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ICSTI: NFAIS Enotes, June 8, 2005

  • To: epc@iucr.org
  • Subject: ICSTI: NFAIS Enotes, June 8, 2005
  • From: Pete Strickland <ps@iucr.org>
  • Date: Fri, 10 Jun 2005 08:35:44 +0100
  • Organization: IUCr

----------  Forwarded Message  ----------

Subject: FW: NFAIS Enotes, June 8, 2005
Date: Wednesday 08 June 2005 9:35 pm
From: "Siegel, Elliot (NIH/NLM)" <siegel@NLM.NIH.GOV>

Fyi -- A very thoughtful report on one person's mastery of today's practical
Internet information management tools.
  Kudos to Jill at NFAIS!  (Sorry for any duplication.)

-----Original Message-----
From: Jill Oneill [mailto:jilloneill@nfais.org]
Sent: Wednesday, June 08, 2005 8:53 AM
Subject: NFAIS Enotes, June 8, 2005

NFAIS Enotes, June 8, 2005
Written and compiled by Jill O'Neill

Processing Information

My handling of the daily flow of information across my desk has shifted over
the course of the past year. My role at NFAIS requires that I track a
significant stream of diverse content - scholarly journal articles, news
stories, organizational press releases, blog entries, etc. - and over the
past eight months, fulfilling the requirements of that role has been
accomplished in large part through the support of Yahoo!

Some years ago, I set up a personalized page for myself at MyYahoo! It was a
way of keeping a calendar, accessing my Yahoo! email account, and
centralizing access to certain look-up tools such as UPS package tracking,
weather forecasts, and driving directions. My (limited) use of it was purely
personal, to ensure that work and home didn't conflict. Then, as I indicated
last November in an issue of NFAIS Enotes, Yahoo! made it possible for me to
receive RSS feeds through my personalized page. The enhancement was
significant. [Background on RSS available at
http://www.faganfinder.com/search/rss.shtml ]

As Morgan-Stanley indicated in an October 2004 report, "The key is that
desired information, upon creation, is served to an individual's 'always on'
personalized page, and the need to visit source Web sites to see if new
articles have been posted is eliminated. All in thanks to Yahoo's
aggregation efforts, users get more information, they get it in a way that
is organized/efficient, and their satisfaction rises. And yes, the
stickiness of MyYahoo! rises for its users, creating the potential for new
revenue streams."

I began to use the portal page to receive RSS Feeds from the New York Times,
Business Week, Wired and CNN as well as from individually authored library
weblogs (such as those by Lorcan Dempsey [ http://orweblog.oclc.org/  ] and
GaryPrice [ http://www.resourceshelf.com ]). It has made monitoring the
industry buzz amazingly convenient. The customized layout was a plus; I
could arrange the page so that source feeds appeared in different places on
the page according to publication type. The boxed and multi-color
presentation makes the four or five headlines provided from each site easier
to scan rather than having to process subject lines from various email-based
services. In fact, all but one of the email-based alerting services to which
I currently subscribe have been made redundant, if not obsolete.  I haven't
cancelled any of them because one always wants a back-up system, but email
is no longer my primary channel for receiving news.

As one metric of success, Nielsen Net Ratings indicated that the MyYahoo!
service attracted just over 19.5 million unique visitors during the month of
May 2005.  Yet another metric of the success of MyYahoo! may be that Google
also launched a personalized home page in late May. Their beta version is a
poor imitation, with a minimal number of feed options. The beta version of
"Fusion" (the personalized tool's brand name at Google) was launched at the
Google Factory Tour to impress an audience of bloggers, analysts and
journalists, but one critic referred to it as "painfully immature". Another
used a "New Coke" analogy. Google claims that it will be more impressive in
three months, according to Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Watch, [
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/article.php/3506541 ] when Fusion
will be able to support inclusion of any RSS feed. Google also claims that
their page is easier to customize than the MyYahoo! tool.

News aggregators, such as Bloglines or Findory, get squeezed in this
scenario. Mark Fletcher, CEO of Bloglines, swiftly pointed out how the
Google and Yahoo services were inferior to his. [
http://www.wingedpig.com/archives/000204.html ] But the real point here is
that if you expect to be providing current awareness tools in the 21st
century, you will want to study what's going on in this adjacent sector of
public RSS feeds and news aggregators.

The New York Times is an authoritative source.  I monitor news from the
Times in a variety of ways, one of which, as I mentioned before, is the RSS
feed that I read in the MyYahoo! page. But even if that is how I initially
receive the morning's headlines from the Times, it is not the way in which I
monitor public interest in their stories. The New York Times Digital (NYTD)
has for some years offered a page that displayed the Most Frequently Emailed
Articles from the Times - a great method for gathering data on what external
parties believe to be of most interest in your content. It is only been in
the past year that the link to that page has moved from an unobtrusive
placement on story pages to appearing as a link on the NYTD home page.  But
I have another method for identifying what is attracting attention in the

Blogrunner, another news aggregator, has created an interesting service
called The Annotated New York Times [ http://annotatedtimes.blogrunner.com/
]. This service combines the most-frequently-emailed data from the Times and
correlates it with entries made in Weblogs tracked by Blogrunner. It
provides the NYTimes headline with the same brief annotation that appears
with that headline on the NYTD most-frequently email page. It then matches
that content with links that appear in the weblogs, and indicates the number
of "annotations" or comments that appear on weblogs about that specific
Times content.  I could obtain much of this information by running a search
through Technorati [ http://www.technorati.com ], a system that tracks
approximately 11 million weblogs internationally. But the value-add offered
by the Blogrunner's Annotated Times service is that it is organized and
re-presented to me in sections familiar to me from the printed Times.  I can
see the articles from the Times Technology section or the Books section,
viewing not just the story, but the buzz surrounding it as well.

Think about that type of application as applied to journal publications and
provided by an A&I service.  Imagine offering users a service that captures
the discussion of authoritative content, not just in terms of citation
activity in formal publications, but at an informal level as well, whether
disdainful in tone or corroborative.

In the past, much of the intellectual discourse between researchers occurred
through letters.  Some journals include letters columns that commented on
points raised in published material. The use of letters continues even in
the digital journal environment (see this example from the British Medical
Journal: http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/eletters/324/7351/1414/a#27739.  But
with the rise of both individual and collaborative blogging in certain
disciplines, it isn't difficult to predict that the communication function
fostered by journals just might move elsewhere.  It is already easy to find
examples of scholarly writing in blogs. An individual example is Facetation
[ http://www.deregulo.com/facetation ], but a longer list could readily be
assembled. Crooked Timber [ http://www.crookedtimber.org ] tends towards
informal discourse, but some entries move over into genuine scholarly
debate. The availability of RSS feeds can facilitate user awareness of new
content and amplify the conversation about that content.  For example,
California State University - San Marcos considering the pros and cons of
utilizing RSS by creating a module that can create on-demand feeds for any
journal, newspaper, or user-conducted search via their federated search

RSS feeds have already been accepted. The trend to watch for is whether or
not the feeds of authoritative content sustain and drive the conversations
in a personal publishing environment. It is too early to say where the
population will head. But the fact is that future scholars, raised with
platforms such as Xanga and LiveJournal, are used to communicating through a
variety of channels. It would serve information resource providers well if
their products and services reflected an understanding of those channels.

Some organizations are getting it. NLM's PubMed has embraced dissemination
via RSS feed, and that stance puts them ahead of many content providers,
although it' is worth noting that reports from Special Library Association
held this week in Toronto indicate that EI Compendex will soon be enabling a
similar type of alerting service, allowing a user to set up a search alert,
the results of which are then fed back to the user via the RSS option.

PubMed Enabling RSS http://www.nlm.nih.gov/pubs/techbull/mj05/mj05_rss.html
EI Compendex Enabling RSS (June 6 entry)

RSS feeds provide a readily available mechanism for embedding content into
the workflow, whether teaching in the classroom [See
http://showme.physics.drexel.edu/bradley/DrexelCoAS017-JayatWebCT.ppt ] or
communicating within the enterprise.  [ Read
http://www.cioinsight.com/article2/0,1397,1786020,00.asp ].

EI also gets points for considering the implementation of a "Blog This"
feature - a button that allows an individual to create a link from a weblog
to an article of interest.  For an example of how this works in actual
practice, visit MSNBC.com and randomly pick a news story (including any from
Newsweek). At the foot of each story is a tool bar that facilitates
printing, emailing or blogging the story. The MSNBC java script only works
for the MyMSN service, but the recognition that users want to share content
is in place.  It is absolutely to EI's credit that they are moving in the
same direction.

The MyYahoo! service has been referred to by its creators as "the user's
information dashboard". For me, a periodic check of this information
dashboard helps me monitor how formal and informal publications perceive and
report on the various players in the NFAIS community. It is an efficient
means of staying on top of the news, both positive and negative, relevant to
this membership. It is also labor-saving, time-efficient and (being as it is
currently made available at no
charge) blessedly cost-effective.

I can then synthesize the content that I pick up from that information
dashboard and further disseminate it through a blog at the Yahoo! 360 site [
http://360.yahoo.com ] or save it for later reference through Yahoo's MyWeb!
service [ http://myweb.search.yahoo.com ]. The platform is robust. The
distribution is seamless. User access is convenient.

There is a trade-off here that needs to be acknowledged, however briefly.
Yahoo! currently has more data on me as a registered user of their services
than Amazon possesses on me - despite the fact that I've been a registered
customer of Amazon for ten years.  In exchange for providing me with no-cost
information management tools, Yahoo! expects to derive value from mining
aggregated usage data on my information-handling habits and the habits of
millions of others. Google anticipates access to the same depth of
aggregated data from users of their Fusion service. This table offers a
snapshot of the information that Google can assemble based on the tools
users employ at their site. [ http://www.axandra.com/news/index.htm  ].
Yahoo's probably gathering the same.

As yet, I have not linked my information dashboard into my
taxpayer-supported Pennsylvania Access to database content licensed by the
state and funneled into my local public library. Google, however, may be in
a better position to facilitate such an online connection between the
capture of RSS feeds in their Fusion service and the gated content in Google
Scholar.  If the objective is to embed information into the individual's
workspace, then NFAIS members need to closely monitor this contest between
portal giants.

Jill O'Neill
Director, Planning & Communications
(v) 215-893-1561



Best wishes

Peter Strickland
Managing Editor
IUCr Journals

IUCr Editorial Office, 5 Abbey Square, Chester CH1 2HU, England
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