Happy to be writing for Jinfo (formerly FreePint) again

So much going on in the world of information and searching and so few posts written. My only excuse is that I’ve been very busy because there is so much going on in the…OK, you can guess the rest! It’s not a good excuse really though, is it?

One of the consequences of having one’s head down working is that the exploratory aspect which is vital for keeping up-to-date with what’s changed and what’s new can suffer. It’s a common complaint, so how to make sure it’s still catered for?

Well, writing is one way that gets me to think about something other than my to-do list. Among recent extra-curricular activities I’m delighted to be a contributor once more to the highly esteemed online journal and platform that is Jinfo (formerly FreePint). For those of you unfamiliar with this resource, it started life as an advice platform primarily for students whereby they could submit their information and search-related questions to the “FreePint bar” (hence the cheerily studenty name of FreePint). The idea was that their questions would be answered by practising professionals. It was popular from the word go, but began quite quickly to be a useful resource for us practising professionals too.

An excellent way of keeping up to speed with developments, over the years Jinfo has remained true to its mission of offering advice on searching and management skills, as well as providing product reviews of a very wide range of information-related resources, but is now directed more at the professional community.

If a subscription is out of reach, their free newsletter provides a handy overview of what’s being covered and gives useful tips and hints as well as acting as a useful alert on new information sources. Worth signing up to.

What else? CILIP (my professional association) I find their news very handy, Searchenginewatch has useful articles now and then, although is mostly geared towards search engine optimization (SEO) strategies. I also find that universities sometimes provide helpful information, one of my oldest friends being the Scout Report from the University of Wisconsin-Madison which has been going for ages and ages, but has remained simple in format and quick to scan (a round of applause goes to the Internet Scout Research Group – thanks so much folks!)

Please let me know if you have any favourites, as the above is bound to be just a small sample.

Happy September to you…ahhh, the gateway to autumn.

 

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Saving libraries and searching skills

Caitlin Moran eloquently expresses in Caitlin’s Moranifesto: Save our Libraries why Libraries still have their place in the age of the internet, and why we shouldn’t be content with just “Googling it”.

“Do we all want to be Googlesheep, herded to one bit of learning about each thing, or the biggest-rated video of a shark eating a man, or a cat riding around on a small hoover, because that’s what everyone else has looked at? I’d argue that we don’t – that that approach will lead to the death of creativity and cleverness and original thought”.

 

 

 

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Another article in support of open access

I’ve posted several times on the open access movement which aims to end the practice of charging to read academic papers describing research which has usually been publicly funded in the first place.

The latest case for open access is made by Wired magazine. It describes a website called Sci-Hub which is openly flouting current copyright law by hosting free-to-access academic papers. Sci-hub describes itself as the “first pirate website in the world to provide mass and public access to tens of millions of research papers”. Currently they claim to have 47 million papers in their repository.

Elsevier, one of the largest academic publishers filed a copyright infringement claim against the website. An injunction to stop distributing papers was issued against Sci-Hub, but the website is hosted in Russia, and is therefore trying very hard to ignore this, although it was forced to relocate its domain after its previous site was shut down, as The Register described earlier this year.

Academic publishers have battled against open access for many years now, but the movement is slowly gaining traction. Some publishers have made certain journals free to access in a bid to show willing, but at over $30 an article, publishers like Elsevier aren’t going to switch overnight. Over the years, scientists and universities have boycotted Elsevier in protest at its hefty subscriptions, plus the annual mark-up.

Wired uses the Zika virus as an interesting example of where readily available and free access to research is vital for finding a solution quickly and notes the irony that leading journals have come forward to make new findings freely available – a clear “admission that copyright barriers and paywalls restrict access and slow innovation”.

It’s not that publishers don’t add value. Oft-cited examples are their peer review and editorial processes, and wide circulation they can achieve due to a journal’s standing within the research community. One model is to make papers free, but charge the author instead, but I see little advantage in that. So, as the Wired article suggests, perhaps it is the whole commercial model that is faulty.

I’ve ended most of my posts on this topic with the prediction that change will come and I still think it will, as does the Wired article. The pressure to disrupt the academic research publishing business is certainly not slackening off – Sci-hub is testament to that.

Here’s to the open access movement, and the hope that I won’t have retired by the time it comes to fruition!

 

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Default to Google: it’s a hard habit to break

From time to time SearchEngineWatch produces useful reviews of search engines other than Google.

Recently DuckDuckGo has been in spotlight. This was a useful article because the author really tried hard to give DuckDuckGo a proper trial and with some good results. However, as I too have found, making the break from Google is still hard to do and I’d pretty much agree that my reasons for continuing to “google” are the same as those given by the author.

That said, a lot of the time my searching only starts on Google which I use as a launch-pad to then go onto more specialist sites for the information I’m hunting down. But it’s that word “time” again – Google is quick to surface the right kind of results, and the searchenginewatch author found that she didn’t have time to play around with terms on DuckDuckGo when she could revert to Google and quickly find what she wanted. Importantly though, she does point out that this isn’t wholly down to the glory of Google, but more because we are so used to it, we know “how to work it” to get what we need.

Google probably remains the people’s favourite mostly due to its users’ familiarity with the engine and their lack of time. As long as we keep finding what we want and more quickly than via other search engines, loyalty will probably remain.

Since it tracks our searches (DuckDuckGo’s prime differentiator is its privacy) Google also has the advantage of being able to learn from the sheer volume of searches that take place. It processes over 40,000 search queries every second on average which, Internet Live Stats states, translates to over 3.5 billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide (InternetLiveStats.com). It’s quite dizzying watching the stats counter!

To do my bit to redress the balance, I will visit DuckDuckGo regularly to see how it compares and also for a change of scene. If you’re keen to have a change of scene too, searchenginewatch also recently published a handy list of 14 alternative search engines to try.

I always quite liked Dogpile!

 

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Public libraries are important – why?

Over recent years many famous authors have given their support to the public library sector as they try to help explain to the politicians and general public (especially those who rarely darken the doors of a public library) why we are in danger of losing a valuable, informative and social resource.

But it can still be hard – even for a corporate information professional like me, who instinctively feels that public libraries should be retained, funded and not watered down – to fully understand, appreciate, and therefore argue, as to why this should be.

A recent article in the Guardian makes that case far better than I ever could. It made me sit and up and think “yes, that’s why the demise of the public library really would be a huge loss to our society”. It was submitted anonymously, but clearly by a practising public librarian, and is the best contribution to the case for the continued existence of public libraries that I’ve read.

 

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Let the bells ring out, spreading harmony

An appropriately festive article of especial interest to me (as a bell-ringer, or “campanologist” if you like long words), entitled Ding dong measurement on high, swung into my in-box from ScienceDaily over the weekend and inspired me to think about my favourite news sources of 2015.

As they may also be of interest to you, if you’re looking for some really good science-cum-techy sources, here are my top five:

CB Insights news for start-ups and investment news, plus “the blurb” at the end which offers a selection of news from around the web, often worth a read, which comes with a hilariously informal style which often makes me smile (thanks, Anand)

(e) Science News which is an all round science news site powered by fully automated artificial intelligence, that is, it hasn’t got a human editor. Well, that’s different and seems to work quite well!

Gizmag for its coverage range, it doesn’t miss much. The articles have a good level of detail too (and there’s regular bicycle-tech news if you’re keen on cycling)

MIT Technology Review for the latest in high tech developments and another newsletter offering an interesting collection of selected stories from around the web.

And last, but not least, the aforementioned ScienceDaily, an excellent source for science news including research which may not always appear in the more main-stream publications.

May you have a merry and peaceful Christmas full of friendly harmonics, be it ‘Prime’, ‘Hum’ ‘Partials’, ‘Nominal’, or the variants Tierce (minor third), Quint (perfect Fifth) or Octave Nominal .

 

 

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Taylor & Francis offers free access to medical journals for 14 days

The title says it all really, all you have to do is to register on the Taylor & Francis website.

Then you will be able to enjoy 14 days of free access to all of their latest medical journal content published after 1997 across 30 key disciplines. Taylor & Francis is also offering access to their Expert Collection which they describe as the world’s largest series of review journals in research, development and clinical medicine.

Happy November!

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Financial Times content will be free to access on 9th September

Or, as the FT puts it: tomorrow (9th September), staying ahead of the game is even easier, with free FT.com content all day. So linger over the latest insightful articles, immerse yourself in thought-provoking comment and enjoy.

Worth taking the opportunity to have a browse around and see if they can lure you into taking out a subscription!

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Reading on-screen content: are you still with me or have you given up reading this?

Back in 2008 The Atlantic ran an article looking at what the internet is doing to our brains. The author wrote that he’d noticed that reading articles on-line was apparently affecting the way we take in information and was having a detrimental effect on our ability to read with sustained concentration. We were all becoming skim-readers.

Seven years later and it would seem that the scientists agree that there’s some truth in this. An interesting (and quite readable!) recent article on Fast Company, Everything Science Knows About Reading On Screens, reports on various pieces of research examining how technology has changed the way we read.

One study suggests that the tactile feedback of reading from paper, turning the pages and seeing how far you’ve got, may actually help the reader process the  information being read. Does that mean that even if the e-reader shows you the percentage of your progress, or number of pages this still isn’t the same? Maybe so – the “paper” readers remembered more about the plot of the story.

I’d be very interested to know if a similar study has been done comparing people’s navigational experiences via satnavs versus paper maps – surely there are related aspects? Like a paper book, a map also gives you a tactile perspective (turning pages, following along a route) and you can also see how far you’ve got, whereas the satnav – not unlike the digital book – has a small screen that restricts the “mental map” of the journey – our brains must work differently in these mediums too (…or not at all, in some cases).

But I digress. The article also points out how distracting reading on screen can be – this is certainly true, as articles tend to have a lot of window-dressing around them (links to related content, adverts and so on). However, it could be argued that this provides a different advantage as you may then wander on to a better article or find out something new. You can browse through a book or a website, but each is a different experience, and I’d also add, technique.

The thing for me is, when it comes to the news, I’ve always skimmed paper newspapers, rarely reading a full article, so perhaps it’s more to do with what type of information you’re reading and maybe there’s not quite so much difference after all?

Hot tip for how to check that you can still read in-depth: last year I read “Daniel Deronda” (in paper format), which I loved and highly recommend if you would like to test your ability to read at length and in depth. Or you can substitute any sizeable tome of good literary standing to get the same confirmation.

So I’m not too worried about my concentration being disrupted. Did you read to the end of this? Thank you so very much!

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I finally made it to one of Karen Blakeman’s searching courses and it was excellent

For quite a long time I’ve been meaning to attend one of RBA Information Services‘s business information searching courses which cover the nuances of Google and so much more beyond that. Last Thursday I finally did.

For a start, it was a very useful benchmarking excercise-cum-sanity check to see how much I already knew and an opportunity to hone my search techniques further.

However, I can’t know everything about search, it’s a fast-moving world and this course was a source for new ideas, new sources and sites and offered different ways to search, techniques and tips. There was also plenty of time for discussion.

In short, it was a wonderful indulgence to be able to wallow in all things “searchy” for a whole day. It helped to pull me out of those searching-ruts that we fall into and refreshed and revitalised both the exploratory and specific nature of my searching.

How could your searching ever be disruptive otherwise? Highly recommended – thank you, Karen!

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