Here’s a simple tip for managing your library lists: try Amazon Wishlists. If you’re a researcher or a heavy reader, you know the problem with your library lists: they grow constantly, they spread out over multiple post-its/notebooks, you lose them, and when you actually get to the library you can’t find them.
Amazon Wishlists solves this problem – you keep a single list, which is always accessible, and you get the value-add of Amazon’s recommendations. It is Amazon’s recommendations that make this sustainable for me: it is extra work to look up books in Amazon and add them to my wish list, but the product page is so rich with information that I often find one or two other interesting books. This is virtual equivalent of stacks-browsing you just don’t get in most OPAC’s.
A couple of quick notes: If you already use wish lists for your actual wishes, you will want to create a separate list. I named mine “Reading List” and include a warning that I don’t want these books purchased for me by some kind soul. If you don’t do this, you may find an obscure $200 stats book under the Christmas tree instead of the iPod Touch. You can also make your list private, which solves the problem. To simplify the Amazon-to-OPAC lookup, I’ve created a bookmarklet that does an OPAC lookup from the Amazon product page. My bookmarklet is configured for UNC but if you want to hack it for your school, feel free.
Note: For the times you actually have to buy books, I’ve been working on some software that profiles your wish list and predicts the best time for you to buy a book (based on historical pricing data). Watch this space for more details.
If you research an emerging topic, it is likely that you use some form of literature alert. If you’re unfamiliar with literature alerts, they are notifications provided by publishers and digital libraries to inform you of new content as it is released. Managing these alerts can be challenging, so I thought I’d share my system. At a very high level, I manage literature with Gmail labels. My system is pretty simple, but it has been working for a year or so I’ve used it.
The first step has two parts. If you don’t have a Gmail account, I assume that you know how to fix that. Lit alerts are a little more challenging, as different domains will have different publishers. If you’re doing the kind of research I do, then setting up alerts with Sage, ScienceDirect and the ACM Digital Library (ToC alerts are free, but search alerts require an ACM membership) is a good start (Springer, Wiley and IEEE are also useful). You’ll need to create accounts with all of these sites for lit alerts to work.
Literature alerts come in two forms (as far as I know). The first is a table of contents alert. This means you can get notified when a new journal or proceedings is published. The second is a search alert. Search alerts are saved searches (i.e. Facebook AND College Student); the system notifies you when new results are found. You’ll want to set up these alerts and direct them to your Gmail account.
Over the next few days your inbox will begin filling with literature alerts (assuming you’re looking at an active subject). Because you’re not always going to want an inbox filled with lit alerts, what you’re going to do is set up filters. For each publisher that emails you, click on the email and select “Filter all messages like this” from the dropdown. I then set the filter to skip the inbox, and apply the label “Alerts.” After a few days, you’ll have filtered all of the alert messages to a label – meaning you can process them on your own time.
Two important notes. First, when signing up for searches, opt in to get the most verbose alerts possible. You want abstracts, etc. Second, rather than deleting alerts after they are done, you’re simply going to leave them read in the labeled folder. Here’s where the fun begins. Over time, you’re building a portable, personal archive of all new literature on your topic. And because you’ve set up the alerts across publishers and libraries, you’ll be able to search for new literature across publications easily – without authenticating to a library or running a meta search across publishers. All of the new literature will be in your gmail, searchable with the “label:alerts” key. For example, if I want to know all of the new literature matching Facebook and psychology, I simply go into my Gmail and search “label:alerts facebook psychology.”
This kind of management strategy would also work for mailing lists, fare alerts from airlines, etc. In my dreams I’d have a Gmail plugin that would add impact factors in to the subject headings. The rest of my literature alerts come in via RSS (lots of open-access journals only offer RSS alerts), and I’m slowly moving those over email (via RSS-to-email). How do you manage your literature alerts?
One of my favorite features in Google Scholar is its “cited by” function. Cited by allows you to see all of the items in Google Scholar that cite the pulbication you were searching for. In comparison to Web of Science, GS has much greater recall, which is useful when you’re investigating a new topic.
The problem with GS cited by is that there is no easy means for searching within the results. This is fine if your publication is cited only a few times and you can eyeball the results. But as the citation count scales up, being able to search within the results becomes pretty important.
The good news is that you can search within GS cited by, it just requires a little URL hacking. In my case, I was looking for publications about web surveys that cite the Reeves and Nass book “The Media Equation.” We’ll do this step by step:
You will want to select that list bit, the “&cites=12773235514158955901″.
I was unable to run a comparison in the WoS database as it doesn’t seem to know about the Reeves and Nass book. Are there any other places you use for Cited By searches (i.e. other databases, vendors, search engine hacks)? And if there is some easy way to do this search in the GS interface, please let me know. I’ve read the advanced searching docs and researched this, but it doesn’t appear there is a simple way to search within citations.
David Silver is using Twitter in his media studies classes (check out the amazing “Eating San Francisco”). Twitter is the class’ main mode of communication, and he writes that Twitter has replaced three classroom technologies:
twitter has replaced the class listserv. for years, i’ve used a listserv (alternatively called a mailing list or discussion list) to extend our discussions beyond the classroom. these days, when we want to continue conversations, the 12 students in DMP, the 17 students in ESF, and i use twitter.
twitter has replaced email announcements. in the past, if something’s come up, or i want to add a reading, or we have a location change, i would send all the students in class an email. these days, when i have something to announce, or when my students have something to announce, we use twitter.
twitter has replaced the cardboard box i used to bring to class on due dates. in the past, my students would print out their papers and bring them to class; i’d collect them in a box and take them back to the office to grade. these days, my students write blogs, design flickr sets, upload video, and post works-in-progress. when finished, they tweet about it so that i – and, more importantly, their peers – can check it out.
This is instructive for designers of educational technology. The “traditional” trajectory of educational technology is specialization and feature-creep. For example, a class must have an email list, a forum, website/CMS, each with its own space and identity. When I log into BlackBoard, I see about 30 different things I can do, and for each I have to click a link and go to a page to do the action. Twitter strips away the features, instead using an inherently flexible textual space to facilitate communication, accomplishing the same goal of other feature-ridden “course technology.”
I see Twitter’s artificial limit on post size as an important factor in classroom success. First, it keeps the information space managable, meaning information is economized and easily retrievable. Second, and this is pure speculation, but I see Twitter’s short form as a communication equalizer. In any class, you’re going to have verbose individuals and quiet individuals – the same applies online. Twitter forces the verbose to be concise, and it makes it easy for the quiet/reluctant to contribute “normally.” To illustrate this point, let’s imagine a traditional class forum. Our verbose individuals may contibute multi-paragraph posts. Our quiet individuals may look at those long posts, struggle to replicate them, and end up not enjoying or participating in online communication. We’ve lost “communication” because a student struggled to replicate a “form.” In the case of Twitter, the difference between the verbose and the quiet is 140 characters. Form goes away, more or less, and the forum focuses primarily on the communication of raw ideas. Again, this is just speculation – but there’s plent of research in CMC on media richness and form effects that might provide theoretical basis for this sort of research question.
In my class, we’ve used Facebook groups for discussions with (in my opinion) great success. We’ve also experimented with Ning, where that success was not replicated. I believe that Ning suffered from the problems endemic to BlackBoard and other CMS – too many functions, too many buttons to push, too many markup styles to remember. This “overfunctioning” leads to a segmentation of communication, and in an online discussion where communicants may be reluctant, segmentation is death. Twitter is the opposite of segmentation, forcing all communication through a single, flexible channel. This creates the impression of activity, again stimulating discussion.
If I were going to build a CMS (Course Management Software), I would start with Twitter as the prototype, and only add features to the dashboard screen. In this sense, the CMS would only have one page, and everything would tie into and key off the communication sream (i.e I would join Twitter with something like Facebook’s News Feed). If I were to employ Twitter in my classes, one thing I might ask for is “Groups” or “Rooms.” It would be a challenge for me to keep track of all of my student communication (though a second Twitter account would probably suffice).
Via Academic Productivity, I’ve been looking for this forever:
BibTex4Word is an add-in for Microsoft Word that allows the citation of references from a BibTex database. BibTex4Word will insert a bibliography into your document using your choice formatting style.
It is intended for three types of user:
1. LateX users who need to use Microsoft Word. BibTex4Word allows you to use your existing BibTex database and favourite bibliography style.
2. Word users who can’t afford a commercial bibliography package but need to insert citations and bibliographies into their documents. Everything you need to manage references is available free.
3. Word users who have a commercial bibliography package but who don’t like it. BibTex4Word is lightweight, transparent and doesn’t mess up your documents. It is also free.
I’m completely married to Bibdesk as my reference manager, but the lack of Word integration has always caused headaches. I’m very excited to have found an answer.