NaBloPoMo: The Review

I participated in National Blog Posting Month last month, a movement to get people to post to their blogs once a day for a month. I managed to do 28 posts in the last month, only missing two which I think is quite good.

Did it change anything in my life? I'm not sure... I certainly think about blogging more often, especially as I'm aware that a lot of my online life is on Twitter - a medium that I do not "own". I'm definitely going to keep up with posting a weekly list of the most interesting links I've found on Twitter, and I'll probably continue to expand thoughts or arguments that I made on Twitter onto the blog.

I think it was a really good to challenge myself to do something every day - even something as small as writing a quick post. I will continue to try and do month-long projects - I'll probably write about them a bit more on my other blog 30 Days rather than clutter up this main blog too much...

Drop me a comment below or tweet me (I'm @40_thieves) if you liked my blogs for this month :-)

Alt-metrics: Studying buzz around academic articles

I had a good old moan about citations a couple of weeks back, about how I found all citation software completely useless. Today I found a really interesting article on a new type of citation.

Alt-metrics is basically an idea to study citations of scholarly articles on social sites, scholarly blogs and bookmarking services. The idea is not to replace the system of peer review, but to measure the buzz around scholarly articles in a much faster and wide ranging way. By looking at links and discussion of articles on blog and on Twitter, we could determine the influence a particular article has. This would happen very quickly compared to current systems which count how many times an article has been cited. It could years before an article is cited. Alt-metrics however is not seeking to replace the old system, but simply to augment it by providing an extra measure of the impact an article has.

I would find this really interesting and useful, to determine what sort of impact a particular article has - it shows how influential it has been. I also think this sort of data could be mashed up to provide important meta data around a subject. The article describes a system wherein a researcher could subscribe to a feed of this week’s most significant work. A bloody fantastic idea, as far as I'm concerned - I would definitely use this.

I'm going to keep a close eye on this, and there's some good links at the bottom of the article that I'm going to dive into.

PS. a big tip of the hat to my lecturer, Rich Boakes, who linked to this on his delicious feed.

The Internet in 1993

I am a huge fan of Huffduffer - a service that lets you capture audio and download it as a podcast - and I follow the feed on Twitter, mainly because it allows me to see if there's some interesting bits of audio being huffduffed. The other day, I found this great podcast through this method.

The Science Friday radio show did a podcast looking back at an episode from 1993, the first ever radio broadcast to be also put out on the internet. It's like a time capsule with amazing insights into how the early internet was viewed by the general public. It's from a time before the web really took off, when the entire internet community was vastly smaller. It's absolutely fascinating.

The topics brought up: internet communities (and how they could increase social interaction), international collaboration, connection issues, global warming, information overload (and how it's not actually that bad), democratisation of information, government 2.0, social gaming, verification issues, cutting out the middleman (i.e. the music and film industries), social curation, copyright infringement, syndication (to some extent), data filtration, and loads more. All of these are still issues today, and it's amazing to see how little it's actually changed. I think it gives hope that the internet has not negatively affected our lives, as some would have you believe.

The presenter talks with obvious ignorance of how you "work the internet", describes how to get information on the internet and speaks about "electronic mail".

Absolutely fascinating bit of audio, that (for me) shows the importance of the internet.

Google, DecorMyEyes, and social search

I just read this New York Times article on DecorMyEyes a really quite evil company that threatens it's customers when they want refunds on counterfeit goods. But that's not why I'm writing this - the way the Times reported this story really got on my nerves. Supposedly it's all Google's fault...

Now I'm all for Google improving their search algorithm - better for them, better for me - but they're not responsible for what is on the web. Nor should they be, as I certainly don't want a single company controlling everything on the web (that's my main fear about Facebook). Anyway, the article seems to totally ignore the fact that the credit card company the poor woman used treated her disgracefully, basically cleaning their hands of it. The article also totally ignores the fact that she was threatened - where were the police???

There's thousands of bad companies out there, and people are abused by them every day. Just because it's on the internet doesn't make it any different! It feels very much like the Times is picking on Google, as new media company. I suspect that one of the reasons that DecorMyEyes was so high up in search (it seems that they've been moved down now) was because few, if any had tried the tactic of using negative links to get to the top of search results. Unfortunately Google doesn't distinguish between a "good" and a "bad" link, rating them the same - something that I'm sure Google will work on now it's been tried. Also interesting is some of the response I saw on Twitter (squee! I got retweeted by Jeff Jarvis!), including Robert Scoble's response: "Facebook will monetize better than Google: I trust my friends. I don't trust algorithms". Which I partially agree with - recommendations through friends for things like movies, music, restaurants, stuff that people like talking about are going to be very useful. But I'm not going to ask my friends about concrete, carpet or boring mundane stuff - that's where Google comes in. Let's not forget that Google is ultimately (partly) social too - the human power of the link. Instead of asking your friends you're asking the world.

So to try and unite these two themes: Google's search needs to improve (just like every other product out there), and it needs to be more social. That's where the rumoured Google Me comes in - which is supposedly the strategy of putting social everywhere, something I'm a bit dubious about as there needs to be a hub for the social to be aggregated. It seems like social could be included in search more - the Google Shopping results show masses of negativity around DecorMyEyes (to the Times' credit they suggest this in the article).

Lanyrd

I finally got round to checking out Lanyrd today - I'd heard good things about it on the twitters - and I really like the service.

It basically is designed for conferences and meetups, that sort of thing. It allows you to add upcoming conferences, link to websites, Twitter accounts, hashtags etc. You can search by topic, location, attendees and speakers. It looks like a great way to organise buzz around upcoming conferences. You can also see what your friends on Twitter are attending and tracking, a really nice feature since I can see instantly the most interesting conferences coming up.

But the key for me is the coverage side of Lanyrd - after the conference everyone can add video, blog posts, slides, liveblogs, basically everything to the Lanyrd page. This is great because it allows crowdsourced organisation of discussion around the conference - not only what the organisers curate.

I found what looks like a great conference coming up in January here in Portsmouth - the Heart & Sole conference - which I'm probably going to try and get to, which I wouldn't have found without Lanyrd. And if I do write it up or record any video, I'll be sure to link to it through Lanyrd.

I did have a small issue - there's a "Subscribe to this calendar" link for places. For instance I want to subscribe to all upcoming conferences in Portsmouth, but the link is a webcal link - so when I clicked it did nothing. I think this is because I don't use Outlook or iCal, but Google Calendar instead. I tweeted about it and I got a great response pretty quickly, which sorted the issue (you have to copy the link and paste it into gCal). Really awesome that Lanyrd are looking after people like that.

The one thing I would like to see is RSS feeds as well as calendar links - so I can see when new conferences are added in my area. Hopefully Lanyrd can implement this.

Overall I really like Lanyrd and look forward to using it more...

Really cool concept video of object recognition and digital projection

Great concept video - plus it shows a really good use case.

I've seen a previous hack where a guy has put an iPad in a kitchen cupboard, but this demo takes it a step further, by directly projecting onto the kitchen surface.

It's this kind of computer interaction that excites me - if you consider how hacked Kinects could be used to do this cheaply, and if you get this connected online, then the possibilities are endless.

I'd love to see this as a inventory of all the things in the kitchen, which you could then search for recipes, or you could check remotely to see what you have. Really interesting to see where this goes.