3 September, 2011
Well. It's been a while.
When I last posted, in February, I was already drifting towards the dreaded 'hiatus', having dropped back from multiple posts per day at the blog's peak to a comfortable ~10 per month in 2008-9 and a half-hearted 2-3 per month.
As I may have mentioned (or not; I've always been reluctant to reveal particularly personal details here), it's not an overstatement to say my life changed at the end of 2009, and I'm not the person I was before: new, wonderful girlfriend; new, more intense job; new (first!) car and associated extension of mobility; and new focus of interests. For example, I haven't watched any broadcast TV for 18 months, but I have learned to cook 'properly' (but seem to have lost the time & energy to do so, in recent months).
That doesn't preclude maintenance of the blog at some level, of course, and the will's still there, but another change rather forced my hand in March. My ISP made various updates which rendered my blogging software unusable: I can't publish anything any more via Movable Type. I'm publishing this (or rather, writing it in the hope that I know how to publish it) by manually editing MT's output files: the blog entry itself, plus the archives, index page and RSS. I don't think I'll be making a habit of it.
I could set myself up with entirely new publishing software, but it's just so much hassle – my day job is Web Editor, so I'm disinclined to invest much of my own time in more of the same.
We'll see. I'm certainly not on Facebook, and haven't really taken to Twitter, but work permitting, I upload something to Flickr pretty much daily during the week.
24 February, 2011
I don't think this needs any elaboration.
22 February, 2011
Web of Science
Inspired by work on Facebook 'friendship' mapping, Olivier H. Beauchesne has derived a fascinating map of collaborations between scientific researchers.
Leading scientific journal aggregators such as Elsevierís 'Scopus' and Thomson Reuterís 'Web of Science' obviously provide a clear record of which researchers have been joint-authors of papers, and their locations. Plotting those location-pairs generates an intriguing map.
Remember it's 'merely' a data visualisation, intended to spark discussion, perhaps inspire someone to do something really rigorous with such information, and simply to look good. It's not, itself, a presentation of definitive data; the author was plainly startled by the suggestion that some might consider it a 'roadmap' for science/technology policy development.
Possibly the biggest 'flaw' is that the dataset, though drawn from a wide array of key international journals, doesn't include all journals; I don't think one critic's complaint that only papers published by Elsevier are shown is entirely accurate (Scopus is indeed owned by Elsevier, but claims to cover 18,000 titles from more than 5,000 publishers), and whether that's why the Netherlands appears to be such a major hub, but it's worth bearing in mind.
Non-English journals may be under-represented, and almost certainly those published in, say, Chinese or Cyrillic character sets.
Also remember it's a map of collaboration on published papers, not a map of research intensity in individual locations – single-authored papers or collaborations between colleagues in the same institutions aren't shown. This may help explain the relative invisibility of Australia – does the geographical isolation of those researchers from Europe and North America affect their opportunities to collaborate?
20 January, 2011
Let your fingers do the cancelling
A BBC report about UK phone books getting smaller (it wasn't particularly interesting) happened to mention something that hadn't even occurred to me: that it's possible to opt out of receiving phone directories altogether.
I don't think I've used Yellow Pages since the mid- 1990s, and I doubt I've ever used BT's Phone Book. I don't even know (or care) what's inside a Thomson Local directory. Every year, each one arrives on my doorstep, prompting me to take the previous year's issue out of its plastic wrapper for the first time and drop it into the recycling bin unopened. Totally pointless.
According to Stop Junk Mail, opting out is as simple as sending an email to each provider (that site offers a utility to streamline the process), or a phone call if one prefers.
Of course, more could be done to combat the advertising industry: compulsory implementation of an opt-in system (no directories delivered unless one specifically requests them – as already done in Belgium) would be an excellent start, as would be charging producers for the disposal of countless tonnes of redundant phone books. Why should local authorities – the public – have to bear the cost, estimated as £7.5 million pa, according to the LGA last year?
Despite unsurprising industry opposition, Seattle seems to be enacting sensible legislation:
... the ordinance directs Seattle Public Utilities to set up a registry of residents who don't want to receive yellow pages, and requires distributors to honor those 'opt-out' requests and pay a license fee and fees for each book and each ton of books delivered.
It also requires distributors to "prominently and conspicuously" post on book covers how to opt out of future deliveries.