1 ON WIRELESS INTERNET CONTENT QUALITY Pär Landor Institute for Advanced Management Systems Research, Åbo Akademi University Lemminkäinengatan 14 B, FIN Åbo, FINLAND ABSTRACT The call for the wireless Internet also calls for new technological solutions as well as for good quality wireless Internet and mobile content. The idea of the wireless Internet is to be able to provide mobile users on the move and on the spot with highly personalised, localised and on-time information. Right now there is an ongoing discussion about the quality of web content. However, the discussion and the research on mobile content quality, as well as the content quality features of the wireless Internet, seem to be missing. In this paper we outline the basic unequivocal content quality characteristics of wireless Internet content. We also discuss the highly value adding ability of being able to serve the wireless Internet user the high quality information that optimises interpretation of the content and thus triggers action. We also point out the problem of integrating the content of two totally different media, like mobility and the Internet. We suggest that if this content symbiosis is not successful, the wireless Internet will not be one of the unequivocal media like the fixed-line Internet is now becoming. KEYWORDS Wireless Internet, mobile medium, content quality. 1. INTRODUCTION Communication is about sending a message to a receiver. If the receiver does not interpret the message the way the sender herself understands it, the outcome of the communication process will probably not be successful. While quality is a concept most people have some kind of understanding of, the matter of quality of information is not too often discussed, neither in everyday life nor in research. Quality is something we like, want, i.e. something that conforms to our requirements. In this paper we think of quality of information in the same way. We suggest that if a sender sends information, content, through a medium to a receiver, and the content does not fit the receiver s impression of good quality information in the specific context, the actual communication process will not be successful. Wireless Internet is about making a symbiosis between two different media the mobile medium and the Internet medium. Each one of today s successful media (newspapers, TV, radio etc.) has formed a specific content format of their own containing medium and context specific content quality characteristics. These quality criteria seem to be a key to the communicative success of these media. The fixed-line Internet is also slowly developing a specific web content format, but content quality characteristics for the mobile medium as well as for the wireless Internet medium are still missing. We believe that in order to be able to mould two different media together we need to know and understand the content quality characteristics of both media. We suggest that in order to make the wireless Internet an unequivocal new medium we must establish the specific content quality characteristics for this new medium. We tackle this vast problem by pointing out basic content quality criteria in general, and outlining basic content quality criteria for the mobile and the Internet media in particular. From this foundation we move on to outlining some basic content quality aspects of the wireless Internet medium. The contribution of this paper has to be regarded as a suggestion of how we now should start thinking in terms of wireless Internet content quality. We are well aware of the fact that the mobile and the Internet media are highly dependent on technological solutions. We, however, think that since the content, and especially the right content, is the purpose for using any medium, we first need to know what should be communicated through them, as well as how, before it is possible to tailor make the technological solutions that maximise the success of the communication process.
2 Today, the thinking in terms of content quality is only emerging. Despite the fact that commercial media operating on the air have for tens of years chosen their consumer target groups by, for example, choosing good quality music for the consumers wanted, the discussion on target hitting content seems merely to be missing. Web sites are counting the hits, newspapers are carrying out reader surveys etc, but the real effort of finding out what information product, and how and when the consumer wants it, is still missing. This situation is described by the fact that even in the field of journalism thinking in terms of journalistic content quality is in its infant stage. This paper sets the agenda of thinking in terms of wireless Internet content quality by first looking at communication in general. From this starting point we move on to the fact that different media carry different content and then we will describe and compare the mobile medium and the Internet medium to each other. We then look at the concept of quality, from which we move on to specify both Internet and mobile content quality. We end up by suggesting some basic quality characteristics that should be taken into consideration while discussing wireless Internet content quality. 2. FROM ME TO YOU THE WAY I UNDERSTAND IT A number of communication models have been constructed over the years. The value of the models is that they help us understand and to structure the nature of communication. The communication theory boom started as late as in the end of the 1940s. Although the early models differ from each other, they usually deal with similar elements of communication, i.e. message, source, encoder, channel, decoder, destination, noise, and feedback. Modelling communication started with rather technical transmission models not taking the human interpretation aspect very much into consideration (Lasswell, 1948; Shannon and Weaver, 1945). Later on researchers found that the receiver s abilities to interpret communication varied in general, but also due to the information situation and the state of mind of the receiver (Newcomb, 1953); (Westley and MacLean, 1955); (Gerber, 1956), and (Berlo, 1960). David Berlo (1960) created one of the simplest and most useful contemporary models. It is commonly referred to as the SMCR Source, Message, Channel, Receiver model. This description of communication claims that five communication skills are needed for carrying out successful communication speaking, writing, listening, reading, and reasoning. Berlo points out: A given source may have a high level of skill not shared by one receiver, but shared by another. We cannot predict the success of the source from his/her skill level alone. Berlo s exhaustive slogan is No two people can have exactly the same meaning for anything. The classic communication models developed from mathematically calculable technical transmission models to psychological-sociological communication formulas containing human limitations, such as interpretation, meaning, skill, interest, feelings, human-media interaction, time, speed, and context. They point out that the success of communication is dependent on the attributes when, what information, how, and what receiver situation. 2.1 Media Carry Tailor-made Information Old media like newspapers, television, and radio have developed their own specific form of content, i.e. their own quality characteristics for the content. As every media consumer notes, the old media distribute different content, because the information and the consumer usage situations and the contexts are different. One can read the newspaper whenever, but one can only listen to the radio or watch the television when a certain program is being broadcasted (unless the program is taped). While the receiver is being passive while consuming newspaper, radio, and television content she is active while using the web. The web surfer has to have a hint of what she is after and by the use of search engines, links, and Internet interactivity she finds, or does not find, the information she is looking for. Thus, from a user s perspective the Internet is a totally different medium from the old ones. Recently a great deal of research has been done on finding out the form of content a web site should carry in order to be of maximal use for the consumer (see e.g. Kirk, 2002). One very active debater in this field is Gerry McGovern (2002) who quotes: According to research carried out by Parity/Dialogic in 2001, four out of five organizations put the look of the website before the content. Designing a Web site is like choosing a girlfriend or a boyfriend, Jonas Hjerpe, marketing director at the solutions division of Parity, told Content Wire in November It s all very well having an attractive person on your arm, but if they have nothing intelligent, new or interesting to say, you ll get bored and go elsewhere. Similarly, surfers are usually attracted to sites that look good, but if they don t offer anything substantial, users will
3 move on and never return. The websites that work are about substance. Quality content is the substance of the Web. It has been pointed out (see e.g. McGovern, 2002; Hyers, 2000) that websites including streaming videos, blinking banners etc. are often too complicated for the user. The most important part of the web content is still text. The more finery content a site contains the more difficult it is to find and interpret the message and the slower the web site will open up on an average desktop. It seems that the content development of the Internet is guided by Keep it fancy, when we suggest that it should be Keep it simple in order to get the message through to the user fast enough. The atmosphere in this paper is relying on Marshall McLuhan s (1964) idea of the medium being the content. 2.3 The Internet and Mobility are Different Media Simply put, the wireless Internet is an Internet connection that does not rely on phone or cable lines, i.e. mobile access to the Internet structure we see today. Thus, by definition, the wireless Internet needs wireless access; and vice versa; the mobile medium needs access to Internet resources in order to be a wireless Internet medium. Wireless mobility means (see e.g. Kalakota, 2002) being on a real-time Internet connection via satellite, cellular or radio transmitters. An online device will be always on. In the presence of any wireless data network seamlessly connecting to the Internet it can carry out any Internet operation. We suggest that before the Internet goes successfully wireless it has to form a working symbiosis with an almost totally different medium mobility. Let us examine the general similarities and differences between the fixed-line Internet and the mobility as they appear today. In Table 1 below we summarise the general similarities as well as the general differences between the Internet and the mobile media. The mobile medium differs completely from other media; it also differs completely even from fixedline telephoning. The differences are usage specific as well as content specific. Carlsson and Walden (2001) define the value adding features of the mobile medium as person specific, location specific, and time specific, i.e. (1) Personalisation, which can be achieved by creating services that customise the end-user experience for the individual subscriber. It can be further enhanced in addition with intelligent personalisation platforms, which will optimise the interaction path for individual subscribers; (2) Localisation provides easy access to relevant data sources at the locations where they are needed. The key target group will be subscribers on the move, who have diversified needs for high-quality information; (3) Ubiquity, which means that services are available at any time, anywhere; (4) Timeliness, which is the value of information that is inherent in its immediate delivery; and (5) Convenience, which means making life easier. Your computer can well be personalised, but not in the same extent that your mobile device, which is yours, has got your number, your phonebook, your settings for different ringing tones, messaging features etc., and the mobile device is your connection or glue to your social network 24 hours a day (see e.g. Carroll et al, 2002, and Ling et al, 2000). The computer with the fixed-line Internet connection does not move, but the user has to move to the computer. Timeliness can be an important factor also using the Internet, but the mobile timeliness is about getting the right information on the right spot at the right time. Finally, ubiquity and convenience are characteristic that fit both media, but in a mobile context convenience means making life easier when you are on the move, i.e. making your life easier in an On the move and on the spot setting. The general value adding characteristics of the Internet are: (1) Globality, which means that the Internet is truly a global medium. Presently, about 130 countries are linked via the Internet. The value-adding feature is the possibility to be connected to whomever, whenever, and where ever in the whole world in a In the office situation, because the laptop-mobile-modem Internet tool still seem to be much to slow for heavy usage; (2) Interactivity, i.e. the Internet equals to interactivity. Users of the Internet can easily access bulletin boards, Usenets and can freely communicate with each other. It has been said that due to this easiness of communication the Internet is qualitatively different from any other medium, other than perhaps a talk show or village town hall session. Interactivity carries the value adding aspect of being able to communicate in a one-to-one-manner or in a one-to-many manner with any web user around the globe; (3) Accessibility, which is another feature of the Internet that distinguishes it from traditional print or broadcast media. The relatively low cost of connecting to the Internet and even of establishing one s own website is a strong value adding feature as well as the fact that on the Internet everyone can be a publisher. Never before has the publishing of one owns thoughts been as easy and as cheap that on the Internet; (4) Anonymity, i.e. users do not have to reveal their true identity in order to send or post messages on bulletin boards. Users are able to communicate and make postings anonymously or under assumed names.
4 This feature can be a problem, like the so-called Sonera-web book in Finland. But on the other hand, the HCI-science has shown that people tend to be more innovative and open-minded while communicating or brainstorming anonymously.; (5) E-Business, i.e. over the Internet you can by or sell products worldwide. Never before has it been possible to sit at your desk in Finland and buy products or services straight from New Zeeland. The Internet opens up huge value added business opportunities as long as the foundation is a sound business idea. Table 1. The general similarities of the Internet and the mobile media are: Global communication and interactivity; text, voice and picture messaging; both are media for commerce; and both are always online if desired. Below these similarities we list general specific features for each of the mediums The Internet Medium The Mobile Medium Global communication and interactivity Text, voice and picture messaging Medium for commerce Always online if necessary Fixed to the localization of the computer Low degree of personalization Timeliness not that important Anonymity Good performance. Made for heavy usage Your web site is your business card Easy to publish Easy and fast to download Easy to do business Cheapish use Ubiquity and convenience in a in the office usage situation Movability. The medium is where the user is High degree of personalization, usually no anonymity High degree of localisation Timeliness very important Expensive use Limited screen space Limited performance 3G will create richer performance Ubiquity and convenience in a on the move and on the spot usage situation 2.4 A New Medium Carries New Content Accessing the web wirelessly is about communicating with websites while being on the move. In this communicative relationship the streaming amount of information seems to be greater from the website to the mobile device than vice versa. The Internet is accessible 24 hours a day 365 days a year and it provides billions of sites carrying all kinds of information. The Internet requires great activity from the users. Since people on the move use the mobile medium, the content of the wireless Internet cannot be the same as for the fixed-line Internet. A person gathering information from the web using a desktop has a big screen, a QWERTY keyboard, a chair and a desk and probably enough time to search the web. On the move, the mobile user would use the wireless web in varying and probably also attention disturbing conditions; probably in a hurry; probably wanting the information instantly on the small or limited screen space of the mobile device; and maybe also manoeuvring her mobile device with only one hand etc. Opening any website as they are built today will probably confuse the mobile user, since she is not interested in 68 googled and megabyte-heavy web sites, but she wants to have the explicit piece of information she is looking for in a form she interprets, in the right context in order to turn the web information to knowledge, which again can generate positive action. We suggest that most of the Internet content of today will not be unequivocal for the mobile medium, because the web content is tailor made for desktop use and not for users in a mobile context. In order to be value adding for the wireless Internet user the content has to create positive action (see e.g. Lillrank 1997), i.e. help the user create for example purchasing action in a mobile commerce context, making life easier etc. This gives us that the information quality of the websites of today cannot be the correct one for wireless Internet use, since we assume that the unique mobile medium has to carry content quality characteristics tailor made for it. We suggest that in order to be able to tailor make wireless Internet content we need to fully understand which the mobile content quality (MCQ) characteristics are in a specific context.
5 3. QUALITY CONFORMANCE TO SPECIFICATIONS What is quality? Of the handful of worldwide quality gurus W. Edward Deming is best known for starting the Japanese revolution in quality excellence after World War II. He has been called the Founder of the third wave of the Industrial Revolution. Deming s (1982) basic philosophy is that quality and productivity improve as variation decreases. Deming defines quality as Whatever the customer needs. Joseph M. Juran is credited with part of the quality success story in Japan. According to Juran (1998), there are two kinds of quality : Fitness for use and Conformance to specifications. Philip B. Crosby is best known for his concept of zero defects in the early 1960s. Crosby s (1960) theory on quality in a single word would be prevention. Crosby s definitions of quality are: Conformance to agreed requirements, and Doing what we said we would do. Kaoru Ishikawa is a somewhat forgotten guru in the world of quality. A simple set of tools that Ishikawa developed and put into wide use in Japan is the Quality Circle. Ishikawa defines quality as Customer satisfaction. Armand V. Feigenbaum (1950) is the originator of Total Quality Control. He emphasized the administrative viewpoint and considered human relations as a basic issue in quality control activities. Feigenbaum says that quality means, Best for certain customer conditions. These conditions are the actual use and the selling price of the product. He stresses that quality does not mean best, but best for the customer use and selling price. Some research has been done on quality of information. Juran (1998) defines quality of information in the same way as he defines quality in general: High-quality data is data that is fit for use in its intended, operational, decision-making, planning, and strategic roles. Fitness implies both freedom from defects and possession of desired features. Juran s definition of information quality, showed in Table 2, covers most of the basic aspects of quality of information. This definition will function as a corner stone further on in this paper. Table 2. Juran s definition of information quality is built upon two groups of characteristics. In order to be of high quality the information has to be free from defects and it has to possess desired features Free of defects Accessible Accurate Current Complete Consistent with other sources Fitness for use Possesses desired features Relevant Comprehensive Proper level of detail Easy-to-read Easy-to-interpret Crosby presents a rather similar view of information quality: Communication is getting the message to the areas that need it in a way that will be accepted and implemented. That requires both credibility of presentation and integrity of content useful, and When we can communicate with others in a way that helps them make the choice that is best for them, we are being useful. When we aim it at something that is best for us, and not for them, we are not being useful. The whole purpose of communication is to be useful. More recently Wang and Strong (1996) have presented an information quality framework consisting of four categories for classifying 15 data quality attributes. The four information quality categories are intrinsic, contextual, representational, and access, under which the data quality attributes sort. Every one of these attributes can also, however, be derived from Juran s definition of information quality in Table 2. Lillrank (1997) defines quality of information as its ability to generate action. English (1999) presents a business-oriented definition that also has its roots in the quality gurus theories: There is and must stand only one purpose for improving information quality: to improve customer and stakeholder satisfaction by increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of the business process. Information quality is a business concern, and information quality improvement is a business issue. Information quality improvement actually reduces business costs by eliminating costly scrap and rework caused by defective data. 3.1 Internet Content Quality vs. Mobile Content Quality It is interesting to note that a great deal of energy has been invested in research on web information quality recently. Today the web quality research seems to agree on some key indicators of web information quality.
6 It is striking to note that these fundamental indictors do not differ much from the information quality basics given by the quality gurus Deming, Juran, and Crosby. Thus, web information quality is based on (see e.g. Tillman, or the Development Committee) accuracy, reliability and validity. Due to the nature of the Internet, recent research adds indicators such as ease of finding, ease of identifying the authority of authors, currency, the latest update, what was updated, speed of connection and: credibility that includes the source, currency, relevance/utility, and editorial review process for the information; content must be accurate and complete, and an appropriate disclaimer provided; disclosure includes informing the user of the purpose of the site, as well as any profiling or collection of information associated with using the site; links is equal to evaluation according to selection, architecture, content, and back linkages; design encompasses accessibility, logical organization (navigability), and internal search capability; interactivity includes feedback mechanisms and means for exchange of information among users; and caveats is a clarification of whether the site function is to market products and services or is a primary information content provider. The quality aspects of mobile content have hardly been investigated at all. We assume that since mobile communication is a human information distributing activity, the quality roots of the mobile content is found in the basic information quality characteristics. But first, in order to fully understand the concept of mobile content quality, we have to specify what we mean by mobile content. Mobile content is any piece of information sent to a mobile device from whatever digital device. Mobile content can be communication, products or services, and it consists of text, sound, pictures, and/or video, and any combination of these. This broad definition gives us that the mobile medium carries, just like the Internet does, a whole list of different combinations of content. It is possible that the detailed content quality characteristics can vary from content product to content product and from context to context, but this will be an issue for our further investigations. The 3G mobility will carry at least the following groups of content: (1) Voice; (2) SMS (short message service); (3) Voice + SMS; (4) MMS (multi media service), which includes combinations of voice, text, and pictures. The mobile value-adding features of personalisation, localisation, timeliness, ubiquity, and convenience seem to be more context-bound than the content of the Internet. This is due to the fact that since the mobile medium is used on the move, the user needs and the situations where the mobile medium is used can vary dramatically even over a very short period of time, in fact even during a short mobile communication process. In this paper we regard mobile information as a deliverable in the same way as any tangible product is considered a deliverable. This makes us ask; what is information and what does it consist of and what is context? In a digital setting any piece of information is composed of digital data, i.e. megabytes carrying different pieces of data. With data we understand a standardized symbolic representation of states and events (see e.g. Lillrank 1997). Thus, data can be stored, retrieved, compared, aggregated and analysed. Data needs context in order to be understandable. Thus, data alone tell us as little as a row of letters from A to Z. Data in a meaningful context is information. Context has over the years been given the general definition of parts information that proceed and follow a word or passage and fixes its precise meaning. Thus, context gives the circumstances under which a certain set of data acquires the meaning. These circumstances consist of surrounding information. Pomerol and Brézillon (2002) point more precisely out that the notion of context offers an alternative view to knowing how to capture that part of knowledge, which is related to decision-making and action. The notion of context does not explain know how, but it helps to understand how experienced people with a recognized know how adapt their behaviour according to the circumstances. In some sense, context is knowledge about the instantiation of know how, it is the framework which reveals know how. Lillrank (1997) notes that the definition of information quality is context specific, i.e. output can be judged only in relation to intended use. Thus, information is data in a context with meaning, i.e. the usefulness of information is realized when it is communicated and received in a meaningful context. Information tells how something is. Mobile content also consists of data, which becomes understandable i.e. information in a meaningful context. In a mobile setting context has to include at least: (1) A definition of the customer (receiver, client, consumer, investor in the roles of chooser, payer and user); (2) The customer s needs in terms of actions to be triggered or enabled; (3) The life-cycle (time) aspect; and (4) An assumption of the customer s ability to interpret and take action based on the information supplied. In an Internet setting these four elements of context are also present, but the usage situation differs radically and gives the listed context attributes a different meaning. In Table 3 below we show the differences between thinking in terms of Internet contexts and mobile contexts. These differences seem to be deriving from different usage situations: In the Office meaning the Internet setting, and On the Move and on the Spot meaning the mobile ditto. Again, the mobile medium is highly personal, localisation, time, ubiquity, and convenience-bound, which give us the context feature differences; in a mobile setting
7 the content context has to be fit for use on the move and on the spot, while the Internet setting offers a more patient usage milieu and greater information handling performance that to a greater extent allows the user as well as the sender to find out a working context. Table 3. The differences in context thinking between the Internet medium and the mobile one. Note that the building blocks of context are the same, but they mean different things because of the differing usage situations. Basically the In the Office situation of the Internet allows more time, interpretation, and computer resources than the On the Move and on the Spot usage situation of mobility Internet context In the Office Time for reasoning, searching, interpretation. High device performance, which allows global indepth data collection, network action, database usage Definition of customer Customer needs Time Customer interpretation ability Mobile context On the Move and on the Spot Personalization, localization, timing, ubiquity, and convenience Limited device performance that calls for condensed, simplified synthesis of action-triggering content. Less interaction Definition of customer Customer needs Time Customer interpretation ability When information tells us about how something is, then how is that information related to knowledge? Pomerol and Brézillon (2002) point out that knowledge is information incorporated in an agent s (both human and software) reasoning and made ready either for active use within a decision process or for action. It is the output of a learning process. Thus, the roles of knowledge are to: (1) transform data into information, (2) derive new information from existing ones, and (3) acquire new knowledge pieces. Lillrank (1997) states that information transforms into a component of knowledge when it is analysed critically and its underlying structure is understood in relation to other pieces of information and conceptions about how the world works. This means that knowledge is the understanding of how something works in relation to something else. We think, like for example Juran, that the quality of information has to be defined by the receiver the customer/consumer. The bottom line of mobile content quality seems to be fitness for use and conformance to specifications for a specific receiver in a specific usage situation both location and time specific in a certain context. Thus, we can agree with Lillrank that the definition of quality is context-based: Output can be evaluated only against its specification, and a specification can be judged only in relation to intended use. In order to be able to judge whether the mobile content is fit for use, or not, for the receiver, she needs to be able to instantly transform the received information into knowledge of some degree. Note, that in a mobile setting this transformation process has to be rapid. Thus, from the user s point of view, mobile information has to be easy and fast to overview; easy and fast to interpret; easy and fast to determine that it is reliable, accurate, valid; easy and fast to see who the sender is; why you were contacted; fast to open, use, trash, answer; and it has to present easy and fast access to further information. Mobile communicating also has to be secure and guarantee personal security. Timing and speed (when I need the information) are also decisive factors of mobile communication success. As we see, most of the information quality characteristics given by the classic definitions seem to fit well into the concept of mobile information quality, but again: these classic definitions are set for an in-the-office usage situation. We must keep in mind that all the mobile content quality attributes above include unique and decisive intrinsic mobile on the move and on the spot, personalisation, localisation, timeliness, ubiquity, and convenience traits. Thus, for example, a classic information quality attribute like accuracy has got a new meaning in a mobile setting. Accuracy still means preciseness in a mobile situation, but in a mobile setting the preciseness gets its meaning from the On the Move and on the Spot milieu. This means that the information received not only has to be precise for me and in a for me right context, but it must also be