Altmetrics workshop recap: part 1 – the Altmetrics Guide

Instead of writing one large post I’ve decided to break it up into multiple posts. In this first post I’ll cover the guide that was made to anchor the workshop.

Start and stay simple.

One of my guiding design and writing principles is keep it simple. That’s not always easy to do when discussing something as complicated as altmetrics. I knew we couldn’t get too in-depth because while the workshop was an hour and a half we needed to plan for only an hour of content, that way we would have enough time to do the hands on part, answer questions, and troubleshoot problems. So, with Emma’s help, we broke altmetrics down into three main ideas to cover:

What are altmetrics? Where do altmetrics come from? How do I make altmetrics work for me?

The first page would serve as an introduction to the concept of altmetrics – i.e. of measuring/monitoring research impact beyond the printed page. I broke this up into 4 sections: defined, why they matter, how they work, and, at Kelly’s suggestion, altmetrics vs. Altmetric (the company). The second page would cover where altmetrics are “found.” This was actually kind of a hard thing to parse so we approached it with the goal of “if I wanted to locate all of my altmetrics, where would I need to look?” This page ended up with the name “Where do altmetrics come from?” which invokes images of storks but was also the most straightforward name for the concept we wanted to cover. Lastly we wanted to make a page that would provide a list of services that are “altmetrics friendly.” Since this was an introductory guide I choose to name it “Make altmetrics work for you” since that was the goal of the page.

Write for your audience.

I wrote most of the copy on the guide over a period of a couple of weeks. I took inspiration from many places including the PLOS Altmetrics collection, the original manifesto, and from other guides on the topic. While there is a lot of information on altmetrics available much of it is either 1) targeted to a specific type of audience or 2) long or advanced in nature. This guide was to be neither of those things. It needed to be an introduction to the topic which meant that I needed to make it relatable to our audience which could include faculty, administrators, graduate students and other librarians.

So I started from scratch.

I tried to keep each section short and straightforward. If there was something that needed two paragraphs I reread it multiple times to make sure it was necessary. I repeated certain things in the right places but tried to say something once and to make sure it was meaningful when I did. This is harder than it sounds but I think it paid off. Lots of thanks to my proof readers (who were also fellow presenters) – I am a horrible speller and typist.

Make it pretty.

For every text section I choose icons from Icons8 that symbolized the concept being covered. I’m a visual learner, and I find large blocks of text on webpages to be very unfriendly and a bit difficult to read. So, because I knew I’d be presenting this guide on a “smaller” screen, and to make reading easier, I increased the font sizes and spacing. This pushed some important content “below the fold” but since infinite scrolling websites like Pinterest and tumblr have gained popularity this is a dying idea. As long as there was something to catch the eye near the bottom of the screen people would scroll. The icons and images helped with this, as did the large headings.

I will add a word of warning to fellow librarians using LibGuides 2 – the editor often “breaks” when images are involved. Springshare got three reported bugs from me because of this guide. Be prepared to have to edit the html when it gets messy. To make damage control easier I put most of the text/image pairs in their own content boxes. I still had to devote an unexpected 90 min the night before the workshop on the guide due to bugs, so be ready!

In closing

So not only do we have a guide with that’s full of original content that’s tailored to our audience, we also have a guide that’s visually pleasing and easy to navigate. It may be my art degree talking but I find those last two to be nearly as important as the first two. If you have any feedback on the guide, or find an error, please let us know! After getting some attention on Twitter this afternoon I also added a CC-BY license to the guide on the “About” page. This is something that’s going to be rolled out onto all of our guides but hey, why wait?

In the next post I’ll cover the actual workshop.


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