the wonders

The following interview occured on December 8, 1997 via an Internet Chat room. David Lankes
(lankes), the director of the Virtual Reference Desk project, interviewed Jamie Dronen
(Dronen), the primary Research Assistant for the VolcanoWorld Web site and its
Ask-A-Volcanologist service.
This is the raw has not been edited in any way (other than formatting).

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**** lankes connected at: Mon Dec 8 97 10:03:20 ****
**** Dronen connected at: Mon Dec 8 97 10:07:30 ****


lankes**Hello...please be aware this is being logged.

Dronen**Ok, no problem.

lankes**The transcript will be used by me to create a description of the Ask a Volcanologist
service, and you can determine how widely it will be distributed.

Dronen**Ok. Sounds good.

lankes**I\'m going to be asking you about your service, while I have some general areas of
conversation, please feel free to add, correct or make observations at anytime, the point is to
have a n interactive conversation.
lankes**Ok, so let\'s get right to it, could you please identify yourself, and your role in Ask
a Volcanologist .

Dronen**I am Jamie Dronen, and I am the primary Research Assistant for the VolcanoWorld
Dronen**I am responsible to see that the Ask-A-Volcanologist
Dronen**questions get distributed to the correct people,
Dronen**that they get answered in an effecient manner,
Dronen**and that they get posted on our website.

lankes**Would you say you are involved in both the day to day operations as well as the longer
term planning/vision making process for the service?

Dronen**That\'s correct, although the day to day operations is much more work (of course).

lankes**Great, could you tell me what kind of information you attempt to gather from/about your

Dronen**For this particular part of VolcanoWorld, we ask for very little information. In fact,
they can submit questions without telling us anything. However,
Dronen**we do ask for their name and email address. Without the email address it is very hard
to get a response to them! Interestingly enough,
Dronen**most people offer more information than we ask for.

lankes**So besides the questions, do you try to get other user information, web logs or focus
groups for example?

Dronen**We used to keep extensive web logs, but as time went on they began to use up more and
more of our system reources and they even slowed down our server. Now we only get limited
information in the logs.
Dronen**An example...
Dronen**we keep track of IP addresses, and where they visit within our site.

lankes**So what can you tell me about the users of your service?

Dronen**I can say that from the information most people give us, a majority of our users fall
into a few categories.
Dronen**Nearly all are associated with educational institutions in some way.
Dronen**Most are K-12
Dronen**who are doing internet projects within their classes.

lankes**And this information is derived solely from the questions being asked?

Dronen**Some are also graduate and undergraduate level at universities.
Dronen**This information is usually contained within the question they are asking us!

lankes**How do you track questions...i.e., determine trends in the questions...or do you do
this at all?

Dronen**For example, someone will say, "Hi, I am so and so, and here is a little about
me....then here is my question".
Dronen**We try to track the questions, and here is how:
Dronen**a lot of questions are easily recognized as repeats, for example
Dronen**"how hot is lava" comes every day!
Dronen**What we try to do, is take the repeats, and put them in a FAQ type section of our
Dronen**Then, we try to get the users to go to this section before they submit thier question.
Dronen**However, this usually doesn\'t work.

lankes**Who determines if the question is a repeat...and how?

Dronen**We have even had to make the online form more difficult to get to to try and avoid
Dronen**The volcanologist determines if it is a repeat, usually just from memory. It is pretty
Dronen**how they can remember all the questions they have already answered.
Dronen**If it is a repeat, the volcanologist will usually say so, and then give the web address
to where they