Sunday, 27 November 2016

Thing 10: Communicating complex ideas

I recognised much in the podcast for Thing 10.  I am married to a science journalist whose work is precisely about communicating research in field X to workers in field Y.  The part of my own life where I come closest to using such things is as an activist with Global Justice Now, often gathering signatures for petitions.

Yes, I know an activist isn't a researcher.

Glad to see the importance the podcast attaches to questions from the person one is communicating with.  I had once to write a piece about a part of the Haddon Library's collection with which I am not very familiar.  If you have experienced the symptoms of imposter syndrome at any time, you will have some idea how that felt.  I described the pain of this in a phone conversation with my brother.  He was most interested in the story of the collection, and plied me with questions.  When I'd answered several of these, he said: "Write down what you've told me, Aidan, and you've got your article."

It worked.  I have good sibs.

Another thing the podcast mentions is the elevator pitch.  An opportunity to practise that came recently, when a writers' group to which I belong solicited 50-word gobbets of individual news from members.  What do you think of mine?

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Thing 9: Alternative online communities for research

In her 23researchthings post this time, Georgina looks at Reddit, Wikipedia and GitHub.  I'd better leave GitHub out of the reckoning, as it is for sharing code, and I am not a coder.

Wikipedia I use every day, in the way Georgina and the other 23researchthings participants describe.  My experience as a Wikipedia editor is very slight, and dates from 2008, but it did happen.  I made some small modifications to the entry for the village in which I grew up, and described the experience in a poem. I can think of no instances since then where the urge to correct a Wikipedia entry has been so strong for me as to force such a use of time.  However, the ancillary parts of the entries -- the references, and the 'Talk', 'Contributions', and 'View history' links -- are of obvious use to research.

I don't think I'd looked Reddit before tackling this Thing.  I have now joined it, and posted my first question there.  The site is indeed very clunky, and I didn't like the fact that new members are not only expected to join subreddits (roughly equivalent to Twitter's lists), but even have a number of these subreddits assigned to them on arrival.

A couple of hours after posting, my question has drawn no attention.  Let me admit, however, that a shortened version of it has similarly drawn nothing on Twitter.  Present company will probably have seen me air the question before, in my coursework for Thing 5, and are statistically unlikely to have now the answers they didn't have then.

It may be that Reddit, like Twitter, will reveal its merits to me after a few months of inactive membership. Meanwhile, I can see the point of it, and may suggest it to others who don't mind a bit of untidiness when asking oddball questions.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Thing 8: & Researchgate

I use much as I use LinkedIn -- a means of tracking down library users whose contact details are fading from Cambridge University's corporate memory.  Both sites fulfil that purpose with far less distraction than Facebook; with perhaps the less distraction of the two, and I have the impression, not confirmed by a rigorous counting exercise, that many of the academics I've found there have not posted on the site for some years.

I have joined Researchgate on account of Kirsten's mention of its facility to request copies.  That might be useful, to Haddon Library users if not to me personally.  I may, in time, come to use Researchgate also for tracking people down, though its smaller membership makes that less likely.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Thing 7: LinkedIn

I have been a member of LinkedIn probably since 2011.  Following the 2010 23things, I blogged that I'd seen no reason to join the site.  I now have 169 connections, but I suspect I will never view this site with the same enthusiasm as Twitter.

For me, the best use of LinkedIn, as of, is for tracking people down and making contact with them -- a boon when acknowledging gifts to the Haddon Library from people who aren't based in Cambridge, or, conversely, seeking to levy fines from people who've left.

Following the promptings from 23 Research Things, I have polished up my LinkedIn profile, adding information mainly about my volunteering with AgeUK; joined an Open Access group which didn't seem to have the expected Cambridge people in it; and turned the activity alerts off.

Not the keenest endorsement, I know.  But keeping a sober profile on LinkedIn will be useful in sobering situations.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Thing 6: Creating new content

The course blog post points us in the direction of Storify, and .

Storify is one I have used already. I have made Storify collections for my musical, political and poetic interests, and indeed one on professional matters.  I have found Storify remarkably user-friendly.  It can't, of course, make amateur compilations look like the work of an experienced web designer, but it makes them presentable.  If I were more given to tweeting from work, I have no doubt that I would be Storifying from work as well. and I have experienced as a reader, and know them mainly by frustrations. has come my way via tweets that seemed interesting, but took an inordinate time to load. has likewise come my way via tweets; the tweets flagged up interesting material, but that material seemed inaccessible to me because I didn't know how to close a tab on my mobile's browser, and indeed thought the browser could have no more than one tab open at a time.

However, writing this post has spurred me to find out how to manage the browser's tabs.  Thus the frustration was not a fault of  And whilst I can't readily see myself finding a use for in any connection, I can say that exploring it has taught me something.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Thing 5: Twitter

I have been using Twitter enthusiastically since April 2009, not only from my own account but in tweeting for the Haddon Library, the Cambridge Philharmonic Society and Global Justice Cambridge.  What has changed since I blogged about Twitter in my coursework for those earlier rounds of 23things in 2010 and 2011?

Advanced search: this facility had dropped off my account, perhaps because of some Twitter re-setting.  I've now reinstated it, though I think in a slightly different form that requires me to open Twitter and search proactively rather than expect updates delivered to my email.  But the amount of material this search seems likely to retrieve is as small as I found it in 2010.

Twitter ban at work: in March 2010, I imposed a rule on myself that I should avoid Twitter at work when anything remained in my email inbox. I haven't had Inbox Zero since 2011.  My rule therefore now amounts, for practical purposes, to a requirement that I should not use Twitter at work.  I've kept to this pretty rigorously, and Twitterfeed continues to post to the Haddon Twitter stream from our blog.  Additionally, now, acknowledgment of some of the books we receive as gifts is made using Facebook and Twitter as well as email.

And what about Twitter's potential benefits to research?  It will do for sharing research once published, or semi-published: you can tweet links to journal articles, conference presentations and blog posts.  Searching Twitter will give some idea of what kinds of opinion are doing the rounds.

I did a few searches just now, to support amateur curiosity not research.  I wanted to find out if the inventor(s) of the 1935 Notificator, often likened to Twitter, had lived to see or support later developments in communications technology.  I wanted to know if other people were as much troubled by the sight of misplaced solicitude as I am.  I wanted to know if pre-emptive criticism, which I think we should all avoid, was a thing that troubled others.  I'll spare you blow-by-blow accounts of the search strategies I used, but I can say that I got no answer to the Notificator one, that tweets incorporating the phrase "misplaced solicitude" had been written by me alone, and that pre-emptive criticism is a thing.  Further research needed.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Thing 4: Pulling in information

In my blog post from the 2010 round of 23things, Thing 2 was to add the RSS feed for the 23things blog to our iGoogle page.  A couple of weeks later, participant @Skiddie2 recommended Google Reader as the way to keep up with all the blogs that the participants in 23things were making.  My own blog post admitted that RSS generically was something "I've always found less use for than I've felt was expected" but that "perhaps I'll find it necessary in order to keep up with everybody's cam23 blogging."  In the event, I have continued to find little use for RSS feeds generally, but Google Reader was absolutely fit for the purpose of following the blogs that other participants in 23things were writing.

I was not as devastated as some by the demise of Google Reader in 2013.  I had used it mainly for following my fellow 23things participants, and after the second run of 23things in 2011 that purpose was no longer there.  Google Reader was thus presenting me with lots of posts that were of less relevance to me.

This time round, I have signed up for Feedly, Zetoc and Pocket.

Feedly is fulfilling the same role for me that Google Reader did in 2010 and 2011: enabling me to keep up with the blogs of everyone else following this 23 Research Things programme. I tried clicking on those blogs' 'Follow' buttons.  Having done that for all of them at the end of an evening, I was a mite peeved to find that I would now need to set up a Wordpress account for most of the clicks to work. I called it a day there. Thing 4's exposition of Feedly was welcome.

Zetoc (and its rival JournalTOCs, which makes more of open access) are things I have recommended to Haddon users since I heard of them, and the users have been grateful.  The searches I set up for myself, be it admitted, expired in 2012.  I've now set up a new one, to help me keep track of publications about open access.

Pocket -- well, I've set my account up using borrowed computers, and have therefore not added the Pocket button to any browsers.  That may come.  Meanwhile, the first resource I have pocketed is the Scottish composer Chris Hutchings' page Choirs against racism.

Will Pocket come to displace Bitly as my grabber of choice?  Bitly has become pretty entrenched over the last 6-7 years.  I might come to see one-click pocketing as quicker than the string of clicks needed in creating a bitlink -- or I might see the string of clicks as a valuable slowing down.  Such things do exist.