Radian 6 : Usability v. Information Farming

16 Feb

Andrew and I brought up an interesting discussion (amongst ourselves-at least, I thought it was interesting) in class about the implications of Radian 6, data farming, and usability. Our opinions were as follows:

Radian 6 (for those of you reading and unaware) is very robust software that can be used to monitor and follow the trends of information surrounding specified topics, markets, and means of communication on a larger topic. Companies such as Dell and Domino’s Pizza have invested in Radian 6 for monitoring customer satisfaction, complaints, fiascos, and trends in product push. This tool supports several widgets that are premade (or customizable if you’re feeling particularly savvy) to aid in providing very visually concise information that help a person mines vast amounts of data in a very efficient fashion.

Now, the heart of this conversation started when we were discussing the capabilities and strengths of Radian 6, but with strengths, there are weaknesses. There’s just no way around that. Andrew sparked my interest when he made mention of how Radian 6 functions in terms of usability. He and I are of the opinion that there’s still a solid principle such that there’s just a thing called ‘too much’.

The demo that we went through with Lauren Vargas was extremely lengthy-and for good reason. Saying ‘We have a lot to cover!’ was an understatement. I’ll try to make this brief:


  • extremely robust
  • makes data farming fast
  • find extensive amount of info, in various places
  • for the price, an AMAZING deal


  • layout is kind of bizarre; either empty and feeling ‘not used’ or cluttered by widgets
  • some widgets bear little relevance

We found the last con to be a big hit. While it does find a lot of info for users to consume, and more importantly what is being projected/said about a particular trend, the usability of it drove us nuts. We generally felt that there was just too much trying to cram into one program. With that said, we also feared new users (us) who weren’t accustomed to looking for data in the first place (some of us), let alone interpreting or reading data (still some of us) were going to get lost in a sea of data, papers, tweets, blogs, etc..

I think I’m going to draw a picture of that later.

These thoughts also sparked when I went through the setup process, as some of the things were very unclear to me (after doing enough research you start to reconsider the definition of everything..”dog? Like a mammal ‘dog’, a good friend ‘dog’, an individual you look down on ‘dog’, some new way of saying hot dog-clarify please!” It sometimes makes me wonder if my brain is rotting). I found myself wondering if the terminology used was as simple as I had anticipated, and couldn’t get an answer until after I reached the end, and it informed me my pathetic one keyword topic profile generated a measly 500 results. I then went back, re-established some better keywords, and got around 3 million. I think I’m actually searching for stuff now!

What do you think? I can surely appreciate what Radian 6 will offer in terms of finding information, but is there a better way to find and distribute all of it? Do you like the layout? Dislike? What are your fears and concerns as first time users? Where is Tufte when we really need him?

-Vanessa B!

1 Comment

Posted by on February 16, 2011 in Uncategorized


One response to “Radian 6 : Usability v. Information Farming

  1. Mihaela

    February 21, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    Interface design is a big challenge when you’re charting new territory, and you don’t have established models to follow. We know what to expect of word processors, but in terms of data mining, the engineers and designers have to figure it out from scratch – even the users don’t know what they need, because they don’t have experience in this area!


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