentage of search traffic, and although metrics weren’t impressive, it didn’t cause major problems, and the feature launched for all desktop web traffic.

“Emily did an outstanding job on the Tumblr [search experience] presentation for the Tumblr team. She has built a [search experience] that puts a stake in the ground until Science can develop more precise triggering.”

Product Marketing Manager, Search

Seeking to experiment further in hopes of improving and better understanding its performance, I took the initiative to categorize queries that triggered the Tumblr module and identify categories that might be well-served with Tumblr content. I used existing keyword lists roughly mapping to a dozen or so categories and set up a test bucket version of the module with only these categories with logging for each. I also wanted to see if other factors affected performance, including where the module appeared on the page (“slotting”) and how consistently it appeared (whether to ignore backend display logic). I tracked and compared my experiment’s performance to the primary module’s on a weekly basis, using that data to make small tweaks to each category along the way.

Result
The great Tumblr in search experiment ended after about a year and a half, when leadership decided the investment was no longer justifiable. Despite the effort’s ultimate failure, I was recognized for my contribution and creativity.

Key categories in my final experiment did show some lift in performance: food, books, holidays, fictional characters, TV series, and movie series.

Categories
Portfolio Yahoo

Data-Driven Feature Generation: Earthquakes

Used USGS API to directly answer variety of query patterns looking for recent earthquake information.

Screenshot of search result for recent earthquakes near Oklahoma
Recent earthquakes via USGS API with location-specific keywords and results

https://search.yahoo.com/search?p=latest+earthquakes

Ask
My team, a UX/editorial group that worked with Yahoo’s search content management platform was broadly tasked with generating and working on ideas for new search features. One method of doing this was to browse government developer sites for APIs and structured data that might map to valuable search user needs. That’s how I learned about the United States Geological Service’s “latest earthquakes” API.

Process
First, I wanted to determine how often people search for earthquake information, and how they formulate such queries. Once internal analytics tools validated that there was sufficient search volume to proceed, I used a tool that let me pull queries by URL–that is, I got a report containing search queries that resulted in a web result click anywhere on the “earthquake.usgs.gov” domain. I classified these queries as “earthquake data intent” and “not earthquake data intent,” and further by patterns like “6.2 earthquake,” “earthquake in Japan,” and “latest LA earthquakes.”

Once I identified the main earthquake-intent patterns, I needed to determine how best to handle location information. Because the USGS API supported location by both a radius around a single point (appropriate queries containing a city name) and a bounding box with minimum and maximum latitude and longitude (worked for countries and regions), I created a list of popular locations for which bounding box location was more useful than a radius and let a global location list handle everything else.

Finally, the UX proved trickier than hoped. Initially I hoped to include a map component, which was supported in our tool, but a front end bug prevented it from rendering correctly, so I worked with a designer to massage a text-only table into an appealing result that presented all the relevant information. (Because the bug did not appear for any high-priority features, the engineering time was unable to devote time to fixing it.)

Result
Earthquakes represented an interesting use case for location handling. The search feature routinely spiked any time the earth moved and appeared alongside news headlines.

Categories
Portfolio Yahoo

Competitive UX & Content: Knowledge Graphs

As part of an ongoing competitor parity initiative, I collaborated with product owners, designers, engineers, and others in the Search Editorial team to create new “knowledge graph”-type experiences and enhance existing ones. I made use of internal databases and curated content sources as needed to meet user and business needs in a variety of areas, including TV, elections, and reference.

Planning and deployment of election-related search experiences to lead users to reliable information on commonly searched queries.

Screenshot of candidate search features with example content for Hillary Clinton
2016 US Presidential Election search features, including candidate Knowledge Graph with fundraising data from OpenSecrets.org and polling from Real Clear Politics.
Screenshot of candidate quotes feature with example content for Marco Rubio
Factchecked quotes from the Politifact Truth-O-Meter.
Screenshot of candidate issue stance feature with example content for Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump on gun control
Where candidates stand on the issues, with researched positions from ProCon.org and “explore related” suggested queries manually curated.

Ask

I was approached by search product teams working on distinct experiences around the then-upcoming 2016 U.S. primary election to offer feedback on proposed designs and organize editorial efforts in content curation and quality validation.

Process

  1. Led team effort to develop detailed list of potential features along with timeline, content source(s), and priority. Features based on team knowledge and real user search data/query patterns.
  2. Researched content sources for features that would be relevant in early 2016 (general politics, candidate research). Key requirements included high-quality, politically neutral data; structured in a way that was compatible with our content management platform; served in XML or JSON format or able to be extracted and converted to usable form.
  3. Joined product team meetings to give updates on content development and share feedback on whether design matched real content and user needs.
  4. Created and launched experiences on web search and provided support for other platforms using our work.

Result

By February 2016, we launched several features on web search:

  • Presidential candidate knowledge graph, incorporating party affiliation, donation data from OpenSecrets.org, polling data, and political office history.
  • Latest quotes with “truthfulness” rating from Politifact for all presidential candidates.
  • Candidate stances on 20+ key political issues extracted from ProCon.org with manually curated browse element to help search users explore candidate opinions.
  • Political cartoon of the day.

Additionally, detailed requirements for election results and future election experience ideas were documented.

Expanded on basic series-level profile to include better coverage of streaming availability at series, season, and episode levels.

Screenshot of search results for the TV series Survivor, featuring TV knowledge graph (right) and episode detail with streaming links (top left)
TV series knowledge graph with latest episodes and streaming links – clicks on the right bring up episode details and links to stream on the left.

https://search.yahoo.com/search?p=survivor (still live in some form, but without all the features noted here)
Screenshot of TV season search feature for the series Survivor, season 26, including description and episode list
Also created season details experience (no longer functional).

Ask

The Knowledge Graph team wanted to develop major feature improvements to entity profiles around People, Movies, and TV Series with competitor parity as a goal. As a TV enthusiast, I volunteered to support TV Series profile enhancements.

Process

Because I was responsible for the migration of the existing TV series experience into our content management platform, I was well-acquainted with the data elements and quality we already had and could create a clear list of requirements to replace and significantly improve. I was also able to compare this with elements found in design mocks created for the effort. Initially, the planned design did not account for the quality of images available in our database, so I was able to leverage my experience to strike a balance between design requirements and content realities. I was responsible for UX copy including data labels and headers.

After the experience had been live for a time, I learned that our Knowledge Graph database now included content I believed to be valuable to search users: streaming links. While competitors already offered this information, they focused on a la carte options and not popular subscription services, where many series could already be found. I sought and received buy-in from product owners to pursue major changes to the TV series experience.

Streaming links were stored at the episode level, not series or even season, but our keyword list was manually generated, but I found a scalable way to serve episode-level links without manually curating triggering lists covering thousands of individual episodes. I also used this data to identify whether a series could be found on the streaming sites Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, and if so, to construct a series-level link.

The Knowledge Graph team also wanted to perform a quality audit of their data for several key topics. I served as the lead for TV Series, creating a finite list of elements to review and guidelines for assessing quality, moderating discussion, and authoring a report on the results.

Result

TV Series in web search results went from a very basic snapshot of title, synopsis, network, logo image, and cast to an interactive set of features including the same key base content as well as episodes, seasons, air dates, and streaming links.

While these solutions were not necessarily an ideal user experience, they allowed users to easily click and find information they might want without too much effort.

The results of the quality audit were used to develop systemic improvements to the way they merge and manage data sources.

Development of low-coverage search experiences for information about trees, food, planets, etc.

Screenshot of search result knowledge graph for a valley oak tree
Tree knowledge graph with growing information extracted from Calpoly’s website and images via Flickr Creative Commons APIs (no longer live)

Ask
Search leadership asked our editorial team to identify and develop “low hanging fruit” reference-type content as part of a competitive parity initiative. In some cases, we took content that had already been curated for standard search features and turned it into expanded right-side “Knowledge Graph”-style elements.

Process
For existing content, this was effectively a UX or template migration: the content was there, it just needed to be moved to a different format. Trees and food nutrition facts were two good examples. The only trick was that the images already curated weren’t large or high quality enough to serve as a large “hero”-type banner image, so I took advantage of Yahoo subsidiary, Flickr, which has a search-based API that let us serve only Creative Commons-licensed user images.

Result
Though these efforts did not represent high-volume queries, the effort did not go unnoticed by leadership, and it also served as an opportunity for less experienced team members to build their skills and flex creative muscle.

Categories
Portfolio Yahoo

Yahoo Verticals & Media in Search

Keyword mapping and search placement for curated original video content.

Screenshot of an inline video player search result for a Yahoo News documentary titled "Uniquely Nasty: The U.S. Government's War on Gays"
Yahoo News original documentary – full video played inline on top of search results
Screenshot of a video search result for a Yahoo News documentary titled "Uniquely Nasty: The U.S. Government's War on Gays"
Smaller version among search results for alternative keywords
(no longer live)

Ask

Yahoo’s video site, Screen, hosted a wide variety of original content over the years, and they periodically asked for this content to appear in search results.

Process

Over the years, I built a relationship with contacts working on Yahoo’s video properties to support their efforts to receive views via relevant search traffic. While at first these appeared in search only as enhanced hyperlinks, eventually the search front-end team implemented an inline player functionality so we could embed Yahoo original content and other videos directly on a search results page. I created an expandable search feature that allowed me to respond quickly to the video team’s requests and generate appropriate keyword lists.

Result

Teams throughout Yahoo knew they could rely on Search to support their efforts to promote premium original content on-network without using significant resources per request.

Built special “vertical search” feature to support new property launches and reduce maintenance.

Screenshot of a Yahoo Tech vertical search result for writer David Pogue
Vertical search experience embedded in web search results – set up in support of Yahoo’s Digital Magazines strategy (Tech, Style, Movies, etc.)

Ask

Yahoo launched several new media verticals called “Magazines” and did not migrate any corresponding vertical search experiences, which were based on an older platform. Instead, a search product manager was tasked with adding vertical content to web search, filtered according to the user’s site of origin, and they enlisted my support to create and launch the necessary features in our search content management platform.

Process

Each query sent from a search box included more than just the user’s query–it contained referral information, usually unique to the property or even page. I used this information to determine when a search experience should appear, as well as pass variables to a backend. The news backend, which indexed news from hundreds of sources worldwide, including Yahoo’s own sites, could return articles matching any query, filtered by property and sorted by freshness.

Expanding on a template design already in use for news results in general web search, I created a “vertical search” feature that included up to 10 results with thumbnails for each and paginated results if there were more than 10 stories matching a given query. This large search feature appeared on top of the usual web algorithmic links and any other non-monetized search features.

Product owners also asked for Magazine stories to be highlighted in web search results (in a less aggressive form, of course). I created simple “navigational” features with a max of 3 stories to appear on searches by Magazine name and featured writers to satisfy their primary need. Because Magazine stories were indexed along with all news content, these stories could appear in regular news search results without any extra effort.

“Emily always brings a number of ideas and potential solutions to a problem, but will back them up with execution reliably, quickly, and self-sufficiently, and manages dependencies deftly and efficiently. When tasked to launch international Magazine Search in Q4, Emily took the lead, coordinating with int’l editorial leads, offering assistance where necessary, and following up to ensure completion, ensuring the appropriate Product approvals (from me) and transparency of communication. The task was completed successfully, quickly, and helped ensure a Green rating on that quarterly goal.”

Product Manager, Vertical Search

Result

No-maintenance, low-effort vertical search launched on all new Magazines. Sites and big-name authors were effectively promoted in web search.

Created rich search experiences to feature Yahoo Screen originals alongside knowledge graph.

Screenshot of Yahoo Search results for the TV series "Community" including season 6 episodes streaming on Yahoo Screen
Community Season 6 – featured Yahoo Screen video content + keyword list cultivation for TV series knowledge graph (no longer active due to deprecation of Yahoo Screen)

When Yahoo Screen made its foray into full-length original TV series with Community and others, we were ready to go in search. I made sure that the latest episodes carousel had excellent coverage and TV Series Knowledge Graph contained accurate, detailed profiles.

Meanwhile…

Photo of Emily with actor Gillian Jacobs when the latter visited Yahoo in Sunnyvale
Grabbed a selfie with Gillian Jacobs

Created relevant search features to highlight licensed SNL video content.

Screenshot of video result for the famous "More Cowbell" SNL sketch
Saturday Night Live on Yahoo Screen – mapping keywords to vast back catalog of sketches and video collections (No longer live due to deprecation of Yahoo Screen)

Ask

Yahoo Screen was planning to release a massive catalog of Saturday Night Live clips, spanning the series entire run. I was approached to create relevant search features to highlight the licensed content.

Process

I was given a list of video collections–recurring characters, hosts, themes, etc.–and an enormous spreadsheet containing video metadata for every single item in the catalog. My task: organize this data into discrete sets of keywords to bring up the precise, relevant video result or carousel of results, and investigate existing search coverage of SNL to ensure we cover those videos.

In addition to creating basic query patterns for such a huge catalog, I was able to have some fun creating aliases for the more popular videos, such as “needs more cowbell.” Specific clips and characters were likely to appear in search logs shortly after new episodes aired, so I planned to monitor dashboards in order to add new videos and keywords Sunday mornings.

Result

I turned around a huge list of keywords in a matter of days so the search experience launched at the same time as the Screen content. Post-launch, I trained a teammate how to look up video IDs and identify relevant query patterns so we could take advantage of the unique, timely spikes that only SNL had.