Categories
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

Categories
Portfolio Yahoo

Saturday Night Live videos

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.

Categories
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.

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 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 in bucket, and although metrics weren’t impressive, it didn’t cause major problems, and the feature launched for all desktop web traffic.

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

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
The editorial team 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

Community Season 6 (but no movie)

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

Categories
Portfolio Yahoo

Yahoo Magazines vertical search

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.

Result

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

Categories
Portfolio Yahoo

TV Series w/ streaming links

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.

Categories
Portfolio Yahoo

2016 U.S. Primary Election search features

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.