Integrating Tableau Workbooks in Tableau Server

This post explains ways to pass information a web page to a Tableau Workbook on the server.  This web page can be anywhere.

 

Use cases

  • There are visuals in two separate dashboards that users want in one place,
  • A web page passes variables to Tableau Server, and
  • A visibility control mechanism that allows certain visuals for select people.

Note:  This is for Tableau and Tableau Server/Public 10.0 and above.

Embedding a Dashboard Within a Dashboard

 

Sometimes areas want to reuse visuals from one dashboard on another.  Usually this mean making a copy of the visuals and data.  The problem with this is that the visuals will slowly diverge as creators apply updates.  It may even come to the point where they will give different answers, even if both dashboard use the same data source.

To get around this problem, embed the dashboard.  This keeps the source the single version of the truth.

1. In IE 11, Chrome, or Firefox go to the dashboard you wish to embed

 

image

 

2. Click Share > Link

3. Copy the URL link

Note: At this point, web site designers can use this link to embed a visual into a web page if they wish to place the visualization in a Iframe.  However, a better idea would be to use the embed code for best presentation and more control.  This is useful on Microsoft SharePoint, Yammer, and blogs such as WordPress.

 

This is what it looks like when a Tableau Public dashboard is embeded into WordPress.  Sizing is a bit off with this view.  Full version

 

4. In Tableau Desktop, create a Dashboard page

 

clip_image004

 

 

5. Under Objects, select Web Page

6. Drag it to the canvas

7. In the Edit URL popup, paste the link (CTRL+V)

 

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8. Click OK

 

 

Optional – Sizing

If the linked dashboard linked is larger than the source dashboard it might not fit the view.  To fix this you need to have Tableau adjust the size of the screen. 

Under Size > Fixed Size, choose Automatic  (easiest to use but developers should play with the fixed sized settings for best fit.)

 

clip_image002[7]

 

 

Optional 2 – Look an Feel

Developers can also control the look and feel depending on the options sent via the URL.

 

https://tableau.test.com/views/TestDashboard/TestDashboardPage?:embed=y&:showShareOptions=true&:display_count=no&:showVizHome=no

 

Each of the colored items are options.  You can append as many as you need.

  • :embed=y  —– Turns off Tableau server header and only shows the dashboard
  • :tabs=no   —– Turns off tabs and only shows the linked page of the workbook
  • :toolbar=  —– Turns on and off download and edit toolbar at the bottom of the page
    • Yes
    • No
    • Top
  • :tooltip=no  —– Turns off tooltips
  • :showShareOptions=false  —– Stops people from being able to share the view
  • :format=png  —– Will turn the secondary dashboard to a picture.  Useful to prevent people from downloading the data. It also can be copied into presentations.

More Info: https://onlinehelp.tableau.com/current/server/en-us/embed_list.htm 

Note: These options only work with Tableau Server not Tableau Public.

 

Optional 3 – Filtering

Using Parameters

Developers can pass parameters from one dashboard to another through the URL.  This allows the main dashboard to filter items on the secondary dashboard.

 

https://tableau.test.com/views/TestDashboard/TestDashboardPage?Districts=<Parameters.Districts>&:embed=y&:showShareOptions=true&:display_count=no&:showVizHome=no

 

In this example, the link in the main dashboard contains a parameter that passes along the agency to the secondary dashboard.  Since the test dashboard has a field or parameter called ‘Districts’, this filters the embedded dashboard.  The URL can contain multiple filter-parameters.

The parameter in the main dashboard does not need to have the same name as the field in the secondary dashboard, but it may help with passing variables

See this in action: Link

 

Hard Coding Parameters

https://public.tableau.com/profile/steve.rubendall6256#!/vizhome/SuperstoreSub-WorkbookExample/Overview?State=Iowa

Developers can also hardcode the filters.  This is useful when users need to see only a subset of the data.  In this example will display the state of Alaska.   Some developers will be able to use dashboard actions to finely control what is sent to the secondary dashboard.

See this in action: Link

Note:  This can be used as to filter data based on people’s ID or name.  For instance, a page a user ID via the URL to a dashboard embedded on an intranet site.  This provides good visibility protection for those non-technical users, but should not be on the public internet.

 

Multi-Filter Parameters

Developers can also pass more than one filter in the URL.

 

https://public.tableau.com/profile/steve.rubendall6256#!/vizhome/SuperstoreSub-WorkbookExample/Overview?State=Iowa,Illinois&Category=Furniture

 

Here, there are multiple filter values with State using multiple values.  This displays only career reps in both Alaska and Tennessee.

See it in Action: Link

Other Notes

  • Spaces in filters and valid values need to be changed to %20 (ex: Carol Stream –> Carol%20Stream) for them to work on the web.  Other escape characters may also need to be altered to fit in a URL.

 

image

 

Update #1: In checking with Tableau, it looks like embedded reports do not print to PDF.  This is by design as a security and visibility feature.   This also goes for graphics and web pages that are embedded.

Workarounds

    1. Add a toolbar to embedded dashboard to download it as a separate report.  In the URL string use toolbar=top or toolbar=yes.
    2. Take a screen shot (I use a program called Greenshot for picture perfect capture.)
    3. Make it an online only report and point people to it.  Developers can subscribe users to updates so they always get the latest version of the report when available through a periodic email.

Bloomington-Normal Job Locations

I stumbled on the Where Are the Job? website, that places all of the jobs in the US on the map. 

2016-12-21 09_54_30-Where Are The Jobs_ - Pale Moon

It is from 2014, so in Bloomington-Normal it is pre-Mitsubishi closing.  The clustering in is interesting.  People looking for manufacturing or logistics jobs should be on the western, southern, and northern outskirts along the Interstates.  Professional services jobs are clustered around COUNTRY Financial and State Farm along Veteran’s Parkway. 

Service sectors jobs are in the thin line following Veteran’s Parkway while much of the government, medical, and education jobs follow Main St (US 51.)

Clustering of jobs isn’t surprising.  Small companies of similar types grow up near larger institutions.  It also help workers since working in proximity to others in the same field help spread ideas and talent.  It also shortens travel time during work hours.

Businesses and Integrating Social Media

imageA year or so ago, I wrote this to help managers in mid-sized companies  understand the best ways to train employees on how to use social media to interact with customers.  Clearly, I suck at the subject so take it as a outsiders view point. 

Before using social media, most employees generally want training on how to engage customers, especially if they grew up pre-internet or don’t use it personally.  The most preferred way individual training.  Unfortunately, in most companies this scales poorly.  There is so much turnover that it is expensive to keep everyone up to date with newest networks, let alone how to use Facebook or Instagram.  It also limits the learner to established practices.  This limits their options and discourages them from exploring new ways to communicate with customers.

Many companies fallback to webinar training, but this is usually a terrible medium for learning complex ideas.  This type of training often take the worst aspects of traditional classroom learning such as being a passive listener and having to attend at a fixed time.  Add to that a student needs to stare at PowerPoint slides on a tiny 17” screen while listening through tinny speakers it a wonder that anyone would attend unless forced. 

There is still a place individualized training and webinars but other options work better.  Some of the best idea come from podcasters and YouTube video bloggers.  Many are entrepreneurs with their livelihoods at stake.  Therefore, most tend to be focused on increasing attendance.  Here is what they many successful ones do:

1. Keep the message short and focused. 

People find the best training sessions are up to 5 minutes long.  Studies show that people on phones watch training sessions for about 3 minutes and tablets/computers for 5 minutes. 

Short lengths help keep people’s attention.  More short content offers increases the likelihood of covering something people need simply by chance. 

Serialization provides more excuses to publicize content.  This is similar to how tweets aren’t often about the content.  They are about keeping the message in the front of the consumer.

The problem is that short content is often harder to do.  Instructors spend more working a 3-minute speech than an hour-long one.  This increases quality.

Percentage of video watchedviewingpercentageSource: Wistia.com

  1. Make highlight reels.

Take snippets the important ideas from long-form content and post it on the content intranet.  This is common in the public policy sphere.  A creator will make an hour-long video, take snippets out, and post the best parts as short form content.  Some will even create separate short pieces and condense the material still further (sort of like an ad or highlight reel.)  

  1. Practice just-in-time learning.

Because most businesses are cyclical, create and publicize content when learners need it, during peak times of the year.  For instance, at a bank, more employees will want to give savings advice during tax season.  

  1. Ask questions before producing content.

Participation is higher in session where employees know it will cover something they are interested in learning.  In a hour+ long training, few people ask questions.  Sessions cause mental fatigue, especially those in remote locations when the temptation to answer emails or play solitaire is strong.

Gathering feedback before production gives the trainer an idea of what people want to know.  It also gives time for people to think about what they want to learn.

  1. Market it.

Content is worthless if no one knows it exists, market it.  Ideally, there should be multiple posts per week about how to do things cycled on the intranet.  Even if it is a repeat, post it.  Few employees will know that it is a repeat and even if they do, there is no harm with a little refresh. 

  1. Build a community.

If the company is really serious about using the internet to communicate with customers, build a internal community.  Make it a one stop shop.  Start by adding all available training and links to corporate social media presences.  Next, have employees write about personal experiences.  Make this a user listening post.  Use forums, surveys, Q&A, and anything to keep interest.  This will also help trainers and experts by giving a single place for research.

  1. Be passionate.

Nothing is more boring than listening someone reading a script or going through the motions.  If it is boring to the poster, imagine what it like for others.  Training should be interesting to the trainer firstly.  Otherwise, it is not worth doing.

  1. Use multiple mediums.

People learn in different ways, so it is important to mix up training by using multiple mediums such as live training, audio, webinars, videos, blog post, LinkedIn requests, etc.  Together with many short pieces, this has several benefits:

  • Helps to track what works for the audience.
  • Risk of failure is lower, so it allows trainers more freedom to experiment. 
  • Allow for creation of meta-training.  This means creating categories of training based ideas and not on the content type.  Some of the better MOOCs do this.

Use video and live feeds and examples to liven the presentation.  When using video, produce audio and text versions of content.  Despite MTV mantra, video didn’t kill the radio star.  The great aspect of audio is learners can multitask (think audio books.)  Short posts are great to drive traffic to existing content and offer bite sized training to boot.  Post snippets from live training sessions can help reinforce ideas.

9.  Test your audience.

Short quizzes or surveys after the content can reinforce content.  Even if the content is short, ask questions after it to reinforce the material and to gather feedback on how well the content was conveyed.

10.  Be Committed

The weakest part of an social media strategy is management.  Most C-level executive want to engage customers online, but don’t put resources into help employee do it.  The results is lackluster with many employees jumping in at the start and two months in the effort is forgot about, to the detriment of the customer base. 

Nor do many engagement their employees or customers to provide an example.  Without this engagement, interest will wane.

Samsung vs Internet

Boomstick

 

 

Samsung seems to be taking tips from TheDonald and attempting to silence parities and stiff people who have been affected by the fire prone Note 7.  You think companies would have learned that controlling the narrative rarely working on the Internet these days.

There are just too many people with access and too few public relations employees to fight them.  Instead, an obscure modder get their 15 seconds of fame while I and much of the world wouldn’t have even know it existed.  It shouldn’t be surprising that they treat their potential buyers as poorly as they treat their employees.

Link: GTA 5 – EXPLOSIVE Samsung Galaxy Note 7?! (GTA 5 Mods Showcase)

image

Learn from Other and Don’t Reuse Passwords

imag0741_crSigh, another day, another hack.  Clinton’s campaign chief John Podesta had his email hacked and displayed for all to see earlier this month.  That was bad enough, but miscreants noticed his password saved in an email.  They started to look for other accounts that used the same password finally ending up deleting everything in his Apple account and posting embarrassing tweets on Twitter.

John failed to follow two simple security protocols.  Never reuse passwords and do not put them in an email.  Emails usually have no encryption and anyone can read them when sent through the internet.  Saving the information in a document is almost as bad because malware can harvest these if a piece of hardware becomes infected.  It also a pain to keep synced with all devices unless stored in DropBox of other file shares.

A Simple Security First Step

Keeping track of more than a handful of id and passwords is pain and nearly impossible on today’s internet.  So, use a password manager.  Several of today’s password managers such as LastPass and KeePass integrate seamlessly into desktops and mobile devices.  To find one that meets your needs, Likehacker or PC Mag sites have some good information on how the software works.

Remember to make the password on the manager unique and easy to remember you will use it daily.

Changing Passwords

If you are using the same password in more than one in place, stop.  If there is a breach, especially if it is your email account, then all other sites become vulnerable.

It is tedious to change passwords on all of the web site you access at once.  To break up the frustrations start in this order, doing a bit at a time:

  1. Protect your email and phone. A breach of one these leave all accounts venerable to hacking because of the password reset options sites have.  A stolen phone without a password or other lock leaves your virtual life open to snooping.
  2. Accounts holding financial information. Bank accounts are most important, but this group also includes sites such as Amazon or your power company since they store credit card information.
  3. Social sites. This includes social media sites such as Facebook but also other sites that you regularly use to communicate with others such as forums.  It is embarrassing for a spammer to hijack your account and start spamming fake Nike or pharmaceuticals to your friends and family.
  4. Anything else. Update other sites as you log into them.

Other Security Ideas

  • Occasionally check the news to see what sites have breaches.  Have I been pwned is a good side to check if your email address or user name are in lists of stolen accounts.
  • For important sites, use two-factor authentication. This can come in form of a text message sent to your phone, an email, or an app downloaded to your phone.  Even if someone gets your password, they will be unable to get into your accounts.
  • Don’t share accounts with others. Find out a way to give each person a unique log in.  As a bonus, the personalization features stay unique to you.  No longer will you receive cartoon recommendations when you use Netflix.
  • Don’t share passwords with anyone for any reason. Legit tech people will next ask for one.
  • Password-protect your phone. It is your most important piece of technology and is the center of their lives for many.
  • Do save password in the browser.  It is hard to move from one machine to another and malware can read it if installed.
  • Install an ad blocker.

While taking these steps won’t make your digit life hack proof, it makes you a more difficult target and just like locking your front door, it raises the time and hassle it takes do to something to you.  It is worth a few hours of investment for some extra protection.

Ad-blockers Improve the Surfing Experience

free-image-download-blank-not_allowed-signA few weeks ago, someone I know contacted me and said they received a message when visiting a site.  It said their computer was infected and to call Microsoft.  This was a common scam where less savory internet elements buy ad space on sites to con the unwary into calling or downloading malware.

This is an easily alleviated problem.  Just install an ad block extension to the browser.  They block a common vector of viruses, scams, and malware that often piggy back on malicious ads.  This happened to me a about 5 years ago when an ad on Dillert.com downloaded malware to my machine.  Fortunately, the hackers only wanted the gold in my World of Warcraft account.   Ever since, all of my browsers had ad blockers.

Ad blockers also have another use.  They make the web a cleaner, less flashy place.  No more loud blinking ads.  No more ads breaking up content.  Below are the versions I normally use and install on people’s machines to improve their browsing experience.

 

image Firefox / image Pale Moon

Icon of uBlock Origin

For Mozilla compatible clients, uBlock Origin seems to be the one of the better ad-blocker extensions.  As my main browser, I have tried at least a dozen of them and found it to be a little lighter on my machines.  It also plays well with the other add-on installed in the browser such as NoScript, Disconnect, and EFF’s Privacy Badger.  I also feel it is a good one for people who have little knowledge of how browsers work.

The only issue is that a few sites like Forbes will block access to their site, but most ad laden sites don’t have much in the way of original content so there is no real loss.

 

image  Chrome

imageI use Chrome at work over Internet Explorer because users can install plug-ins without administrative rights.  Again, uBlock Origin is the one of choice.  Given the closed nature of Chrome, it runs a bit rougher than on Firefox but most users will not notice it.

 

image Internet Explorer 11

imageBeing hard to code for and growing obsolete, there are few addons for IE 11.  When I reluctantly need to use IE, I use Adblock Plus (ABP.)  It works fine but is slower because IE is just pain to use compared to faster and newer browsers. 

Also, I don’t really endorse ABP.  The company who writes the software acts in a scummy way.  Advertisers can pay to have ‘acceptable’ ads show through.  However, there are few decent alternatives. 

 

image  Microsoft Edge

imageEdge in Microsoft’s new browser that is available on Windows 10.  Despite the hate, it is actually a decent browser.  It was recently made better when Microsoft started to allow extensions.  Like IE 11, I don’t use it much because it doesn’t have the extension pool I need yet, but when I have to surf on it, I use AdBlock.  I choose it because it was the most downloaded extension not out of any well founded research.  Overall, I don’t have many complaints except that it sometimes causes odd style sheet changes to web sites where uBlock Origin doesn’t on other browsers.

 

image Safari

I have no idea what is good since I don’t use Macs.  Fortunately, Apple recently updated the browser to allow ad blocker.  Quara users have a decent list to try with some being on my own list.  Remember that Safari isn’t the only browser available.  Installing the extensions above in Firefox or Chrome will work just as well.

This Chart Shows Who Marries CEOs, Doctors, Chefs and Janitors

Bloomberg recently released a cool visual showing they type of people marrying each other by the jobs they hold.  At work, I read through reams of cross tabs to better understand clients so this is a neat way to display data for people inclined to read hard numbers.

Unsurprisingly, it does shows people are more likely to marry those with similar pay with men a bit more likely to women in lower paid positions.

When it comes to falling in love, it’s not just fate that brings people together

Source: This Chart Shows Who Marries CEOs, Doctors, Chefs and Janitors

The Inevitable Twitter vs Facebook IPO Post

Source: TwitterWith a big bang, Twitter is now a public company.  It is up 73% to about $45/share.  Now pundits, myself included, are comparing it to the other large social media IPO of recent memory, Facebook.  Most know that Facebook’s IPO was bad.  Glitches, insider sales and hype drove the stock price lower through May 2012.

My hunch that Twitter would be big.  Not because of any technical reason, or the promise that it will be profitable in the near-term, but a simple fact: people like things they use.

Just like has Apple its fanbois and Twitter has a strong following on Wall Street’s trading community because it is a rich source of breaking news.  This means most people who have the ability to buy stock were already familiar with how it works.  Many companies even build tweets into their trading algorithms, which causes panic from time-to-time.  Since it is a service they like, it is easier to bid up rather than short the stock.  Why hate on something needed for your job?

This is unlike Facebook.  Its model is built around local networks that spread gossip, fads and local news.  While important to individuals, much of what is posted cannot be used for financial gain.  It is unlikely that many people in finance even use Facebook regularly. 

I think Facebook’s model is more profitable than what Twitter built mid-term.  It is difficult to see great profit as much of what Twitter relies on is advertising.  Outside Asian languages that use hanzi, It is hard to advertise in 140 characters.  Maybe picture and Vine will help, though I am skeptical.

Why Reinventing the Internet Is Bad

I wrote this in reaction to the Pantograph article “Researchers mull scrapping Internet staring over.”

The professor leans into the microphone to further emphasize his point. “Yes, while the Bloomington-Normal works, but the current area has some serious deficiencies.”

Upon this statement, a Normalite in the crowd stands up at the comment and asks? “What are the problems with the community?”

“Well for instance, there are bottlenecks on streets when emergency vehicles use them. As you may know, a few seconds of delay crossing busy street can cost lives. In addition, many of our roads wind around or are end in cul-de-sacs, slowing or preventing the good flow of traffic, especially on the east side in the newer subdivisions. This prevents people from getting where they want to go quickly.”


The professor adds, “also we do not know who drives the cars on the road, criminals might steal someone’s car and masquerade as them. So you do never know who really is in that mini-van behind you. Not to mention those pedestrians and cyclists don’t need to identify themselves at all. The problem is that early settlers did not anticipate these changes in travel. In the past everyone knew each other in the town and relied on horse and foot travel to move people and goods around the city. Now we have automobiles, motorcycles, bikes, and even airplanes. Much of the infrastructure for these modes of travel was put in place ad-hoc as the need arose. Just look at where the airport is, it prevent growth on that side of Bloomington,” the scientist scrunched up his nose in disgust.

“I installed SimCity 4 and the Sims 3 on this laptop. My plan to create a side-by-side Bloomington-Normal and my team will work out the kinks in the current system. This new system will be more flexible, faster, and we will be able to track movement of goods and people better. In a few years, we will then overlay this new system and society will benefit as a result.”

Another person rose to ask a question, this time someone from Bloomington. “What if we don’t like it? Can we go back to the way it was?”

“But you WILL like it. After all, the best minds around are banding together for you benefit after all to improve today’s outmoded system.”

The current size of the internet community is ~1.6 billion people who have radically altered the original infrastructure of the internet and “bolted on” a plethora of technologies to what was technology that only the military and scientific community used. Now many decades later, some scientists think that there are problems with how the internet works. True, there are problems. Like any system created by man there where trade-offs; counties can filter the information their citizens see, corporations can deny the free flow of information through threats and lawsuits, and criminals can do business with relative safety. Welcome the real world.

At the base of the article, this new internet the writer talks about seem to undermines democracy since it takes both anonymity and free association to help add to the marketplace of ideas. Both of these will be undermined because all packets are tracked. Also, it seems they want priority routing of packets. This can give rise to a tiered internet since those with money or resources can make sure their packet move around it the quickest. Even with a new system, there is not to say that an new technology that reshapes how people live will fit well.

Humans never reinvent their societies on a whim, so why reinvent the internet? We did not bulldoze cities in Europe once the internal combustion engine was invented. Europeans built around it. What about electric, water treatment, or even cell phones? Do we destroy what society has made in the past just to incorporate new ideas? No, that is wasteful, we INTEGRATE. New ideas and technology came about and we fold them into the rest of our knowledge.

We do not throw away the past, nor should we throw away what the internet has become as it is a part of who we are as a society. Maybe some socialist scientists would like the build a better internet, feeling that they know better than the population at large as to how it should work. Of course, this is all in the guise of protecting ourselves from ourselves by creating something that will magically eliminate spam, porn, and illicit activities.

If the scientist’s idea is great, it will naturally be picked up by the population at large in time. Take texting, in the last five years it became ubiquitous. Many of my friends and colleagues could not understand this, calling it a fad. Now they do it themselves because it has uses apart from calling someone. This technology was bolted on the cell network, but you don’t hear wireless carriers complaining that they need to reinvent their networks to fully integrate it.

The internet should not be reinvented, only improved. It came in to being ad-hoc because of the needs of society, ethnic groups, companies, and governments. We designed a great system, if flawed in places, which allows those who access it virtually all of human knowledge.

Copyright and Obscurity

I came across this quote a few weeks ago when reading an article about piracy:

Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy. - Tim O'Reilly 

It is interesting to note that most people’s creative side, like myself, will just remain in obscurity. Even if I keep this site up for 80 years, the text upon it will slowly disappear from the net when I am gone. It is a wonder why people fight so hard for copyright extensions since by it very definition, it slows the spread of their idea.

Now works stay locked up for nearly 100 years. Good if you made it big corporate entity, but for the vast majority of works, it stinks since it relegates these people to obscurity simply because there is value in gate keeping.

The gate keeping is the worst part because it locks up culture, preventing people from reading a work, making derivatives copies that build our culture, and sharing great pieces with their friends. Don’t get me wrong, I do like copyright because it may give people the incentive to create knowing that they can profit and continue to do what they love to do most, create. However, the time period should be shortened to give society a chance to build off it. I don’t know how long, but 10-20 years seems ample.

Shortened time period might give creators more incentive to continue to create art, and give people who have grown to love the work a chance to use their imagination on it. Once in the wild an idea becomes bigger than its creator, and to restrict ideas is a great injustice to society.

Intimacy Model of Social Networking Sites

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I was bored a few weeks ago and created this framework of a few social networking sites. They sites seem to be the next stage in the progression of how people interact on the Internet. It is just another thing people came up with the mimics how the real world works. This article is not the end all since it only it analyzes only three popular sites. However, like Google, they will become dominate in the US because of their critical mass.

No one site will have the lock on people’s time since we have alternate egos throughout the net. I expect people join these as their “Public” personas but you will find many on more targeted sites that interest them in a more personal ways to find people of like interests.

Networking
 

Model

Intimacy

Like the real world, social site users interact with the people they are closest to in real life. Most spend 66 – 85% of their time communicating or looking at the profiles of the 4 to 11 people they are closest.

On these sites, people spend time sending small communications to one another that update each other’s pages or if they are online at the same time, they will engage in mini-applications such as quiz games or use in site chat programs. Traditionally, this communication has taken the place via phone calls, text messages, instant messages and face-to-face meetings.

Casual

Outside of the intimate group of contacts, people keep track of their casual acquaintances much like the real world. These contacts are people they know, but do not interact with on a daily basis such as former work mates, high school and college friends, and people they interact with in online and offline groups they engage in such as church groups or gamer clans.

While people have varying number of these people connected to their profiles, there seems to be an upper bound of 150 – 200 people in this category. After that point, the user cannot keep up with their social network.

If a user has a strong civic or brand relationship, these groups may also be in this category. Such as being a member of a Ford car club or softball team.

Identity

Groups or people in the group give the user’s profile color and uniqueness. Many sites have small add-ons that users allow users go give each other gives or compete in games and quizzes. People find these apps based on affinity to a brand or take part because they see it in another users’ profile. Users may also use these mini-applications to foster social activities or just to break the ice. Examples such as giving a friend a Budweiser or completing a Family Guy quiz that displays the number of points they received.

Public

This is the entire social ecosystem of the site. Depending on what companies do, users may or may not venture into this space. For example, MySpace focuses on entertainment and users will often look around to see what their friend are into to find new music and shows to watch. Where as a site like Mixi is an invite only site that focuses on intimate relationships and does not have a strong public component that allows deep interconnections.

Site Differences

MySpace

MySpace is focused more on media and entertainment. People use this site to find out what their friends participate in such as music or TV shows. It also has great flexibility and allows users to personalize their profiles and give it an individual look and feel. This ability makes the user focus more finding new connections rather than fostering their more intimate groups.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is seen as a more business like site that offers networking opportunities to find new business or meet acquaintances in a particular line of business. It nature fosters more causal relationships based on mutual interests much like traditional settings such as the Chamber of Commerce or trade associations.

Facebook

With its rather plain shell, Facebook looks to foster communication between users. Unlike other sites, it is stripped down and simple to navigate offering a consistent look and feel for it users. The site is setup around small comities such as the year someone graduated from a high school or college to work groups. From there people branch out to other groups based on their preferences. It nature allows users to interact with their friends and colleagues easily and is set up so people can maintain their offline relationships.

ClickTale Critique

For my a midterm in one of my classes at ISU, ITK 367 – Designing the User Interface, I had to do some research on a topic. I read late last year about a report stating that the fold of the browser, this is the place that you need to start scrolling to read more content, did not matter. I tracked down this report and it has some interesting information. However, marketing speak takes over and they stretch the facts way too much. Sites that picked up this information parroted some of the faulty conclusions and I wanted to put this out as a counter to this information. Not to say that the study is invalid, but some of the conclusions simply are not substantiated fom the data.


Late last year, I read a number of news reports that talked about the fold a browser window having little effect on users when they go to web sites. For my paper, I did some checking to find out the source of the information. I found that a company called ClickTale has a three-part report on the effects the page fold has on users. The first report, “Unfolding the Fold,” details how users interact with web sites. Using 120,000 page views collect over a two-month span, they indicated that 91% of pages clicked had scrollbars and of the page what had a scroll bar, 76% of users scrolled to some extent. Of those with scrollbars, about one quarter of user reached the bottom of the page. Even for pages longer than 4,000 pixels, this scrolling process held true. This first report gives some indication that users do not see just the top of the page, but rather tend to look through screens when surfing.

The next two reports titled, “Scrolling Research Report V2.0 part 1 and 2” delve deeper into how users scrolled through pages. In these reports, the findings seem to show that users are much more likely to scroll down the page a little than all go all way to the bottom. Participation drops seems to drop rapidly after the user scrolls more than 500 pixels. However, the analysis seems to show that the percentage of people scrolling to the bottom of the page remands near a constant 20% no matter how long the page. The first part of the report showed in interesting breakdown of where the fold is. There were three major locations, 430, 600, and 800, that corresponded to the typical screen resolutions. The most common was, 600, equates to 1024×768. The actual fold varies slightly from machine to machine since users have different set ups including extra toolbars and programs to improve their surfing experience.

I feel that the data provides valuable insights on of users interact with web page, even if a number of their conclusions are seriously flawed. The major part that I took away is that it provides evidence that designers do not need to put everything on the top of the page. People seem to accept scrolling as a part of using web sites.

Some of the researcher’s analysis seems to be correct, but problems start showing up in the concussions based off this research. In the first part of, “Scrolling Research Report V2.0,” one of the conclusions is that web sites should maximize images while minimizing text because people tend to browse. Nowhere in the data does it show that people tend to scroll down the page more if there are more graphics or multimedia objects. We need an analysis between text and graphic heavy pages before making this statement. Another conclusion is that you should break the page layout into sections. Again, the data does not support this. The researcher noted that as people scrolled, viewership dropped exponentially or linearly depending on position. If breaking the page up into sections worked, the data might show plateaus where people paused between section breaks.

One assumption that I feel they over reach with is the fact that the footer is important. They state that one in five users scroll to the bottom of the page and spend 10 – 15 seconds at this point. Since the second most time spent on each a page is the bottom after the top is the bottom, one could make this assumption that having information at the bottom is a good idea. However, if one reads a page they might scroll ahead of where they are reading, this means that the bottom of the page is where they spend to catch up with their scrolling. Of course, people spend more time at the bottom because many sites have reference links and blog comment boxes there. In addition, if your click the browser back button to go back a page it takes time to do this action and to load the previous page. More research needs to happen before this assumption could be deemed valid.

Despite the major leaps of faith in their assertions, I do agree with their two major points. The first is that the top sections of the page are the most important parts of the page since nearly 100% of the users have the content on the screen. The other point that the page fold plays less of a roll than it did since at least three-fourths of users scroll down the page for more content. It would not surprise me that the biggest reason for this is the addition of the scroll wheel in mice. Even if these two statements are good, I think that the results stated through the research go too far. Coming from a for-profit corporation, this is not unexpected since the information from the report came from the same tools they try to sell. This also makes the information somewhat suspect since you do not know if the researchers did the work scientifically by trying to approximate site usage through commercial as well as educational and personal sites.

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