What if the Opposite is True?
Thursday, May 28, 2015
Posted by: Nathan Swartzendruber
At Tuesday's Membership Meeting, Cindy Tripp had us practicing some
of the moves of Design Thinking. An essential challenge of innovation is
to understand the need of a problem as well as the fact
of a problem. Blindness may be the fact, but if navigation is the need,
it can lead to solutions like echolocation.
Where can I look that up?
When the first edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica was published
in 1771, it combined short reference articles with longer
treatises, which helped those who needed to define terms as well as
those who needed in-depth information. Encyclopedias filled a need for
stable, centralized reference materials that could gain broad acceptance
Wikipedia asked, What if the opposite is true?
What if stability and centralization are less valuable than a broader
expanse of topics with real-time changes available from all of its
readers? Wikipedia prizes immediate updates (the FIFA page already reflects yesterday's
indictments) at the cost of reliability. But since revisions are
only shown if you log in and look for them (FIFA's page has been revised
50 times in the last two days), Wikipedia offers an illusion of
Wikipedia's solution rightly draws strong criticism, since the
reliability of its information is always in question. Are published
updates the result of rigorous debate or simple pranks?
Since citations for online sources break as
external sites update or go offline, even strong evidence can fall into
What if the opposite is true?
Reframing the problem creates opportunities to discover new
solutions, as you look from different points of view. Trying on
different perspectives--a student looking for sources for a poster
presentation, someone trying to remember the plot of a movie, or a cook
who wants to know the safe minimum cooking temperature for chicken--can
help you spot different needs, and different solutions.
Looking for opposites can be uncomfortable, but it can help you ask
new questions and open new alternatives. For more information, try Stanford Design School's
virtual crash course in design thinking (or Wikipedia if
you really want to).
- Nathan Swartzendruber, SWON Technology Educator
Why do people visit your website?
Before you answer, think about the different people who visit your
library. Think about the different resources available. Paying attention
to this diversity of needs and solutions can help you understand if
your website is usable. To understand usability, we have to get
past what it looks like to see what it does and how it works.
At SWON's Level-Up Lab on Website Usability Testing, we'll discuss
and practice several usability tests that can help you discover if your
website is a success for you and for your patrons. Join Nathan
on June 10 for this free 2-hour session at SWON's office in Blue Ash. Register