Searching for a hay in a needle stack!

Marti Hearst professor at U.C. Berkeley School of Information has written a large amount of research and instruction on the dealings of our digital world. In a book published by Cambridge University Press, he explains the details and reasoning of the standard interfaces for search engines. In chapter 1, he explains some of the components and concepts to utilize when designing and/or using a search interface.

He explains that above all else, a search interface needs to maintain simplicity. The more complex the display the easier it will be for the user to get distracted. He notes that, “When a person reads text, they are focused on that task; it is not possible to read and to think about something else at the same time. Thus, the fewer distractions while reading, the more usable the interface.” [i]


When maintaining simplicity, the interface allows the user to gain better focus and continually think about the bigger question they were looking to answer. This means, that when designers try to incorporate seemingly intuitive features, they are assuredly going to mystify and confuse some portion of the user base.

I personally think about the early differences between Yahoo and Google, and it is clear that a lot of Google’s success is due to its simplicity and ease of design. A historical shift from using search interfaces to navigate small pockets of information to using them to access the world wide web has allowed for most Americans to gain access to a search interface with ease. If there hadn’t been a shift from command-line interface to bitmapping, I believe that not so many Americans would be well versed in search inquiries.


That being said, the shift did happen, which made usability a key factor in the success of design. Hearti describes the components of usability as; Learnability, Efficiency, Memorability, Errors, and Satisfaction.[ii] Each part of usability will build not only a deeper understanding of the usefulness of the interface, but also allows for improvement and occasionally complete reconfiguration. Testing these facets of usability are essential to creating an environment that promotes good search practices and allows for the user to get the most information available without being too distracted from the original question.

Emily Adiseshiah from Usability Geek states “that you would want to define the following: Scope, Purpose, Schedule and Location, Sessions, equipment, Participants, Scenarios, and Metrics.”[iii] Each of these will help guide your testing and give you the best results.

In order for an interface to be not only usable, but useful, it needs to be able to fulfill a series of functions that can allow the search to either be narrowed or broadened. Features like sorting via criteria and displaying related search terms may help the user gather more information and find more useful sources.

Now let us say they navigate your search functions, WHAT NOW?!?!? Well what happens when you type and search a term in Google; it lists a number of resources in an order based on relatable topics. The search queries have shift from a place where people are looking for a single word topic, to more advanced ideas and subjects. This means that results no longer are blocked by whether or not the item contains the search or not, but rather degrees of variance and a level of ranking based on relevance. Have you ever used the popularity button in a YouTube search? We know we all want to be popular, but this didn’t come into the picture until the 2000’s. Just like the kid sitting at home doing Fortnite dances and hacking his parents computer (badoom tssssss).
All things stated, the biggest and most important thing you can walk away from this reading knowing is to not overwhelm the user. They are simple minded folk that need to be taken by the hand into the web and guided along the path that leads to total internet wisdom. They need to have time to build meme(ories) and eventually they will be searching all sorts of information on their own. Aesthetics and function all play together to make everyone feel like they can find more without the effort, and all cynicism aside, I and my simple minded friends enjoy when we can use a search engine and play games in the title. That Google Ghost game for Halloween was straight fire!


[i] “Search User Interfaces.” Models of the Information Seeking Process (Ch 3) | Search User Interfaces | Marti Hearst | Cambridge University Press 2009. Accessed November 10, 2018.


[ii] “Search User Interfaces.” Models of the Information Seeking Process (Ch 3) | Search User Interfaces | Marti Hearst | Cambridge University Press 2009. Accessed November 10, 2018.


[iii] Adiseshiah, Emily Grace, and Emily Grace AdiseshiahEmily Grace Adiseshiah. “How To Develop Goals In A Usability Test.” Usability Geek. December 11, 2017. Accessed November 10, 2018.


Before Your V.H.S. is M.I.A.

by: Samuel Medlin

Before we begin, I want you to look around. Take a second and really LOOK.

The digital world has taken over. Like a Ray Bradbury novel, the analog world is in ashes. Once there lived a place of sharp cassette mountains and beautiful pastures of magnetic tape, where the illustrious tape player and automatic rewinding machines grazed up the lovely brown memories of the past. In fact, the past is the topic. The past, the once was, the has been, the previous days of olde (an e in old means REALLY old).


For those that remember the days of Scooby Doo on tape or the jarring obsession your father had with tape recording EVERYTHING from your first tooth pulling with a door knob to the time you opened gifts on your birthday (only to realize later you blew spit all over the handmade cake your grandma made), I give you a moment of hope and a realization that those days aren’t completely gone. ISH.

In LS562 we have discussed a lot of aspects dealing with creating digital libraries. In week 4’s readings, the topic is digitizing analog video and audio materials, specifically dealing with VHS libraries and the complications that are associated with them. In “The Preservation of Analog Video through Digitization”, authors Scott Pennington and Dean Rehberger are discussing in medium detail the process by which a person should; 1) analyze their digitization circumstances, 2) prepare an analog playback for their items, 3) how to actually digitize, and 4) how to do a proper quality control. 1 They explain that each step of the digitization process can be approached in a budgetary way, where the item owners (or librarians) are to use their discretion.

When assessing a collection the points of interest are “the Identifier, Condition, Tape Format, and Date”.1 Each of these points of interests are described as; a label (even if post creation of item), the state of decay, what type of media, and the time at which the analog material was created, respectively. After going through each of these points, the authors say that you can prepare your set-up for the digitizing process. Basically, by purchasing or borrowing a Video Tape Recorder, you can get the input machine for the material. This VTR will then be connected to an Analog-to-Digital converter. Where the analog signal will be turned into a digital format, that can be recorded using a number of software ranging in prices from Avid (several thousands of Dollars) to iMovie (usually free for mac users). It is going to feel like Back to the Future.

The hard part is done, just kidding.

“No, it can’t be, I just sent you back to the future.” Doc

“I know you just sent me back to the future, but I’m back. I’m back from the future.” Marty

The Tapes are Marty in this story. You’re welcome.

vhs future

Don’t look a gift tape player in the mouth too soon. Don’t forget that those cute videos of your childhood still need to be reviewed to double check the quality. This isn’t a post-production process either. No walking away!!! V.H.S. didn’t walk out on you, so you better stay and watch the digitizing happen in its final hours (or days). Several issues such as tape rolling and dropped rates are a real reason those tapes won’t hit 88 mph. This is the optimal speed for time travelling into a digital media environment FYI. You’re welcome again.

You may run into some interesting issues similar to what Paul Grippaldi experienced when digitizing over 50,000 feet of Chevron’s nearly four decades of analog materials. He stated that “Film can shrink over time”. 2 Be he a man of few words, he is right. This requires a different process of digitization, where you would need to scan items instead of running them through a machine with sprockets. Occasionally he could stretch the tapes before playback, but often ran into other issues. This collection required the tapes to be baked to remove all the moisture, which severely slowed the restoration process. These things can all be a huge factor when getting through the digitization process, even right in the middle of reviewing some films. In fact, Pennington and Rehberger state that you should “view constantly the video output from your VTR as the signal is being captured” for this reason.

After getting the digital signals from your all powerful time travel machine (ADC), you can then edit and organize all of your newly found digital materials for

For those of us that forgot about that wonderful analog pasture, remember that even our digital-born materials can have complications. Granted most of these issues arise from miscommunication between operating systems. The authors of “Digital Forensics and Born-Digital Content in Cultural Heritage Collections” state that “the limitations and affordances of a particular file system have an effect on how a creator organizes and names the files”. 3 This simply states that the OS can limit the original organization of the files created by narrowing the usable characters in the naming of said file.


“No / !” says windows.

MAC responds disdainfully “I only dislike the : ”… “its tacky”.

The operating system then becomes herding software for when trying to create, move, or replicate digital items. Capturing files from original digital media becomes a complication, not of quality but function. The person responsible for organizing the new collection then has to decide whether to delineate the original naming and organizational structure or try and maintain the same filenames as much as possible.

Aside from the naming and organization, drive formatting and hardware become an even larger talking point. I QUOTE! “an external hard drive formatted as FAT 32 only accepts files smaller than 4 gigabytes (GB).” 3 What if the original file is larger than 4 gigs, it won’t work. NOPE, NADA, NO WAY! This means that even if you can rename the files verbatim (which you won’t), they might be too big to even transfer to a new location. YUCKERS.

All that being said, much of the time these issues arise and are easily navigated. BURN THE BRIDGE WHEN YOU GET THERE… jk… cross it first.

bridge burn

Regardless of whether or not you long for the days of Cassette Mountains, or are completely content with your OS telling you how to name things, remember that one day someone might be looking at your material and cataloging your work. So work responsibly, and take pictures of the pastures as they pass you by, the digital is now.


  1. Pennington, Scott and Rehberger, Dean, “The Preservation of Analog Video through Digitization,” in Oral History in the Digital Age, edited by Doug Boyd, Steve Cohen, Brad Rakerd, and Dean Rehberger. Washington, D.C.: Institute of Museum and Library Services, 2012,


  1. Grippaldi, Paul. 2016. “Digitizing Chevron’s Media Legacy: A Case Study.” Visual Resources Association Bulletin 42 (2): 1–3.


  1. Kirschenbaum, Matthew G., Richard Ovenden, Gabriela Redwine, and Rachel Donahue. Digital Forensics and Born-digital Content in Cultural Heritage Collections. Washington, D.C.: Council on Library and Information Resources, 2010.