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.

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
iSchool Portfolio

Social Media Data Analysis: Twitter

In Fall 2020, the final group project in Problem Solving With Data asked us to use newly-learned R and Python skills to analyze tweets to answer self-selected research questions aimed at addressing some kind of social good. My two-person team opted to look into Disability Twitter, a topic I proposed. I also pulled, filtered, and merged the data, as well as performing a large chunk of the content analysis and writing the corresponding sections of the report.

Final report (PDF) on Google Drive

While there are many aspects of the analysis I would do differently under other circumstances (see p. 28), it was a great opportunity to match my interest in/knowledge of a Twitter community with developing technical skills.

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.

“[Emily] took on a very demanding team that wanted to create a new experience for users with Tumblr content. She patiently worked with the team and in many instances stepped in to help move the project forward. Without her it would have taken much longer to launch the experience on Search.”

Product Manager, Search

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 visual 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 as a test for a small percentage of search traffic, and although metrics weren’t impressive, it didn’t cause major problems, and the feature launched for all desktop web traffic.

“Emily did an outstanding job on the Tumblr [search experience] presentation for the Tumblr team. She has built a [search experience] that puts a stake in the ground until Science can develop more precise triggering.”

Product Marketing Manager, Search

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

Global Project Coordination: 2012 London Olympics

Ask
Search leadership wanted to take advantage of our then-new content management platform to release a complete suite of Olympics results features in each of 12 key markets, including the Arabic language site Maktoob. As an editorial leader and tool expert, I was tapped to organize the global team in this complex, ambitious effort.

Process
While the search front-end engineering team developed templates designed specifically for the Olympics–the first time our platform was used for an important tentpole experience–our editorial team organized into content/query experts and technical builders capable of wrangling backend data and tricky template mapping. I oversaw these efforts and maintained detailed tracking of efforts on a per-market basis.

In lieu of engineering-heavy front-end localization, I created an editorially-driven “localization” data source that was easy to use in the content management platform and simple for the global team to input and update specific text strings for UX copy. This made it easier to build centralized featured and simultaneously deploy in almost every market.

Keyword creation was an immense undertaking: we built whitelists of thousands of athlete names and variations (including event and country); numerous patterns were developed to address results by event/sport and country.

I was responsible for keeping stakeholders up to date, ensuring all delegated work was completed in time, supporting pre-launch QA, and understanding how it all worked well enough to address bugs and concerns as they arose.

Result
Our successful global Olympics experience demonstrated the power of the content management platform and the non-technical editors who worked with it. It also highlighted ways to improve the process to reduce engineering overhead and make even more complexity and customization possible.

For Olympic Medal Count Info, Yahoo Gets Gold, Google Silver & Bing Bronze (Search Engine Land)