Sunday, 18 December 2011

'Users need to be able to specify whether their comments are intended for publication': ReScript editing issue 5

Page section
Article editor


A formal distinction exists between phases of editorial work – the initial transcription and mark-up procedure may uncover ambiguities in the original of which the reader must be made aware. In addition, further secondary or explanatory material (for instance, footnotes) may be added by another user in a subsequent phase.

Impact severity

Although the semantic structure of the underlying content mark-up is flexible enough to support the presence of notes, users conceive of marking-up and editing as two separate functions which, in the course of a project, may be carried out by separate users. Support these functions distinctly and enable editors to specify whether their comments are intended for publication (Typical categories include: Added, Deleted, Gap, Supplied, Critical apparatus (e.g. footnote)). This solution needs to be extensible, will rely on editorial style and is expected to differ between sources.

During the editorial process, a user may comment on difficulties encountered during the transcription of the text, e.g. "This appears to read Botolph, but could possibly read Butolph." They may also add explanatory material, e.g. "The Botolph referred to is the parish of St Botolph Aldgate". At present, they cannot specify which of their comments are intended for publication, e.g. as footnotes, and which are not.
Figure 5—1: at times, the transcriber may need to advise the reader that the originals were unclear

Quantitative measure
Where would you expect to click in order to add a footnote to this paragraph?
Actual question
Where would you expect to click in order to add a footnote to this paragraph?

Initial click test result ('before')
November 2011: 120 responses.
Figure 5—2: before
Development change
Creation of dedicated toolbar function, entitled 'Commentary' for editorial notes. Works in the same material way that the ready mark-up function does.

Figure 5—3: commentary device added to toolbar and separated from mark-up device by search function

Follow-up click test result ('after')
December 2011: 90 responses.
Figure 5—4: after
This objective was only partially met in spite of a new dedicated device being created for this purpose. The mark-up function to the left attracted a substantial number of clicks. It should have been clearer that the applying critical apparatus was distinct from the more formal marking up of content and so a change in labelling may be useful, from 'Commentary' to 'Footnotes, comments'.

There seems to be a risk here that, because the actual enhancement suggested is altering a few words, that that would undermine the substantial investment in time and resources in usability analysis. By its nature, usability reviews pick up on aspects of the interface which are likely to have a negative effect on the user experience so care needs to be taken to prevent the only output from this process appearing slight or subjective.

It feels frustrating that the recommendation here is to change a few words and that that is the difference between assigning a Met and a Partially Met classification to the work. It's almost as if we need a pre-usability-test usability test.

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