Zotero assignment update

So the first mini-deadline on the Zotero assignment has come and gone, and I’m pretty happy with the results so far.  They’re not very impressive to look at, but when you compare what is actually happening with what I thought could happen, I think we are well on our way to getting this done.

For the first section, which has 21 students:

  • 11 successfully added a scholarly source to their Zotero library AND successfully synced to the group library.  Another one got the sync to work, but what got saved isn’t in very good shape yet.  Three more are waiting on ILL to decide which article they want to save to the bibliography.
  • Of those 11, 6 have added an original annotation and tags.

There are a few who added something in another format (and I’m not sure if that is a result of still not knowing how to find a scholarly article for their person, or if it is a matter of the best sources authored by their person not being scholarly articles)  I’ll find out more about that in class this week.

In the second, which has 24 students registered:

  • 13 successfully added a source to their Zotero library AND successfully synced.  Another one did the sync okay, but what got added was wonky.  There is one person who has added two things.  There is also an example article that I added still in there.
  • And there is a weird article from the medical literature that is still mysterious.  The author doesn’t share a last name with one of our target authors, so I am thinking maybe it was left in one of the classroom computers’ Zotero libraries and accidentally got dragged into our group library?
  • Nine have added original annotations.
  • Another handful are waiting on their articles from ILL.

Most of these have wonky notes/ attachments from the databases, and some need some of their metadata cleared up.  Batting 500+, though, was more than I expected at this point.  Why?  A few reasons, actually -

  1. First, these students have never used Zotero before at all.  Most of them have never used any kind of Firefox plugin.  That whole process of downloading and installing Firefox, then the plugin, was conceptually something new.  I expected this to be a hurdle in and of itself, before we even got to the the group library and syncing piece of the puzzle.  And it was, for sure, for some.  But not for most – most got themselves set up with Firefox no problem, and got the plug in working just fine.
  2. I want to be really clear here – it’s not that I thought these students weren’t intelligent enough to do this nor did I think it was really hard – I just thought it was going to be new and made more difficult by the fact that I asked them to do most of this new thing on their own on their own computers.  I did this mostly because I wasn’t at all certain that syncing the classroom computers to the Zotero group library would work with any kind of reliability.  So it comes down to -  I thought that showing them in class and then asking them to do the work at home was not necessarily setting them up for success (for all that that is how homework usually works).
  3. I really didn’t give them much instruction on how to do this at all.  We went over Zotero on the first day of class, and then I asked them to test different features of it along the way.  But here’s the thing – most of them didn’t do that along the way stuff because I wasn’t grading it and it wasn’t on the syllabus.  It was mostly a “please do this for your own good” thing and wasn’t at the top of anybody’s priority list.  So that .500+ batting average comes from students figuring stuff out with the tutorial I provided and what they could find in their notes and on the Zotero website.
  4. Some of the problems that have happened are undoubtedly not about Zotero at all, but are about navigating library systems and databases and the difficulties that come up during the process of finding scholarly articles — those are the primary reason for this class, after all!
  5. The syncing with the classroom computers is working really well – or at least it has for the last two sessions.  I have to tell you that I was worried about this with good reason.  Every time I have attempted to show this in the classroom, the sync has churned and churned and churned without any end (or any sync) in sight.  So when the students were having no trouble syncing the Zotero libraries in the classroom to their group accounts in class two weeks ago and again last week, I was shocked.  But what this means is that this week we can treat the classroom like a lab and troubleshoot most of the remaining problems together.


SEO does = infolit!

Via Clive Thompson’s twitter, and then via the Nieman Journalism Lab

Kelly McBride at Poynter Online looks at the connection(s) between the terms people search for and the terms journalists use. There’s a lot to think about here – the connections are multidimensional (and multidirectional) — about the media driving/defining the terms people use to search and the media using the terms people are using to search so they can get found, about the impact of discourse and the language choices we make.  Plus also about the insidious effects of a slow news day:

Now that we know that August is the month of distorted facts, and now that Google makes it impossible to move beyond our distortions — even when we know better — we should be prepared. We can start ramping up in late July, toning our fact-checking muscles, warning our gullible relatives to be wary. Next year, maybe those who care about the truth will get ahead of the curve.

cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudel

Another essentially no more than bullet points post — I have a lot of formal writing I have to be doing now, so this will end at some point.  So, cool stuff…

via Dave Munger (twitter) Alyssa Milano pushing peer-reviewed research — see, it is relevant after you leave school!

via A Collage of Citations (blog).  Former OSU grad student/ writing instructor turned Penn State PhD candidate Michael Faris’ First-Year Composition assignment using archival sources to spark inquiry and curiosity.  Note especially the research-as-learning-process focus of the learning goals.

via Erin Ellis (facebook) plus then via a bunch of other people — proof that, in the age of social media, an awesome title can boost your impact factor.  But the content stands on its own as well – I’ve been thinking a lot about different information seeking style, and how different people gravitate naturally towards different approaches.  By Karen Janke and Emily Dill: “New shit has come to light”: Information seeking behavior in The Big Lebowski

via @0rb (twitter) Journalism warning labels

via Cool Tools (blog) Longform to InstapaperLong Form by itself is pretty cool, it aggregates some of the best long-form (mostly magazine) writing on all kinds of topics.  But what makes it really cool is that it integrates seamlessly with Instapaper, meaning that I can find something there, push a button and have it available on my iPad to read offline the next time I am stuck somewhere boring.

Related – Cool Tools’ post on the best magazine articles ever.

via Cliopatria (blog).  Obligatory history-related resource — London Lives: 1690-1800.  Pulling together documents from 8 archives & 15 datasets, this online archive asks “What was it like to live in the world’s first million person city?”

snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes

Because the work I have to do is stressful  — it’s a dogs biting (not really) bees stinging (not really) feeling sad (not really either) type of time

Tom and Lorenzo’s analysis of the costumes on Mad Men (the season premiere of which I finally got to see late last night) –

It became quickly obvious to us that there was no way we could examine the female fashion on Mad Men without looking at ALL the females. Costume Designer Janie Bryant deserves every bit of acclaim and applause that has come her way since she started work on the show. Think of this series of posts as a mini-retrospective. We’ll work our way up to Joan and Betty by looking at each of the other characters first.

Here’s the thing – I love the posts for the big 3 characters – Joan, Betty, and Peggy – but in some ways, I love the posts about the secondary characters more.  In the first group, the conversation is very character-driven, what different costuming choices say about different characters, which is fun and interesting.  In the second group, though, there’s just as much about what the costumes AND characters say about the time and place in which they’re set – which is right in my analytical sweet spot.

This digital history project at StanfordThe Republic of Letters.

Using social networking visualization tools to visualize the letters that scholars wrote to each other way back in the early days of scholarly communication.

Forged in the humanist culture of learning that promoted the ancient ideal of the republic as the place for free and continuous exchange of knowledge, the Republic of Letters was simultaneously an imagined community (a scholar’s utopia where differences, in theory, would not matter), an information network, and a dynamic platform from which a wide variety of intellectual projects – many of them with important ramifications for society, politics, and religion – were proposed, vetted, and executed.

You can check out their case studies, or do a little bit of playing with their tools.

Cryptogram for iPad.

This game is very easy (if you let it tell you when you guess a letter wrong) or less easy (when you don’t), and so, so pretty.

New blog to follow

And last, but only because I can’t believe anyone who reads this blog doesn’t already know this - Barbara Fister is blogging at Inside Higher Ed.

Word of the day: Advertorial

So advertorial – one of those words (like “anecdata”) that has meaning the first time you hear it.  A piece of writing that is made to look like one thing (usually an article) but which is really another thing (an advertisement).

While the most famous example of this for instruction librarians is undoubtedly the advertisements for Big Pharma in the form of scholarly journals flying under Elsevier’s flag of convenience, they are apparently and not surprisingly a well-established tool in the public relations toolkit.  They even give awards for them.  In the last round of Bronze Anvil Awards (given by the Public Relations Society of America to “recognize outstanding public relations tactics”) there were two awards given to advertorials — one to InSinkerator for something called InSinkerator Gets Home Builders to Think Green, and one to the Florida Department of Citrus, for their Florida Grapefruit Makes Headlines.

So why am I thinking about advertorials today?  Because they are wrecking one of my favorite places to go on the Internet — ScienceBlogs.

In short, ScienceBlogs disastrously, inexplicably, weirdly, agreed to allow a new nutrition blog to join ScienceBlogs – which is an invitation-only type networks of blogs about science and scientific research.  The weird, disastrous, etc. thing about this new blog, called Food Frontiers, was that it was produced by PepsiCo, and the decision to fairly radically change the type of content that was part of the ScienceBlogs network was made in an uncommunicative, opaque, closed way.

Summaries of the fallout – which bloggers are staying which are going, where the going bloggers are now – can be best found here, at Carl Zimmer’s blog (associated with Discover magazine) — Oh, Pepsi, What Hast Thou Wrought.

A Note from ScienceBlogs can be found on the former site of the Pepsi blog, explaining the decision to take it down.

So what does this all mean and why do I care?  Lots of people know that I love ScienceBlogs, or that I have loved ScienceBlogs, as a librarian who teaches – my love for it has only grown.  So now what?

Dave Mosher provides a good summary of what this means for content from ScienceBlogs in the future – which is the issue about which I am really concerned.  I don’t

That effort signals a fundamental change to the way their content is structured:

Before: Blogs.
After: Editorial blogs. | Advertorial blogs.

I type “signals” and not “is” because the transformation isn’t complete.

Because part of this is about reputation – and not reputation in that individual kind of way, but reputation in that authority/publishing/information literacy kind of way that means so much to students struggling to find their way through the scholarly landscape –

From Dave Munger (emphasis added) -

The hypocrisy in handing a nutrition podium to a company that is seriously implicated in the global obesity crisis was astonishing, and even worse, the dozens of bloggers who’ve worked for years to build ScienceBlogs’ reputation were taken completely by surprise.

Former ScienceBlogger David Dobbs nails the key irony here (again, emphasis added), arguing that PepsiCo is “buying credibility generated by others even as they damage same.”

As PalMD and others have pointed out, PepsiCo hardly lacks platform. The only value they can gain from writing here is to draw on the credibility created by a bunch of independent voices engaged in earnest,= thoughtful (well, most of the time), and genuine conversation.

What these (and countless other) commentaries point out is that the reputation of the site matters – that the name ScienceBlogs is supposed to mean something and one of the things it is supposed to mean is no corporate agendas — the fact that just anyone couldn’t write for ScienceBlogs, the fact that ScienceBloggers were writing independently, the fact that their creators, Seed Media, proclaims this lofty agenda (from their About page) all adds up to a set of expectations about what the content on the site was supposed to be.

We believe that science literacy is a pre-condition for progress in the 21st century. At a time when public interest in science is high but public understanding of science remains weak, we have set out to create innovative media ventures to improve science literacy and to advance global science culture.

While those expectations were not always reasonable and there were ads on the site, and whatever else might also have been a little muddy or murky before – there was an idea behind the project that was an important part of why this project was useful to me in the classroom and at the reference desk and in my own work.  It is not that this content was all supposed to be good, or right, or true, or even civil – but the reasons for it being written?  They were supposed to relate to improving the public understanding of science and science literacy.  So what does that mean in a world when that content is either editorial or advertorial?  No matter how easy it is to tell which is which on the site (and the RSS feed?  the Twitter stream??) – that changes things.

Bora Zivkovic hones in on this question of a network’s reputation in his post, explaining his reasons for leaving ScienceBlogs…

We have built an enormous reputation, and we need to keep guarding it every single day. Which is why the blurring of lines between us who are hired and paid to write (due to our own qualities and expertise which we earned), and those who are paying to have their material published here is deeply unethical. Scientists and journalists share some common ethical principles: transparency, authenticity and truth-telling. These ethical principles were breached. This ruins our reputation, undermines our work, and makes it more unpalatable for good blogger to consider joining Sb in the future.

Zivkovic goes on to discuss the ways in which the existence and influence of the ScienceBlogs network makes the people who blog there de facto science journalists – whether they are aware of (or willing to embrace) that fact or now. It is not surprising in this context (the context of how important science blogging has become to science journalism) that some of the first reactions to the Pepsi blog controversy came not from quick-on-the-draw bloggers, but from mainstream media outlets and watchdogs.

I don’t blog at ScienceBlogs (not many librarians do) and it’s not a crucial part of my everyday professional knowledge building because most of the content on the site isn’t directly aimed at my professional needs — it’s more the idea of the project that is important to my work than the reality of what is posted there on a day-to-day basis. That’s not true for everyone.  But as a libriarian, particularly a librarian working with first-year students making the transition to academic thinking, reading, and writing, ScienceBlogs was (and probably is) a go-to site for me.

A lot of the reason for this is the authority/credibility/reputation issues discussed above.  Not that my students could or should automatically trust any of the content on that or any site, but because I felt like I could tell them (quickly, in a 50-minute one-shot) why and how that information had been created in a way that could guide their critical and effective use of the site as a tool — an incredibly valuable tool – that would help them navigate expert research and academic writing.

But another part of the reason is good old fashioned findability.  As Zivkovic says in his discussion of the network effect at ScienceBlogs, most people don’t track blogs using RSS readers or other tools – they find the content when they search for it.  And when they search for it and find it on one blog in the network, all of the blogs in the network are made stronger.  I don’t expect my first-year students to really figure out yet what pieces of the dynamic web they want to track for scholarly or professional purposes – most of them, at 18, are still figuring out what those purposes will be. They may want to track stuff for a particular class, or a particular term, but yeah – for most of them the searchability and the browsability of this site was key to its being useful.  ResearchBlogging is good for that too, and there are other collections of resources that I can point indivdiual students to – but nothing else out there does what ScienceBlogs does (did?) as a place to illustrate the importance and utility of science blogging and academic blogging.

Carl Zimmer puts his finger on one of the main issues for me – if the bloggers leave ScienceBlogs that may be (probably will be) good for the quality of the content but bad for the findability of the content, and those things are not totally unrelated.

What I find particularly galling about this whole affair is that bloggers who don’t want to associate themselves with this kind of nonsense have to go through the hassle of leaving Scienceblogs and setting up their blog elsewhere. The technical steps involved may be wonderfully easy now (export files, open account on WordPress, import), but the social steps remain tedious.

Munger picks up the theme -

If they want to continue to have the kind of influence they used to have at ScienceBlogs, I think the bloggers who have left the site need to do something more than just start or restart their old, independent blogs. They need to form a new network — perhaps built around different principles, but a network nonetheless.

I think so too – I think if they lose the network effect, individual blogs and bloggers and small groups of same will be able to connect with one type of reader, and an important type of reader, but they’ll lose the true neophyte who stumbles on to new ways of talking about evidence and knowledge coming in through a Google Search — or because a librarian says “browse here for a while” when they’re stuck looking for topics.

Ira Flatow (NPR’s Science Friday) offers to talk about hosting departing ScienceBlogs bloggers’ blogs on the Science Friday site instead. And again here.  I suspect that even the benign oversight of NPR might seem too much to the gunshy bloggers who left ScienceBlogs, but I hope they do find each other again somewhere, or that they build new somewheres elsewhere.

scholarly reading on the iPad – one month in

Not that this will be the definitive work…

I’ve had an iPad, like many others, for something more than a month now.  I haven’t talked about it much because I just haven’t been interested in justifying the purchase, or answering questions about whether it was worth it.   Like the first post I just linked to says, I’m think the answer to that question is still evolving even as I notice myself doing familiar things in new ways.

But I went to a conference last week, which was not only my first iPad travel experience, but it was one where I decided to see if I could get by with just the iPad, even though the presentation wasn’t done when I got on the plane and I had a bunch of resources I wanted to bring with me.

….Probably someone had investigated the phenomenon; no doubt she could look it up on the wrist.  She tapped out the code for the Journal of Areological Studies, typed in Pavonis: “Evidence of Strombolian Explosive Activity Found in West Tharsis Clasts.”  “Radial Ridges in Caldera and Concentric Graben Outside the Rim Suggest Late Subsidence of the Summit.”  She had just crossed some of those graben.

So, this picture has always sounded pretty good to me.  The ability to carry everything I might need and get at it whenever I have a question – that’s a type of heaven that connects me back to my very first smartphone purchase in 2005 which was justified by my desire to access IMDb from any pub in America.

Though, I have never been able to picture what the displays on the units in the quotation above (from Blue Mars) must look like that they let you read any kind of document, ever, on a unit you wear on your wrist.

Now I didn’t buy the iPad thinking that it would bring me into the world of ubiquitous scholarship – but as I started to prep for this conference I decided to see how close it would get me.  I brought a pretty big folder of articles and other documents along with me and found myself able to use them as much and as easily and I wanted to thoughout my five days on the road.

For articles, I was using this app – Papers.  I don’t have the desktop client installed.  When I first installed it on the iPad, I did so because the description said that the desktop client wasn’t necessary to use it – but that wasn’t true then and given that this app is definitely not free, I wasn’t happy.  A recent upgrade changed things, though and while I think this application would be a lot easier to use if I did have the desktop client, my experiment in using it without was successful.

You can add PDFs to your library in a couple of ways – using iTunes, or by emailing them to yourself.  I tried both and found myself leaning towards the email option:

Here’s the PDF waiting in my email on the iPad.  Click the icon to open it, and within the email client, I get button with the option to open the document in Pages.

Once in Papers, it gets a little clunkier.  If I had the desktop client, it would move everything over with metadata intact.  As I don’t – to add this I need to add the metadata myself — if I care to have it.  I don’t use this program (nor, I suspect, will I) to manage my citations so I haven’t figured out yet if I care about having the metadata beyond a descriptive title.

The journal name is easy to add, especially if you already have articles from the journal.  I can see the utility here, if I wanted to browse articles from a particular journal maybe?

I bought and installed the Keynote application on the iPad right away.  I use Keynote all the time – even when my documents are going to end up as PowerPoint, I create them in Keynote and convert – that’s how much I love it.  Pages, on the other hand, I have never warmed up to.  I hardly ever use it.

But, at the last minute, I decided that I also wanted to bring along several dozen interview transcripts.  I installed the Pages application as an experiment to see how this would work, and opened my email.  I was pretty surprised when the documents (which were Microsoft Word documents) displayed a Pages icon as soon as I had it installed.  Click the icon, open in Pages and I had access to all of my transcripts with practically no effort.

And it’s fun to browse through the documents -

So neither of these are free applications – Pages costs $10 and Papers $15.00.  For that $25, though, I was able to carry about twenty transcripts, a couple of dozen research articles and the full scan of a dissertation that I really didn’t want to carry.  Plus the movies, books, photos and music I need to survive the hours and hours of airplane time it takes to get back to Oregon from the east.  It’s not a research library on my wrist yet, but I can see the way there.

Pride and copyright

So everyone knows that they mixed some zombies into Pride and Prejudice.  And coming soon!  Mr. Darcy is a vampireTwice.

Austen didn’t tell us what happened next, but lots of other people have.  What happens when the Darcys (or the Bingleys) have children? Solve crime? Deal with their families?

Georgiana Darcy was so nice – lots of people are interested in what happened to her.  Caroline Bingley finds her own Mr. Darcy (but he’s an American cousin?  Seriously?).  The existence of the Lydia Bennet story isn’t too surprising — and if you spent your time thinking Pride and Prejudice would just be awesomer if there was more about the De Bourghs, you’re not alone.

And as for Prada & Prejudice up there, well, wacky time travel hijinks seem to send people back to Regency England more than any other time period, don’t they?

And there’s not enough room here for the  straight-up retellings.  Same book, different take -  shift the point of view away from Elizabeth, set it in India, set it in UTAH, play the what-if game, play it again, tell the story but add in more boats.

Tell the story on Facebook, rewrite it for Twitter, tell it with Barbies, turn it into Gone with the Wind (okay, they don’t say they’re doing that, but look at those hats), move it to the next century.

Seriously, if you just want to read the same story one million times, it’s out there for you.

Note: I haven’t read most of these – link DOES NOT EQUAL endorsement!

Looking just a bit ahead on Amazon or similar and it’s pretty clear the steady stream of Austen-inspired stuff isn’t drying up any time soon.  Which is sometimes taken to mean that Austen is awesome, which she is.  There’s lots of mentions of the Austen brand and what it means for an eighteenth-century author to be so currently popular and relevant.

But that brand language is odd because it’s not like you can point to the group of Austen family descendents or the current version of her publisher who own the brand and who are systematically and strategically leveraging it for all it’s worth.  A lot of the stuff above is professionally, commercially produced, but a lot of it isn’t.  There are so many self-published components to the Austen pastiche available on Amazon, and off Amazon.  The Barbie thing?  totally not commercial.  It got me thinking the other day about how much all of this has to do with copyright and how it should work and how it doesn’t.

austenP&P is in the public domain, so anyone can do what they want with the story.  Colin Firth’s particular Darcy may be limited, but that leaves a lot of room for a lot of creativity, some more creative, some more good, some more horribly, horribly wrong.  But a lot of creativity – people building on the creativity and stories of our past.

How much of this creative energy is focusing on Austen because it can?  How awesome would it be if other stories, other artifacts were fair game as well?

adventures in e-reading

So I live on the west coast, and many library conferences are on the east coast, and I attend many library conferences which means a lot of long flights.  And I’m a fast reader.  Which all added together equals this one conference last year where I found myself carrying nine books with me on the plane.

Lest you think that was excessive, okay that was totally excessive.  But the thing is, I don’t really like to fly.  My legs are too long for the plane seats (and I’m not super-tall.  What do super-tall people do?), the air is too dry and I get headachy from the engine noise so my strategy of choice for dealing with all of that discomfort is to find something engrossing to read, and I never know exactly what it is I will find engrossing in the moment.

Plus I never know exactly how much I will get through, and I live in fear of finishing all of my books and being left!  on a plane!  without a book!

On that flight, I started and finished four of those books on the plane (one was a quick-read young adult novel and one was a totally mindless mystery that my traveling companion started and finished after I did).  The other five books included three things I read in the hotel: two comics collections in trade paperback, a novel I had started before and finished after the trip.  One book I started on the plane and didn’t have time to finish and the last one was a non-fiction book I never did pick up.

So that’s a long way of explaining why and when I decided that I needed to seriously pursue the idea of e-books.  And this video I came across today is the first thing that really kind of gets at why I have been so happy with that choice.  It’s in french, but even my lousy french is good enough to follow along.

(via if:book)

(I suggest going to YouTube itself to watch, and watching in high quality: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aK75RSQBZYs)

Happy except for the ever-present issue of e-book DRM.  My french isn’t up to telling if they really talk about DRM in the video or not, but even if they don’t that sure looks like what replicating open-formats aspects of the print world would look like.  I’m also on a small group looking at the issues surrounding circulating Kindles in the library, which has given me some experience with Kindles even though I didn’t go that way myself — because I couldn’t deal with the DRM issues, that just keep coming up.

At Menucha last year my colleague Terry recommended checking out the iPod touch as an e-reader, so that’s the way I went. Of course, that doesn’t mean avoiding DRM altogether, though Fictionwise’s might be softer.  And also of course now Amazon owns Stanza, which is the Fictionwise-connected reader I have been using, so how much longer will that be true?

But beyond the DRM, the movie also reminded me of an issue I am having with the device itself.  I have also noticed since using the Kindle for this project, that I am really having trouble using it because it doesn’t have a touch screen.  I don’t know if it is because I am trained to use the touch screen on the iPod, or if that is just what we are coming to expect?  But it’s been a while now and I keep trying to make that screen work by touching.  I don’t think it’s going to get any better.

This, though, this looks like what’s fun about the Internet with books added back in.  And as a book lover, I like that picture.

SLIM Information Literacy class

LibrarySecrets (and on Twitter)

Web 2.0 tools by Bloom’s Taxonomy Levels


Google Reader

Delicious linkrolls

Delicious tagrolls


WorldCAT widgets


Vodpod widgets


Library a la Carte

LibGuides (SpringShare)






Scientia Pro Publica blog carnival

On Newspapers as Sources (A Historian’s Craft)

The Academic Manuscript (Wicked Anomie)

Useful Chemistry (Open Notebook Science)