17 September 2012

Information Research and browsers

Not being an Internet Explorer user it has taken me some time to discover that this browser doesn't render the Information Research pages correctly. It seems that IE is not fully compatible with HTML5. I use a Mac and find that the pages are fine with Firefox, Safari and Chrome - but I can't account for what happens with IE . Both Firefox and Chrome are OK in Windows, so get yourselves a better browser if you find problems with IE :-) Given Google's attitude towards its iGoogle users, I can't recommend Chrome, but Firefox is fine. Unfortunately, Safari 6 is not supported for Windows and it seems that Apple is not going to produce a Windows version - a pity, I find it a very good browser for the Mac and use it in preference to anything else.

11 September 2012

Why isn't everyone using genuine open access?

I have just been writing the editorial for the new issue of Information Research, to be published on Thursday. In the course of doing this I decided to take a look at the Google Analytics data for the site and I find that the top page of the site (http://informationr.net) had almost half-a-million hits in the past twelve months, while the top page of the journal (http://informationr.net/ir/) had close to 800,000. The most hit issue was volume 8 number 1, with more than 50,000 hits, and the most hit paper was one by Chun Wei Choo, on environmental scanning - more than 31,000 hits. According to the counter on the page, the paper has had a total of 190,345 hits and Google Scholar tells me that it has 158 citations, giving a cites/hits ratio of a little more than 1,200. Some day I must do a thorough study of this relationship :-)

However, what is the point of this? Well, in total, Information Research and its individual papers, plus the book reviews (which aren't counted in the process) must be totalling more than two million hits a year. Individual papers are getting thousands of hits and in some cases tens of thousands of hits and, if we can generalise (which we can't!) from the Choo case, for every 1200 hits you are getting a citation. And you can check on this with the counter information and the link to Google Scholar provided on the site.

Can any other journal in the field boast this kind of exposure? If not, why aren't you and other academics demanding the genuinely free and open mode of access that I call platinum! No author charges and no subscription charges give you maximum exposure of your work to a world-wide audience - and yet you continue to publish in commercially managed journals that close off your work from the world at large unless you pay for it to be open. Is this crazy economics or what?

02 September 2012


When I was teaching (it seems aeons ago!) I used to share with students the little conceit that photocopying was an alternative to reading. I proposed that some osmotic process meant that when a photocopy was put in a bag or a briefcase to be "read at home", something strange happened. Although the photocopy was never actually read, the information content leaked into the bag, and migrated through the handle up into one's brain.

The same thing may be happening with e-books: it is so easy to download all those books you feel you ought to have read, from the Gutenberg Project site. There they nestle (if that's what the zeros and ones can be thought of doing) in the memory of your iPad or e-readers and, because you know that they are immediately available for reading, you never actually read them. But you know them, because you've read about them. Somehow, also, there's an information leakage from the device into your brain and before long you find yourself deleting them because you no longer need to read them.

Giving up on Google

Google's abandonment of the millions of users of its home page feature, iGoogle, is a wake up call. The company motto of 'do no evil', is clearly a sham, as it's adventures in China and other matters have indicated. This event, which has angered thousands of people who have taken to the online forums to express their dismay has resulted in not a single response from the company, telling us, loud and clear, that it is just another corporate giant that can't be trusted to continue to deliver what we've come to rely upon. So, what is it like to do without Google? As it happens, not bad.

I have now switched almost entirely: instead of iGoogle, I now use Protopage and I find that I like it more and more - it makes iGoogle seem rather old fashioned and clunky.

I'm also in the process of switching from Gmail to Outlook.com - at least I know that Microsoft is just as likely to screw me as is Google, but when it is expected, I can live with it.

I have been using Chrome as my primary browser, but, now that Safari has the same kind of "omni-bar" (address and search box in one), I no longer use Chrome and have switched permanently to Safari.

And for a search engine, Duckduckgo is proving to be perfectly satisfactory (in spite of its silly name). I like the uncluttered presentation of results and, again, this makes it look rather more sophisticated than Google. And Microsoftk's Academic Search, serves as a reasonable alternative to Scholar.Google.

So, now is the time to switch, folks: let's give Google a kick in the pants to remind it of its commitment, still standing proud on its company page:
#1: Focus on the user and all else will follow.
Since the beginning, we’ve focused on providing the best user experience possible. Whether we’re designing a new Internet browser or a new tweak to the look of the homepage, we take great care to ensure that they will ultimately serve you, rather than our own internal goal or bottom line.
How's that for irony!