February 26, 2014
I read “How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations.” Public relations may need to do some PR and damage control. The allegedly accurate information provided one more factoid to support our contention that locating and verifying “news” is a tough job.
I will be addressing some of the methods a researcher can use to unwrap the ballistic padding that online services use to keep some information away from the grubby fingers of researchers. Consumers who gobble pay-top-play content are what most online services want. And, if you had not noticed, putting video content front and center is the new trend for those who are looking for facts, data, and high-value analyses.
As Kim Kardashian allegedly said, “I’m an entrepreneur. Ambitious is my middle name.”
The blog post “The Future of the News Business: A Monumental Twitter Stream All in One Place” was more interesting to me. The write up presses some familiar controls on the baloney making machine; for example:
- Consolidation is much better than individual services. I wonder if “consolidation” is a euphemism for monopoly, a concept with which some executives are more familiar. An older-school thinker used the word “convergence” but that buzzword makes an appearance in the source article.
- The time horizon is not three years (a long time in today’s uncertain world). The time horizon is 20 years in the future. I wonder how far in the future Viktor Yanukovych’s chief of staff planned yesterday. I think the plans are on hold for a while.
- The old way of news was monopolistic. The new way is to generate money from many streams; for example, advertising (good), Bitcoin (possibly problematic), and slicing and dicing (a possible copyright quagmire).
- The beacons range from Buzzfeed (listicles) to SearchEngineLand (the logic straining search engine optimization service described as “a place for all the search news, all the time.”)
The opportunity, if I follow the argument, is to tackle the job of creating a monumental Twitter Stream all in one place” with vision, scrappiness, experimentation, adaptability, focus, deferred gratification, and an entrepreneurial mindset.
I appreciate the elegant quote from Tommy Lasorda about how difficult creating a news-oriented “monumental Twitter stream” will be. My hunch is that a fusion of PR methods, content marketing, and “bits are bits” thinking will triumph.
February 25, 2014
I read “Publishers Withdraw More than 120 Gibberish Papers.” The article reports that Springer and IEEE have begun the process of removing “computer generated nonsense.” The article explains how to create a fake paper in case you are curious. What about the papers in online services and commercial databases that contain bogus data? Do researchers discern false information?
PLOS, an open access scientific publisher, said that it would ask authors to make their data more available. You can read about this long overdue action in “PLOS’ New Data Policy: Public Access to Data.”
I wonder why the much vaunted text analysis software does not flag suspect information. Perhaps marketing is more important than accuracy?
Stephen E Arnold, February 25, 2014
February 13, 2014
Could this be good news for Barnes & Noble? TheNextWeb reveals that our transition from dead-tree tomes is just beginning in, “Pew: 69% of Americans Read a Print Book in 2013, 28% Read an E-Book, But Only 4% Went Exclusively Electronic.” The numbers come from Pew‘s ongoing Internet & American Life survey. Reporter Emil Protalinski writes:
“As you can see, while e-books are becoming more popular, print is still king. Most people who read e-books also read print books, and only 4 percent of readers were ‘e-book only’ in 2013. As e-books become available on more devices (not just e-readers), their use is expected to continue growing. Americans increasingly own their own e-readers, tablets, and smartphones, all of which e-books can be consumed on.”
The same survey also revealed that 14 percent of us listened to an audiobook last year, and, interestingly, that those “readers” consumed a wider range of content than others. The article also tells us:
“Overall, 76 percent of adults read a book in some format over the previous 12 months. The mean number of books read or listened to in the past year was 12 and the median number was five (meaning that half of adults read more than five books and half read fewer). The median is a better measure of what the ‘typical’ American’s reading habits look like since the mean can be skewed by a relatively small number of very avid readers.”
Only five books in a year? How sad. I suppose I must be one of those avid readers to which Protalinski refers. The study was conducted in the first week of this year, and quizzed 1,005 American adults; the margin of error is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points. The report can be e-consumed here [PDF] in all its twenty-page glory.
Cynthia Murrell, February 13, 2014
February 6, 2014
The article on The Guardian titled How Journals Like Nature, Cell and Science are Damaging Science is written by scientist Randy Shekman explores the difficulties posed by publishers for scientists doing important but less flashy work. The article particularly targets “luxury journals” favoring provocative papers over less fashionable or exciting papers that are occasionally better science.
The article explains:
“In extreme cases, the lure of the luxury journal can encourage the cutting of corners, and contribute to the escalating number of papers that are retracted as flawed or fraudulent. Science alone has recently retracted high-profile papers reporting cloned human embryos, links between littering and violence, and the genetic profiles of centenarians. Perhaps worse, it has not retracted claims that a microbe is able to use arsenic in its DNA instead of phosphorus, despite overwhelming scientific criticism.”
This problem of publishers printing more interesting papers over well made ones is salvageable, the article posits. Open-access journals that will take any papers so long as they meet industry standards can lessen the importance of citations to researchers. Similarly, universities must make changes in their doling out of grants and professorships. If they base their accolades of papers on content and quality instead of what journal published them, the researchers won’t have to scramble to be published in journals with more prestige.
Chelsea Kerwin, February 06, 2014
February 2, 2014
It’s not over until it’s over. The long process of determining whether Google’s giant Books project counts as “fair use” continues, we learn from “Authors Guild Appeals Ruling in Google Books Case” at Phys.org. The Authors Guild would like to see limits on the herculean digitization project, which has scanned more than 20 million books to date.
The brief write-up reveals:
“The Authors Guild is appealing a US judge’s decision in a long-running case that cleared legal obstacles for Google’s massive book-scanning project, court documents showed Monday. The group filed a notice of appeal in the case following a November 14 ruling by Federal Judge Denny Chin. Arguments are to be filed at a later date with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. The guild vowed to appeal the case after Chin ruled that Google’s project is ‘fair use’ under copyright law because it provides vital educational and other public benefits. The case, which dates back to 2005, centers on a Google program started in 2004 to create an electronic database of books that could be searchable by keywords.”
Works in Google’s database that do not hold current copyrights are available online for free (Chaucer, anyone?) The problem, of course, involves copyrighted books. Those are not available for free in their entirety, but Google does maintain a searchable database, complete with snippets of text from each book. Google maintains that this practice, which the company considers akin to a virtual card catalog, complies with copyright law. Judge Chin, for one, seems to agree. Will the Authors Guild’s appeal get any traction?
Cynthia Murrell, February 02, 2014
January 29, 2014
For most Apple users, iBooks is the singular app they use for reading, while Amazon Kindle users have an entire tablet dedicated to the action. Google falls somewhere in-between with its Google Books Downloader. Softpedia reviewed the application in “Softpedia Editor’s Review For Free Google Books Downloader” and gave it high marks.
Right off the bat, editor Christina Jitaru says it is very easy to use the application to download books and save them to your computer or other device. Jitaru explains that all a user needs to do is paste the URL address of the selected book, choose where to store the file, and save it as either a PDF or images.
After repeating her explanation about downloading again, Jitaru gets to the one negative aspect of Google Book Downloader:
“However, a downside of the program is that it does not allow you to download multiple books at once. All you have to do is to paste the URL address, then wait until the grabbing process is complete. After that, you can download another Google book.”
Google Book Downloader was designed to be a simple retrieval and management program without any bells or whistles. Simplicity is sometimes the way to go as all of the fancy bells and whistles can complicate matters.
Whitney Grace, January 29, 2014
January 7, 2014
There is a troubling article over at Priceonomics titled, “Fraud in the Ivory Tower.” The post begins with the tale of former Tilburg University professor Diederik Stapel, who was found in 2012 to have fabricated or manipulated data in at least 30 papers that had been published in peer-reviewed journals. This case is a dramatic example of a growing problem; Fang Labs reports that instances of fraud or suspected fraud tripled between the 2002-2006 period and 2007-2011. Why the uptick?
We’re reminded that the famed “publish or perish” academic culture grows ever more demanding. At the same time, policies at scientific journals often mean that research integrity takes a back seat to provocative assertions.
“According to experimental psychologist Chris Chambers, high-impact journals (particularly in the field of psychology) look for results that are ‘exciting, eye-opening, even implausible.’ Novelty pieces. As psychologist Joseph Simmons told the science journal Nature: ‘When we review papers, we’re often making authors prove that their findings are novel or interesting. We’re not often making them prove that their findings are true.’”
Lovely. The write-up goes on to reveal that retractions are on the rise; the PubMed database contained only three publication retractions in 2000, but 180 in 2009. What’s more, these retractions are occurring most often at journals with high prestige (as measured by how often its papers are cited in other works).
The article states:
“Again, it is possible that this increase is caused by a stronger online watchdog culture. But regardless of whether the fraud is new or newly discovered, the case of Diederik Stapel reveals the ugly underbelly of scientific research. The pressure to publish frequently in prestigious journals has made it more likely for researchers to cut corners and manipulate data.”
The piece naturally concludes with a call for improvement. In doing so, the writer supplies this link to an article advocating open access to academic papers. Interesting.
Cynthia Murrell, January 07, 2014
January 2, 2014
I have no idea if the video is a spoof or not. With the twerking and the other oddities video sites, I am skeptical. Maybe this is an Onion-style spoof?
Navigate to “Elsevier’s David Tempest Explains Subscription-Contract Confidentiality Clause.” You can watch the video or read the article. Either way, here’s the quote to note:
Well, indeed there are confidentiality clauses inherent in the system, in our Freedom Collections. The Freedom Collections do give a lot of choice and there is a lot of discount in there to the librarians. And the use, and the cost per use has been dropping dramatically, year on year. And so we have to ensure that, in order to have fair competition between different countries, that we have this level of confidentiality to make that work. Otherwise everybody would drive down, drive down, drive drive drive, and that would mean that [laughter'].
This is a pretty serious issue. Professional publishers are in a tough spot. The stakeholders want financial performance. The professional publishing companies have to generate revenue. The various electronic ploys have not worked as well as the old fashioned, 19th century business models. The result is charging as much as possible for information products.
As some professional publishing outfits know, the world is awash with unemployed lawyers, abstemious accountants, and beleaguered academic researchers. The solution? Raise prices and prevent folks from disclosing the staggering cost of a subscription to a medical journal.
One outfit is recycling “abstracts” as a business product advertised in airplane seat back magazines. Others are just investing like mad in apps and hoping that the golden goose shows up sooner rather than later.
Amusing, serious, and lamentably a signal that professional publishing and possibly scientific, technical, and medical publishing is in what might be phrased as “sunset years.”
Will “value” be one of the buzzwords of the year in 2014?
Stephen E Arnold, January 2, 2014
December 25, 2013
Rather than buying the math geek in your family a Sudoku book, buy them an eReader or tablet with a bunch of mathematics books downloaded on it. E-Books Directory has an entire list of free, published books about the subject: “Free Mathematics Books.”
E-Books Directory describes its free online viewing and download list as:
“Here is an alphabetical list of online mathematics books, textbooks, monographs, lecture notes, and other mathematics related documents freely available on the web. I tried to select only the works in book formats, “real” books that are mainly in PDF format, so many well-known html-based mathematics web pages and online tutorials are left out. Click here if you prefer a categorized directory of mathematics books.”
Many free books on the Internet are in the public domain or were released without academic credentials to back up the research. This list, however, contains publications with recent dates, come from reputable publishers, and their authors have professional credentials. If you do not want to use this resource to cross a name off your shopping list, consider sharing it with a student. Textbook prices are outrageously expensive and college students are notoriously poor. Any dollar saved is put towards paying off student loans. E-Books Directory is one of the many resources available to find free, authorities books on the Internet.
Whitney Grace, December 25, 2013
December 8, 2013
I do work for hire. The idea, as I implement it, requires someone to pay me; for example, a publisher like Galatea, IDC, or Pandia Press. I then submit written information for that money. The publisher can do with the information whatever the purchaser wants. Some publishers have spotty records of payment, but after working for “real” journalism and publishing outfits for years, slow pay or in some cases no pay is more common than I thought. I like to reflect on my naive understanding of the information business in 1954 when I wrote for money “Burger Boat Drive In” for the St Louis Post Dispatch. Think of it: That time span covers 60 years.
I read “Academia.edu Slammed with Takedown Notices from Journal Publisher Elsevier.” I found the write up amusing. I thought that “real” publishers had cracked down on tricky PhDs and “experts” who posted their research on their blogs or on silly academic or public-service-type Web sites a long time ago.
I was dead wrong. It seems that Elsevier, a renowned scientific and technical publisher, was asleep at the switch. Elsevier owns part of Reed Elsevier, another top flight information outfit. If anyone could locate duplicate content, it would be the experts at Elsevier. After all, at their fingertips were duplicate busting online search tools like LexisNexis text mining and search systems. A mouse click away is Google’s outstanding search system. For the more sophisticated investigator, Elsevier can use tools from Dassault or Yandex to locate improper use of content Elsevier owns.
A happy quack to Wikipedia at http://bit.ly/1d3pH7l
The write up tells me:
“In the past, Elsevier has sent out one or two DMCAs a week,” Price [Academia.edu’s top dog] wrote. “Then, a few weeks ago, Elsevier started sending Academia.edu DMCA take-down notices in batches of a thousand for papers that academics had uploaded to the site. This is what has caused the recent outcry in the blogosphere and Twitter.”
So what’s the big deal?
The article tries to answer my question:
Still, Elsevier’s ramping up of take-down requests is reminiscent of the shake-up happening as a result of the rise of massively open online courses, which have enabled millions to learn at a high level — for free. It could be that the basic premise of Academia.edu will throw things off kilter for publishers and cause them to react. And it even has a bit of the flavor of Aaron Swartz’s efforts to liberate academic papers from the premium site JSTOR.
I am not sure but I don’t think Mr. Swartz weathered the “free content” storm particularly well.