The Blog as a Sharp Tool for Research | Cosmic Variance
Clifford posted a great idea he had to the new collaborative blog, Cosmic Variance
. He starts by discussing the amazing impact Arxiv
has had on his field in physics. He's now proposing a kind of ongoing seminar... well read this huge block quote:
If you are an individual researcher or group at an institution somewhere, that wants to be a full participant in the process, you register with the System. The System then randomly picks a schedule which determines which group (from wherever in the world they are from) gets to be the hosts of the blog. As hosts, they choose the topics of discussion (perhaps some of the topics they are working on in that group) and put up posts on these matters. Everybody else reads and makes comments as usual on several threads, just as on any busy blog. Discussion happens. After the predetermined period ends, it is the turn of the next randomly chosen group to take the baton, choosing their topics of interest, and sparking off the topics for discussion. This just keeps cycling on and on. Full participants get to contribute and host, while others can simply lurk and listen, or listen and post comment.
1) Ideas are thrown around, both good and bad, general and technical. Nuggets of value are panned out of the mud and incorporated into research in the usual manner.
2) Senior people as well as junior get to contribute, and learn from each other.
3) Smaller groups or individuals at more isolated institutions get to have regular conversations with the entire field. Everybody benefits.
4) By changing the host every so often, everyone gets a chance to participate and to change the perspective and the agenda.
5) No one group, no matter how big or powerful, gets to dominate the scene.
6) There will be a permanent archive of these discussions which will be fully searchable. It can be mined for information at later times.
7) Flexibility: It is up to the group how they choose to participate. Just one person from the group can run the show, or it could be a group blog from that whole research group.
1) Someone has to design the system, but there are so many clever people to write some software to implement the System and there are excellent standard blogging resources for making it easier. Once set up, it will run itself with minimal effort. I bet there are several such clever people out there who could collaborate on setting it up.
2) Lots of random comment might come from people not working in the field that could be distracting. I’m not really convinced that this is a problem, but I’m sure that it will be mentioned as one. Easy solution is to have three levels of participation. The basic level is that everyone can see it and search on it as a resource. Next level is that you are a registered contributor that can comment. Next is that you are a group or individual that can be chosen by the system (with ample warning of course!) to be a host for a period.
3) Too much talk not enough equations? Not convinced this is a problem either. It is trivially easy to post up equations as images, raw TeX, or whatever, and also I think that people like Jacques Distler have been playing with other equation plugins for serious research use.
4) Can’t think of any more downers. What are we waiting for?!
I think this could work for several fields of endeavour where exchange of ideas is a key component. It is very well-suited to theoretical physics indeed. It will not and should not replace blogs like this (which have discussions of all types on all sorts of subjects, scientific or not), and will not replace all the other more “traditional” modes of discussion that already happen. It will enhance them.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention that the commenters came up with some important and big issues with the proposal. But-- there are also lots of cheers in the comments. I'll want to incoporate this somehow into my model of using blogs for team collaboration and for scientists' personal knowledge management... hmmm. I'd also like to respond to some of the comments but I'll try to do that in another post.
Presentation Video Posted
The 30 minute video of the lecture I gave as part of the Welch Emerging Information Technologies Lecture Series on June 29 has been posted at the link above. I'll try to see if I can edit it so it's a little brighter and then post it to Ourmedia.org for perpetual access. I frequently refer to the slides
and the handout
so you might want them open at the same time.
Reviews.com: Hot Topics: Managing the Unmanageable: Putting Cryptography to Work for Digital Rights
July 19, 2005. Apparently available without subscription. Posted to ELDnet by Bruce Antelman of Reviews.com. Read together with info on ebooks listed earlier.
Notes from GSFC Library's eBooks Discussion
I went to a discussion
at NASA Goddard today on ebooks. Nathan D. Robertson, co-author of this report
on electronic resource management provided the opening lecture. Vendor representatives from ebrary, NetLibrary (OCLC), and Knovel also presented and
(oops) answered questions.
24k titles in the premier academic. Annual subscription but subsets available by subject and also perpetual access available on a per title basis
Much smaller collection but what's really cool is how you can analyze the data. They only have the concurrent user and enterprise models
100k titles, 39 languages, audiobooks. Findable in open worldcat. MARC records. More fields indexed. Buy collections, custom collections, individual titles... Purchase through YBP.
The audience asked some great questions, but the answers weren't as great:
Q: How do we get our users to find these things and use them?
A: OPAC, webpages, they'll give us flyers to hand out (ugh)
Q: Searchable by Google? In Google Print?
A: All - yes (I think just the metadata and not the full text but I'm not sure)
Q: What happens to us if a user tries to abuse the system
A: We get notices, that IP may be blocked, will be unblocked when we resolve the problem
Q: My users still want to print the whole thing out
A: Display technologies are getting better and computers are ubiquitous (ugh)
Q: DRM (argh)
A: From Nathan -- read the licenses v. v. carefully! NetLibrary audiobooks stop working after 3 weeks, then you can renew. ebrary - when you cut and paste it automatically appends citation and hyperlink. All of the ones represented allow some sort of print and cut/paste.
Q: What happens when you stop subscribing?
A: Knovel - turned off. NetLibrary and ebrary - depends on the model, for perpetual they transfer files to you somehow.
There were more, so maybe I'll remember them later and update this.
updated: the presenters *answered* questions, mostly.
The Long Tail
Don't you just love this? Anil Dash's picture, pointed to by Richard MacManus
Web Poster Session:“Better Understanding Your Users”
Sponsors: Chemistry, Physics-Astronomy-Mathematics, and Sci-Tech divisions of SLA Registration: free
Format: asynchronous discussion
We're poster 13
(The Information Power Tour -- When the Library Comes to You) and will be manning our station starting on the 25th.
Mathemagenic: MP3 Recordings of Her Recent Presentation
Lilia Efimova of the Telematica Instituut in the Netherlands gave a presentation on Blog Research and Research Blogs at NERDI. Slides and links are available here
I think does a good job explaining why she blogs. I think her reasons can be generalized to describe benefits to other researchers and academics.
Washington Post: Politicians Deal With Newcomer, The Blog
Article by David Cho, 7/5/05
Basically, local political bloggers creeping out local politicians.
My point here: everyone in public life should probably ego search and set up alerts in search engines and PubSub. Local politicians probably don't have any support to do this so should hit the local public library to get assistance.
Glance at my Online article
to figure out the best way to do it for your client.