The Web: how we use it

Best time to appreciate Open Access? When you're really sick and want to learn more about what you have.:

* Complete OA still a long way off. One thing I re-learned during this was that it is incredibly frustrating to see how much of the biomedical literature is still not freely available online. Shame on Elsevier and all the others who are still hoarding this important information.

* Thanks to those providing OA. Related to the above issue, I came to appreciate was the societies and publishers have decided to go the OA route. I spent a lot of time reading material from ASM, BMC, PLoS, Hindawi, and a few others. And I am grateful to these groups.

* Google rocks for science searching. Cuil, not so much. If you need to find something about some scientific concept or issue, Google really does a great job. While I was out, Cuil was announced as a possible new competitor for Google in searching. From my experience, Cuil is really really lame for science searches. I like their presentation in a magazine style. But the search results were not so good.

Free Microsoft tools for scholarly communication:

* This is for real. Don't mistake the Microsoft research division, which doesn't sell anything, for the Microsoft product divisions. Tony Hey believes in open access and open data, and is putting Microsoft resources behind them. For background, see Richard Poynder's interview with Tony Hey (December 2006), and my previous post on the Microsoft repository platform (March 2008).

* The new tools are free of charge. The announcement doesn't say they will ever be open source, but Microsoft encourages open-source tools in the open chemistry projects it funds. So it's possible.

* The authoring add-in should help publishers (including OA publishers) reduce costs, at least if they want to provide XML, and it should help them decide to use XML. The repository platform and e-journal service are even more direct contributions to OA. I don't know much about the e-journal service, apart from a swarm of great ideas raised at a Microsoft brainstorming meeting in November 2005. And I don't know much about the repository platform except that it will be interoperable, play well with Microsoft tools like SQL Server Express, use semantic processing to create arbitrary relationships between resources, and serve as a back end compatible with DSpace and EPrints front ends. I look forward to user reviews.

Nature Publishing Group launches Manuscript Deposition Service:

Nature Publishing Group (NPG) today launches the first phase of its Manuscript Deposition Service. The free service will help authors fulfil funder and institutional mandates for public access.

From today, the NPG Manuscript Deposition Service will be available to authors publishing original research articles in Nature and the Nature research journals. NPG expects to be able to announce the availability of the service for many of its society and academic journals, and for the clinical research section of Nature Clinical Practice Cardiovascular Medicine, shortly.

Who Writes Wikipedia?:

"When you put it all together, the story become clear: an outsider makes one edit to add a chunk of information, then insiders make several edits tweaking and reformatting it. In addition, insiders rack up thousands of edits doing things like changing the name of a category across the entire site -- the kind of thing only insiders deeply care about. As a result, insiders account for the vast majority of the edits. But it's the outsiders who provide nearly all of the content."

On information overload:

Over the last few months I have witnessed a steadily growing stream of writers declaring news feed, blogging and/or social media bankruptcy, citing such things as information overload, hobbies becoming 'work' or even the fact that so many people on the internet can be jerks about such small things.

Gene Wikiality:

Still, for the gene wiki to become what the researchers envision, they'll need informed people -- lots of them -- who are willing to log in during a coffee break or three, check out an entry or two, and make necessary edits and additions. They've built it; it's time to see if the scientific community will come.

The passionates vs. the non passionates (definitely also check the discussion on FriendFeed):

"....Some things that I've noticed about late adopters (er, non-passionates) and how they use computers they really are much different than the passionates who I usually hang out with. They really don't care about 99% of the things I care about. FriendFeed? Yeah, right, they haven't even heard of it, and if I try telling them about it, they say "why would I do that?" See, most people just want to work their 9 to 5 jobs, go home, pop open a beer, sit on the couch, watch some movies, play with their kids, etc.

Stay up all night talking to strangers? No way, no how. Most of the non-passionates I know are just barely trying out Facebook (90 million users). Twitter? Yeah, right. (Two million).

Heck, these people don't even know how to use an address bar in a browser. Think I'm kidding? I've watched how normal people (er, non-passionates) use computers. You go to a search box, and type "Yahoo" even if you are already on Yahoo. Think I'm kidding? Ask the engineers over at Yahoo how many times a day people search for Yahoo on Yahoo's own search engine. Same over at Google.

When I travel, I look at what people use -- thanks to being on planes a lot in the past few months I get to see what people use. Most are using technology I used back in 2000. That's eight years ago, or 100 in Internet years. I look at them the same way you'd look at them if they told you they just started using a telephone.

The exception? Blackberry. But show me a Blackberry user that knows how to look up Google Maps or uses the Web more than once a week? I'll show you a passionate. I've talked to hundreds of people in airports and I haven't found a Web-using Blackberry user yet that's not a passionate (meaning, someone who is really passionate about technology).

And let's not forget the fact that of the six to seven billion people in the world only about a billion even have a computer in the first place. So, that means that five to six billion people really don't care about Windows or OSX or all that.

We can be so arrogant sometimes to forget that there are more people who are NOT like us, than who are like us in the technology world......"

Passion, Early Adopters and the Mainstream:

Sometimes I wonder whether people have forgotten why we do what we do. Most people who blog do it because they have a passion for what they are writing about. Many people creating these fancy Web 2.0 sites are doing it because there is some passion for what they are doing. Even "how to be successful" guides highlight that you should have passion for your work if you want to be successful. Given this need for passion, I find it interesting that people are trying to focus on the mainstream users. Granted, the big reason for this is massive traffic and huge revenue, but how do you get there? You have to start somewhere, right?


The activity is the thing to focus on, not the technology. Technology enables the activity, and people will get excited about the technology if they're excited about the activity first and the benefits of the technology has been explained to them. But you don't make passionate photographers by showing them lenses, you make passionate photographers by showing them pictures that rip your heart out.

That said, I understand the point Robert is making. There are some people (early adopters) who will try out anything simply because it's new and interesting. But those are technology early adopters...a very small population of people who get a large amount of attention because of their predilection to try new things. A much larger population (although much more fractured) are those people who are already passionate about some activity or other, and can become passionate about new technology as it relates to that activity, but they just haven't been introduced properly.

Correct. I am a technological Luddite. I barely use HTML and would not recognize any kind of code if it hit me in the face. I have had a cell-phone (not an iPhone!) for a year now and I barely use it. I never got a Blackberry. My iPod-Touch is still in its box two months after I got it. I do not check e-mail or Web on anything smaller than a laptop. I do not regularly read tech blogs (except an occasional post about social aspects of the Web). I am not interested in the newest shiny thing. Technology itself does not excite me, it is what I can do with it. I usually wait for the Darwinian process to work out its magic first, then adopt the winners, once forced into it because everyone else is using it and expects me to use it, too.

I use Dopplr to meet people who travel (or when I travel). I have a profile on LinkedIn only because everyone else does - I never check it. I have logins elsewhere mainly so I can check where the links are coming from to my blog (e.g, Digg, Stumbleupon, Flickr....). I never signed up for Twitter as it does not do anything I need it to do. And that is it.

But I was an early adopter of blogs, because my blog let me shout and be heard and get feedback. I was an early adopter of Facebook, when it got started some years ago, but I have tested and deleted most of the apps there - I use it for only a couple of things (and those come via e-mail notifications) so I do not spend time on it. I am an early adopter of FriendFeed because it is a great source of good links, filtered by people who are interested in the same things I am. I am an early adopter of Open Access evangelism because I lost my library access privileges at the University and could not get the papers to blog about. If I were still doing science, I'd be using CiteULike probably, but not most of the myriads of other "science social networks" that are springing up seemingly every day. We all have our own passions and our own needs.


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