Christina's LIS Rant
Sunday, November 30, 2008
  Readings completed this week
(posting now, but hope to knock a couple more off this afternoon)

Bowker, G. C., & Star, S. L. (1999). Sorting things out: Classification and its consequences. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
- overall an interesting book - I would just skip the introduction and get to the interesting parts about nursing interventions classification, people classification during apartheid, etc.

Dennis, A. R., & Kinney, S. T. (1998). Testing media richness theory in the new media: The effects of cues, feedback, and task equivocality. Information Systems Research, 9(3), 256-274.
- carefully and thoroughly debunks Daft and Lengel's media richness theory - people do pick media channels based on richness and things go faster when there are more cues, but matching media richness to task equivocality doesn't improve performance. Previous studies have looked at media choice, not performance.

(previously blogged Walther & Bunz, so I've now gone back and labeled that comps)


  Comprehensive Exam Readings
I'm the last one at the iSchool at Maryland to go through the comprehensive exam process. They've approved a new process for the doctoral program that has an "integrative" paper for the hurdle to jump before advancing to candidacy.

Comprehensive exams are handled differently in the ischool, because we have such diverse areas of research. I saw that in some socy departments, you're basically given a list -- here's what you must know if you're going to call yourself this flavor of sociologist. For us, we craft our lists around a story of how we define an area and what we're interested in studying. The typical thing is 5 areas - 2 major and 3 minor - but some people have done 3 major and 1 minor. Two of these areas must be communication and information transfer and information retrieval. My areas are:
In Communication I emphasize scholarly communication, but I've of course got a lot of stuff on communication models and theories, information seeking, diffusion of innovations, and information behavior of scientists and engineers. (total 42 articles & chapters + 3 whole books).

In STS - I'm all over the place, but luckily I have two really strong committee members who have given me *a lot* of needed guidance. My sub-areas are scientific norms; social studies of knowledge; inscription, authorship, and the dissemination of scientific work; scientists in groups; the laboratory; science and technology policy; and public understanding of science. (total 28 articles & chapters + 9 books)

In CMC, I look at CMC (general aspects and norms and behaviors), social computing technologies, social networks and online communities, people working together online (like data and information sharing as well as collaboration), and then some example studies. (total 46 articles & chapters + 2 books - yes, this is a lot for a minor area, sigh)

In IR, I have information seeking processes (all of these articles are cross-listed, but are here for completeness), types of searches, query formulation, information organization, matching, relevance, evaluation, and cases and contexts. (total 43 articles & chapters + 2 books)

In Research methods, I hit the quantitative stuff in a glancing blow, but emphasize qualitative and network methods. I also added a whole section on bibliometrics - which makes me very happy. The sub areas are overview textbooks (so this includes the two stats texts), qualitative research methods (data gathering methods, analysis tools and methods, evaluating qualitative research), mixed methods research, network analysis methods, and bibliometrics. (total 31 articles/chapters + 8 books). The articles/chapters count is somewhat misleading because one listing is 8 chapters of a stats text and another is 14 chapters of another stats text.

So this is really daunting - especially with a March target date! Some of these things are cross-listed, too.

Total of 175 unique articles/chapters + 22 unique books = 197 unique readings. I've read probably more than half of the articles before but less than half of the books - but I need to re-read as well as look at my reading notes.

I'm going to try to track some of these here just to keep honest! Wish me luck.


Thursday, November 20, 2008
  Great example of data quality issues
Look at the affiliations in Scopus:

Here's what the article pdf from the publisher has:

Now see the record in Thomson Reuters ISI Web of Science (perfect, in fact, more readable than the original):

THIS is what I'm talking about when I say that Scopus has data quality issues. I am of course not affiliated and this doesn't represent anyone I know!

Update: 11/21 - on top of all of this, apparently searches in Scopus this week have had wildly different retrieved sets - from like 900 to 20,000 when the saved search was repeated...
Thursday, November 13, 2008
  Some rules to help build trust quickly in virtual teams
Reading this article recommended by two members of my committee...

Walther, J. B., & Bunz, U. (2005). The rules of virtual groups: Trust, liking, and performance in computer-mediated communication. Journal of Communication, 55(4), 828-846. DOI:10.1093/joc/55.4.828

The hypothesis is that adherence to 6 structuring rules derived from a history of study on CMC and virtual teams will lead to increased trust and liking within the group. The rules are:
  1. start right away - it takes longer to get to trust, and it's harder to make up time in getting work done, so start right away
  2. communicate frequently
  3. multitask getting organized and doing substantive work simultaneously- if you do all organizing and then all doing you might use up all of your time before getting to the work and duplication isn't necessarily a bad thing
  4. overtly acknowledge that you have read one another's messages
  5. be explicit about what you are thinking and doing
  6. set deadlines and stick to them
In the study, they took three groups. They encouraged all of the groups to follow these rules. One third of the groups were just graded on their final work, one third on their paper and if they posted at least 5 out of every 7 days, and the final third on posting substantive messages as well as organizing messages.

(lots of details in the article on how this stuff was measured)

The groups who were graded on rule-following followed all of the rules more (not just the one they were graded on). In general - those groups that followed the rules reported more trust and liking and felt that they did better on the projects. Not all of the rules correlated with the grades received on the project, but most did. So these things apparently really worked.

Do try these at home :)
Update: comps tag added


Saturday, November 01, 2008
  Is there any value in blogging when you get no comments?
Any long time readers or people who have heard me speak about blogs (which has been at least a couple of years ago now) know that I'm not bent around the axle about getting comments -- which is lucky, since I rarely get comments on this blog. I mean almost never and when I do they are very likely to be from people I've also met offline at some point or another.

Yet from the earliest days of blogs there have been pronouncements that you need to post so many times per time period (once a day? three times a week? no less than 4 times per month?) and do all other sorts of things to build and grow readership. Some people do all sorts of stunts to get readers. Likewise, there are all sorts of pronouncements (and in another place this week) that you have to have comments and trackbacks to have community and without communities blogs are pointless.

So I was reminded of this when two different people at the most recent conference and a few people at the two SLA events I attended this year made a point of telling me that they enjoy reading my blog. Very flattering and nice to hear, thank you. (another person mistook me for Jessica Baumgart, but anyway). Also, my blog has fairly decent readership stats (I knew there were ~160 in bloglines, but just thought to check feedburner - holy cow, 670? hm, maybe includes some bots?). Actually, though, my primary reasons to blog have always been:
  1. to park ideas for later or so that I can think of something else
  2. for personal information management
  3. to try out new ideas
So it's all about me :) I go through long stretches when I don't post anything -- I've been terribly cranky recently and I've deleted posts I was working on because there was really nothing constructive in them at all - not for anyone. I think people find me via searches and subscribe to my feed... so I'm not really worried that people forget about my blog and I'm not going to write posts in some - what I think is vain - attempt to get people to actually visit the site.

Obviously some of my posts are directed at certain audiences - like how to do a bit of citation analysis or how weeding works or ones about various interfaces or the couple I've done for ResearchBlogging. I'll keep doing those when I think I have something to contribute. I'll also blog conference sessions when I can - I refer back to those frequently.

I post on twitter and on friendfeed - but for me, those are a different animal than my blog. Those are really for - oh, look! - alerts and of course complaining that another service is down.

I hope that a certain British STS/Information Science researcher who said she was planning to start a blog does so, because I'd like to read it. So many practitioners in LIS blog, but hardly any researchers or professors and I think this is unfortunate because it makes it seem like there is a large divide when there really isn't one.

In interviews with a few scientists who blog, they also mentioned the personal information management bit - one said how much easier it was to search his blog than his LaTeX files on his desktop. Yep.
  Google alerts now available in RSS


Finally! It's been *years* since I gave talks and wrote about searching/monitoring the web (my specialty being blogs) for environmental scanning and all that and even then I wanted rss for google alerts... hopefully these will work well

(11/6 adding a microtag at the bottom for Nature blogs.. will soon delete, hopefully, deleted)

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This is my blog on library and information science. I'm into Sci/Tech libraries, special libraries, personal information management, sci/tech scholarly comms.... My name is Christina Pikas and I'm a librarian in a physics, astronomy, math, computer science, and engineering library. I'm also a doctoral student at Maryland. Any opinions expressed here are strictly my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer or CLIS. You may reach me via e-mail at cpikas {at} gmail {dot} com.

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Christina's LIS Rant by Christina K. Pikas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

Christina Kirk Pikas

Laurel , Maryland , 20707 USA
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